Of Pith Balls and Plasma
The electric force is
never mentioned in astronomy although it is the most
powerful force in Nature. It is dismissed because simplistic
electrostatic models do not match observations. Yet plasma
cosmologists are able to successfully match electrodynamic
models to observations without conjuring invisible matter
and inventing new forces.
A common mistake
when first trying to understand the Electric Universe is to
think in terms of electrostatics. Experiments with pith
balls in Freshman Physics Lab come to mind. With a little
imagination—and by plugging larger numbers into the
equations—a model of “the pith ball sun” can be constructed.
This model is
not too different from the familiar gravitational model.
Most of the underlying assumptions are preserved: an
isolated body at equilibrium; a point force distributed
spherically (decreasing with the square of the distance from
the point); conditions of isotropy, continuity and
The central pith
ball, if positively charged, will repel positive ions,
generating a “wind” that accelerates away from the ball,
much as is observed with the solar “wind.” And the pith ball
will attract electrons: Because they are so much less
massive than ions, they could be accelerated to relativistic
velocities. With sufficient velocity, their collision with
the pith ball could account for its luminosity.
have not found any relativistic electrons. And the solar
wind seems to be composed of nearly equal numbers of
positive ions and negative electrons. And the ions
practically stop accelerating by the time they reach the
orbit of the Earth. And most of the solar wind is confined
to the Sun’s equatorial plane. And many more items could be
listed where the pith ball model doesn’t correspond with
Universe model is based on electrodynamics. And not simply
on Freshman Physics electrodynamics from a textbook but on
the electrical behavior of plasma as observed in
laboratories and by spacecraft. Understanding actual plasma
behavior requires rejecting familiar presuppositions: Bodies
immersed in plasma aren’t isolated; they are connected by
circuits. They often aren’t at equilibrium; most
astronomical bodies are radiating energy because they are in
unstable conditions and are moving toward equilibrium.
Currents in plasma contract into linear filaments; and the
force between filaments decreases linearly with distance,
which makes it the most powerful long-range force in the
universe. Plasma divides into cells that are separated by
capacitor-like double layers; and this ensures that plasma
phenomena are characterized by conditions of non-isotropy,
discontinuity and inhomogeneity.
deductions imported from the “already known” of
gravitational theory will lead to confusion and absurdity.
As astronomer Halton Arp said in another context: “Sometimes
it’s better not to know one wrong thing than to know a
hundred things that are right.” The first step in
understanding electricity in space is to set aside theories
and to gain empirical familiarity with real plasma behavior.
It is a step advocated by the father of plasma physics,
Hannes Alfvén, in his 1970 Nobel Prize acceptance speech.
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