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Artist's conception of a black hole. Credit: NASA.



Lightning, Sticky Tape, and Black Hole Observations -
Part 2
Feb 02, 2009

Embarrassingly little is known about terrestrial lightning, although it strikes the Earth about 3 million times per day.

In 2003 it was proven that lightning emits X-rays and gamma rays a short time before the visible flash. The first such study in Nature reported a very interesting time correlation between the X-ray transmission and the optical/UV transmission. To quote the original report:

“They measured intense bursts of X-rays, gamma rays and fast-moving electrons - just before each visible flash. The bursts typically lasted less than 100 microseconds. ‘I think it's really exciting,’ said co-researcher Martin Uman. ‘We didn't expect to see anything at all, and then, all of a sudden, with almost every lightning stroke, we had X-rays.’”

Like the astronomers, even lightning experts are sometimes surprised.

A good reference source on lightning reads: “It has been recently revealed that most lightning emits an intense burst of X-rays and/or gamma-rays which seem to be produced during the stepped-leader and dart-leader phases just before the stroke becomes visible. The X-ray bursts typically have a total duration of less than 100 microseconds and have energies extending up to nearly a few hundred thousand electron volts”

Lightning is not the only plasma arc phenomenon with this X-ray/optical light correlation. One of plasma's unique aspects is that it is scaleable. Another report describes X-ray emission preceding optical emissions in a series of observations of 80-cm sparks produced in a laboratory. Like other plasma phenomena, the behavior is complicated.

In most of the cases, the X-ray emissions occurred during the pre-discharge activity in the gap. In some cases, X-ray emissions occurred in the pre-discharge phase as well as with a weaker peak during the voltage collapse across the gap. However, in all cases the X-ray and optical/UV emissions were closely synchronized events.

It gets better though. Static discharge sparks caused by ripping up sticky tape generates X-rays as well. I really cannot do better than the original abstract by Camara et al. (2008) (their references are removed, please see the link for the relevant citations):

“Relative motion between two contacting surfaces can produce visible light, called triboluminescence. This concentration of diffuse mechanical energy into electromagnetic radiation has previously been observed to extend even to X-ray energies. Here we report that peeling common adhesive tape in a moderate vacuum produces radio and visible emission along with nanosecond, 100-mW X-ray pulses that are correlated with stick–slip peeling events … The intensity of X-ray triboluminescence allowed us to use it as a source for X-ray imaging. The limits on energies and flash widths that can be achieved are beyond current theories of tribology.”

The astronomers and lightning experts shouldn’t feel too bad. Tribologists get surprised by the Electric Universe, too.

So how does this discussion of black holes, sticky tape, lightning, and the cross-correlation of X-ray and optical emissions all come together? Here’s an Electric Universe interpretation of the GX 339-4 and Swift J1753.5-0127 observations.

Donald Scott has proposed that a star spins faster under greater electrical stress. When the current density is high enough (current per unit area) and the rotational period reaches a threshold value, the star will physically rupture into two parts. The relative sizes of the two parts will be based on the initial conditions in what is essentially a classic chaotic process. This is a catastrophic high energy event accompanied by a bright X-ray burst (these bright X-ray bursts allowed the discovery of Swift J1753.5-0127 in 2005 and XTE J1118-480 in 2000). The average current density for the system will decrease due to the increase in surface area for the two bodies combined.

However, these bodies will be orbiting very closely to each other (as is observed) and will likely continue an energetic electrical exchange for some time. One could predict that the plasma between the two bodies might periodically flash into arc mode, because the electrical exchange is so energetic The electrical arcing would resemble any other arc event (be it lightning, an 80-cm spark or the tiny sparks caused by peeling normal adhesive tape) in showing a complex interplay between X-ray/gamma ray emissions and optical/UV emissions. This is exactly what is observed in these “black hole” systems.

So the Electric Universe artist’s impression is different. We can imagine two stellar bodies that have ruptured from a single Electric Star, one of which may have a current density high enough to radiate as a sun like our own star. The other star could be darker, unable to go past normal glow mode because it lacks sufficient current density.

Without a photosphere, the star would have only a corona with its X-ray emission; it would be a white dwarf. There is no black hole. Between these two closely spaced, mutually orbiting stellar bodies might be periodic electrical arcing. This electrical arcing might exhibit closely synchronized, and complex, X-ray and optical/UV emissions.

Interestingly, Ghandi in the report above even refers to the accretion disk as “intense energy flows of electrically charged matter.” This is rare admission of electricity by a mainstream astronomer. He’s right. It is electrically charged matter. However, the dominant role of electricity in the evolution and ongoing dynamics of binary systems is still missing in his interpretation.

In a philosophical vein, it is noteworthy that the conventional view is one of a black hole consuming a normal binary companion. Essentially, this is a destructive event. The black hole will consume its binary and then eventually evaporate and go “poof” in a splash of gravitational waves. In contrast, the Electric Universe interpretation is one of creation. The fissioning of the original star creates a new binary or is the beginning of a new planetary system.

Following this line of reasoning a little further, it is interesting to contrast these schools of thought, Gravity versus Electricity, from another philosophical perspective. As it happens, the gravity-dominated paradigm is rich in dark models and metaphors. Black holes, dark matter, and dark energy are unknowable entities.

Light does not escape black holes, so they are unobservable; dark matter and dark energy are by definition unobservable. Accepting these abstractions as reality means accepting that about 99% of our Universe is unobservable and unknowable. Beyond that idea being just depressing, it is scientifically unsatisfactory and a philosophical dead-end.

In the Electric Universe, 99% of the Universe is plasma: observable, measurable plasma. This is a state of matter we can replicate in a lab and study. We see it every day in the lightning and the aurora of our terrestrial skies and in the static electricity when we take off our sweaters. The Electric Universe paradigm speaks of light, of “coronae,” “glow mode,” “sparks,” “lightning,” and so forth. The two paradigms did not set out with these dark and light metaphors a priori. The metaphors evolved after the fact. However, it is interesting how the two metaphorical systems evolved so differently.

For instance, in different languages light is often associated with knowledge: a bright idea, a brilliant concept, illumination. In contrast, ignorance is often burdened with dark metaphors: a dim fellow, the Dark Ages, a “cloud of ignorance.”

In the Electric Universe there are no hidden things we cannot know. The Universe is there in all its electrical nature for us to see and discover and understand. Yes, the Plasma Universe is complicated and chaotic in its behavior and will not be bludgeoned into a set of field equations on a T-shirt. It is predictable, measurable and knowable with proper experimentation and scientific methodology. In the Electric Universe movement, we eschew the Gravity-Dominated view that we are doomed to be ignorant about 99% of our Universe. We choose the opportunity to know. We choose the light.

Contributed by Thomas Wilson

Tom Wilson has a PhD in cell biology but for the last 16 years has been posing as an Electrical Engineer in the semiconductor industry.





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