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Lightning strikes the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai. Credit: Alisdair Miller


Dielectric Breakdown
Jun 16, 2011

Glass, plastics, and various metal oxides are efficient dielectric insulators. Dry air is another example.

A capacitor is used to accumulate and store electric charge. Capacitors are usually made of two conductors separated by an insulating medium, or dielectric insulator. An electric charge on one conductor attracts an opposite charge to the other conductor, resulting in an electric field between them that acts as an electrical energy reserve.

As charges inside the capacitor increase, the electric field increases, stressing the insulator's ability to keep them separate. If a high enough potential grows between the two conductive plates, the dielectric insulator will fail and the capacitor will short circuit, suddenly releasing the stored energy.

It is that phenomenon that most likely contributes to lightning discharges. Stored electrical energy in the clouds and in the ground overcome the atmosphere's ability to keep the two charges separate, so they reach out to each other in the form of "leader strokes." When the two lightning leaders meet, a circuit between the clouds and the ground (or between one cloud and another) is completed and a burst of electric current flashes along the conductive pathway.

Lightning's "arc mode" effect is only one way that the electricity can behave. There are also so-called "glow discharges," often observed high above the clouds as "red sprites" and "blue jets." There might also be what are known as "dark" discharges. These could be powerful electric currents but they are unseen and difficult to detect. An "ionic wind" can reveal the presence of a dark discharge, such as that from an electric air purifier.

In thunderstorms, dark mode discharges drag surrounding neutral air molecules along with the charged particles. The strong winds into and out of such storms appear as updrafts and downdrafts. A mark of their power can be seen in any rapidly rotating system, like a tornado. They can lift dirt and rocks, erode surfaces, and accelerate materials to extreme velocity. In an Electric Universe, those storms are therefore not produced solely through hot air convection. Instead, thunderstorms could be a secondary phenomenon driven by an invisible dielectric breakdown of Earth's atmospheric insulator.

Electrostatic forces would be responsible for suspended dust or water in storms. This explains why hailstones are most often spherical. An electric field carries charged water molecules more easily than would powerful winds trying to hold several grams of ice up against the pull of gravity. If winds are pushing hailstones back up into the cloud to add layers of ice each time, they ought to show distorted and random shapes from the chaotic nature of wind.

Human beings are not well-equipped to sense electric and magnetic fields. However, the feel of a breeze or the chill of a wind are readily detected. This can lead to an idea that all weather is convective in nature, depending only on the rise of hot air and the fall of its cold analog. In consensus viewpoints, lightning appears to be an aftereffect of that convection, so the electrical interactions between Earth and its surrounding charged plasma sheath are overlooked.

Electrical phenomena are scalable: they demonstrate characteristics that are alike whether the spark spans a millimeter or thousands of kilometers. Tiny electric arc scars are seen with a microscope on insulators and semiconductors. As previous Picture of the Day articles have shown, those arc scars can be seen on the faces of planets and moons, as well. How powerful might be an interplanetary lightning bolt? Plasma physicist Anthony Peratt estimated that a single such bolt could be as powerful as a 3,000,000 megaton nuclear explosion.

Stephen Smith

The Lightning-Scarred Planet Mars

A video documentary that could change everything you thought you knew about ancient times and symbols. In this second episode of Symbols of an Alien Sky, David Talbott takes the viewer on an odyssey across the surface of Mars. Exploring feature after feature of the planet, he finds that only electric arcs could produce the observed patterns. The high resolution images reveal massive channels and gouges, great mounds, and crater chains, none finding an explanation in traditional geology, but all matching the scars from electric discharge experiments in the laboratory. (Approximately 85 minutes)

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"The Cosmic Thunderbolt"

YouTube video, first glimpses of Episode Two in the "Symbols of an Alien Sky" series.


And don't forget: "The Universe Electric"

Three ebooks in the Universe Electric series are now available. Consistently praised for easily understandable text and exquisite graphics.

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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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EXECUTIVE EDITORS: David Talbott, Wallace Thornhill
CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Mel Acheson, Michael Armstrong,
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