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 A schematic diagram of the Sun-Earth magnetospheric connection. Credit: NASA/JPL/Caltech

Jul 17, 2008
A String Theory for the Sun

Filamentary Birkeland currents transport electrical energy from the Sun to Earth and the rest of the Solar System. Could ancient human beings have seen this phenomenon visible in their skies?

The auroras are caused by an intermittent bombardment of charged particles, which travel from the sun to the earth’s ionosphere in a stream called the solar wind. This was first proposed in the early 20th century by the Norwegian plasma physicist, Kristian Birkeland, and is now universally accepted. In honour of this pioneer, the exact conduits through which ions reach the earth are called Birkeland currents.

The existence of these twisted filamentary bundles of magnetic fields that transport ions through space along their length was only empirically confirmed in 2007, when NASA’s fleet of THEMIS spacecraft announced to have detected “giant magnetic ropes that connect Earth’s upper atmosphere to the Sun” in the earth’s magnetopause. Solar wind particles are believed to flow in along these ropes, “providing energy for geomagnetic storms and auroras.”

To put it bluntly, modern scientists have found that the sun has an electrical plasma connection that tapers towards the earth's magnetic poles and causes electromagnetic storms.

Curiously, ancient mythical and cosmological traditions have long anticipated the discovery of the solar wind and its Birkeland currents when they spoke about “ropes” and “strings” tying the earth to the sun. In the mystical tradition of India, the three worlds – earth, air, and sky – are attached to the sun by means of a string “by which the Devas first strode up and down these worlds, using the ‘Universal Lights’ as their stepping stones”.

In a remarkable analogy to the modern comparison of this stream to a “wind”, Hindū sages affirmed: “By the Gale, indeed, O Gautama, as by a thread, are this and yonder world and all beings strung together. Even as the thread of a gem might be threaded through a gem, even so is all this strung thereupon… to wit, Gandharvas, Apsarases, beasts, and men”, causing Deity itself to declare: “All this is strung on Me, like rows of gems upon a thread”.

The sun does “string these worlds to Himself by the thread of the Gale of the Spirit”. The identification of this “sun pillar” running through the three worlds with the polar axis of the universe makes good sense considering that the sun’s charged particles stream into the earth’s ionosphere at the auroral ovals around the poles.

If it may be granted that the Indian concept of this sun rope rooted in knowledge of the solar wind, the latter must at some point have revealed itself in an unmistakable, visible form. Is it conceivable that – at some time during the early Holocene – extreme solar weather produced such excitation that the plasma in the solar wind entered a visible glow mode, if not arc mode? If so, a substantial segment of ancient sky lore that was hitherto obscure receives some much-needed illumination.

Many corners of the world bear witness to the theme of a hero’s “noosing” of the sun. “When the sun had formed in the sky”, say the Bella Coola people of British Columbia, Canada, the creator “connected it with the earth by means of a long rope, which kept the two at a measured distance from each other and prevented that the earth would sink into the ocean”.

While an early commentator, Richard Andrée, deemed this notion "Bemerkenswert" ["remarkable"], he would never have imagined that such age-old folklore motifs could conceal some ephemeral observations of space that scientists are only now beginning to rediscover.

Contributed by Rens Van der Sluijs

Further reading:

The Mythology of the World Axis; Exploring the Role of Plasma in World Mythology

The World Axis as an Atmospheric Phenomenon


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Authors David Talbott and Wallace Thornhill introduce the reader to an age of planetary instability and earthshaking electrical events in ancient times. If their hypothesis is correct, it could not fail to alter many paths of scientific investigation.

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Professor of engineering Donald Scott systematically unravels the myths of the "Big Bang" cosmology, and he does so without resorting to black holes, dark matter, dark energy, neutron stars, magnetic "reconnection", or any other fictions needed to prop up a failed theory.

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In language designed for scientists and non-scientists alike, authors Wallace Thornhill and David Talbott show that even the greatest surprises of the space age are predictable patterns in an electric universe.

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David Talbott, Wallace Thornhill
Steve Smith, Mel Acheson
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