Mar 27, 2006
A Dent in the Space-Time Fabric? (2)
No “Dent”, Just Electricity
Cosmologists assure us that GRO J1655-40 hides
a "black hole." But critics suggest that recent discussion of the
sporadic x-ray source illustrates the growing "credibility gap" in
Last week we
a well-publicized attempt to apply modern cosmological concepts to
GRO J1655-40, an enigmatic light source seen in the constellation
Scorpius. Periodically, the source emits copious X-rays, before
returning to its “normal” quiescence.
We found the chain of reasoning in the scientists’ speculative
adventure interesting, and we were not surprised to find that it led
to a report given at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society.
It can be difficult for readers of such reports to assess their
credibility, we suggested, “because the language used by scientific
media continually confuses fact and theory”. We offered this
“The light source in Scorpius is a fact. So are the sporadic X-ray
emissions. But it may surprise you to hear that everything else
discussed in the report is speculation, unsupported by anything we
can actually study in nature: the star running out of fuel, the
implosion, the rebound, the imploded star, its “infinite density”,
the stellar black hole, the “event horizon”, the companion star, the
siphoning of the companion’s gases, the “accretion” disk, X-ray
production by accumulating matter, the calculated “spin-rate”, X-ray
frequencies linked to orbital motion of gases, and X-ray frequencies
linked to “wobbling” of gases due to “spacetime deformation”.
In reports such as the one on GRO J1655-40, how is a reader supposed
to identify the boundary between fact and conjecture? The Space.com
“A spinning black hole in the constellation Scorpius has created
a stable dent in the fabric of spacetime, scientists say”.
Fact: No one has seen a black hole. All we have are electromagnetic
signals that are open to many interpretations. But “mainstream”
cosmologists interpret the signals in one way only, based on their
peculiar set of axioms about the nature of space, time and gravity.
Many of the most accomplished plasma experts dispute the entire
complex of assumptions.
Fact: The ”fabric of spacetime” is a mathematical abstraction of
widely debated relevance to the study of natural phenomena. Critics
say that the word “spacetime” is essentially meaningless because it
combines two incompatible concepts—the 3-dimensional space we
experience and a non-dimensional interval of time. In physics, a
dimension can only be measured by a physical ruler. However,
mathematicians use the word ambiguously to denote any number of
variables. This results in the common mathematical “fallacy of
ambiguity”, where the word is used with one meaning in the 'real
world of 3-dimensions, and with another meaning in the theoretical
world of mathematics.
Some cosmological theories talk of 26 dimensions and parallel
universes, which serve only to astound and confuse those living in
the physical world of 3-dimensions. As one physicist puts it, "Any
theory where time is represented as a fourth dimension does not
represent reality… If the math is correct but does not represent
reality; then, as far as factually describing reality, the math is
meaningless, unreasonable and ambiguous”.
“The dent is the sort of thing predicted by Albert Einstein’s
theory of general relativity. It affects the movement of matter
falling into the black hole”.
Fact: The “black hole” is a theory not a fact. In his theory of
general relativity, Einstein proposed a geometrical concept of
gravity, suggesting that it was caused by the warping of
3-dimensional space in some “extra dimension” in the presence of
mass. A growing number of scientists dispute the principle.
A common 3-dimensional illustration of the “geometric” theory of
gravity shows a rubber sheet stretched by steel balls resting on it.
The dents in the rubber sheet mimic the gravitational wells of the
steel balls and control their movement. However, as the astronomer
Tom Van Flandern has pointed out, this model only seems to work
because our minds imagine the Earth's gravity acting downwards on
the steel balls. Without pre-existing gravity the steel balls will
not dent the rubber sheet and they will remain stationary. Critics
argue that both the rubber sheet analogy and the extra-dimensional
geometric interpretation of general relativity violate the principle
of causality: In the physical world, all effects have causes, and it
is the function of science to explore these relationships, not to
“The spacetime-dent is invisible, but scientists deduced its
existence after detecting two X-ray frequencies from the black hole
that were identical to emissions noted nine years ago”.
There is no actual observation of a black hole to verify this
deduction from a prior guess. X-rays are most easily
generated by particles accelerated in an electromagnetic field.
There is no more difficult way to generate x-rays than using the
weakest force in the universe–gravity. (Imagine your dentist trying
to generate x-rays by dropping heavy weights from space). Nature is
not in the habit of doing things the hard way.
“Black holes form when very massive stars runs out of fuel. Their
cores implode into a point of infinite density and their outer
layers are blown away in a powerful supernova explosion”.
Fact: There is no experimental evidence that matter can be
compressed to “infinite density”. It requires the weakest force in
the universe to overcome the strongest – the electric force. There
is no observational evidence that stars implode. Mathematicians have
simply placed a theoretical demand on an improbable model, requiring
that a particular kind of star in a particular kind of binary system
run out of fuel suddenly and undergo spherically symmetrical
gravitational collapse to form an unreal object – a black hole.
Fact: The progenitor stars for a supernova have never been
Fact: The explosion of a supernova is not spherically symmetrical.
It is bipolar.
Fact: The theoretical result – a black hole – is a mathematical
fiction with no verifiable connection to the natural world.
"The X-ray frequencies detected by the team of researchers came from
outside the event horizon of GRO J1655-40, a black hole located
roughly 10,000 light-years from Earth. It is about seven times more
massive than the Sun and siphoning gas from a nearby companion star."
Fact: The scenario stated here is entirely theoretical. Hence, the
rest of the report can only strain credulity further by following a
series of additional guesses. (See
previous summary). But
how would a general reader know this, when the author of the
Space.com story cites all of the speculations as if they are part of
scientific knowledge today?
“GRO J1655-40 undergoes short periods of intense X-ray emissions,
followed by longer periods of comparative quiet. Scientists think
this blinking pattern of X-ray activity is related to how matter
accumulates around the black hole.
“Every few years, however, something—scientists aren’t sure
what—triggers a sudden binge fest on the part of the black hole,
causing it to guzzle down most of matter in the disk within a period
of only a few months”.
Here, at the end of an elaborate chain of speculations, we have an
admission that the sporadic X-ray outbursts remain
unexplained—though the model was designed to explain them.
It therefore remains to be asked whether, from an electrical vantage
point, it is possible to account for the X-ray emissions and other
observed attributes of GRO J1655-40, without taking theoretical
leaps beyond our present scientific knowledge.
NEXT IN THIS SERIES: Electric Pulses in Space
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