Article 4 : “No” to Magnetic Reconnection and “Yes” to Electrified Plasma



– by Rev Nicholas Sykes


A concept that has gained increasing acceptance in current Physics is the idea of “magnetic reconnection”, which was referred to at the end of my last article. This idea is typically pulled out for service to explain observations of energetic outbursts that are otherwise not explained in a universe or a solar system or a geosphere that is presumed to be electrically neutral, or whose underlying electrical nature is either not acknowledged or assumed not to be important to the phenomenon being described. The aurora borealis and aurora australis (Northern and Southern Lights) have accordingly been treated as “magnetic reconnection” phenomena fairly routinely, and the same idea is applied to kinetic and thermal energy outbursts and particle accelerations that occur variously in the sun, in the galaxy and elsewhere in the cosmos.


Magnetic reconnection is conceptualised, as its name suggests, as a phenomenon of magnetism, and among other things it is a way of concealing or ignoring the electrical origin of all magnetism and all magnetic phenomena. It hypothesises that a magnetic field, such as exists around the Earth may, under certain conditions, release energy explosively by a spontaneous reconfiguration of the lines of force with which it is visualised. This is effected – so the idea goes – by some of the lines of force “breaking” and then “joining up” with different lines of force, thus producing a magnetic field pattern that stores less energy. The energy difference between the two patterns is manifested by conversion to the energy outburst requiring to be explained.


It is extraordinary, to say the least, that such an idea has gained so much support in the halls of academia. Electrical engineers and plasma cosmologists have been known to say that magnetic reconnection is one of the stupidest theoretical ideas that researchers ever derived from the mistaken belief that there are no significant electric currents in space. Yes, the mathematics can be made to fit – though with increasing difficulty as observations proceed – with the energy needs involved, but it should be remembered that processes of physics are not explained by such equations. However, in the case of “magnetic reconnection” there is a much deeper difficulty than that. I refer to the inconvenient truth that the lines of force of a magnetic field do not physically exist at all! They are only a mental aid for us to conceptualise the shape and intensity of a magnetic field. Schoolchildren will agree that when iron filings are sprinkled on a table top upon which a bar magnet has been positioned, many of the filings join up into curved lines, but lines of force can just as easily be thought of as between those lines as in any of the lines of filings themselves. Lines of magnetic force are not physical entities, any more than are the contours of a geographer’s map, or the isobars of a weatherman’s chart. One might just as well talk about a “contour reconnection” as being the explanation of a volcanic eruption, as to consider “magnetic reconnection” to be an explanation of energy outbursts of various sorts.


“Magnetic reconnection”, like a number of other currently popular hypotheses, is one more resort of those desperately attempting to shore up a physical model of the universe that largely ignores the role of electricity. Some of us consider the whole magnetic reconnection concept to belong more to a Harry Potter novel than to reality.


Previous articles in this series have referred to Sir John Herschel’s nineteenth century insight that there are “Cosmical electric currents traversing space and finding in the upper regions of the Sun’s atmosphere matter in a fit state of tenuity to be auroralized by them”. The Electric Universe paradigm holds Herschel to have been correct, as was Kristian Birkeland (1867 – 1913) when he posited that “the whole of space is filled with electrons and flying electric ions of all kinds”, and that “the greater part of the material masses in the universe is found, not in the solar systems or nebulae, but in ‘empty’ space.” In other words, Birkeland proposed that space consisted everywhere of plasma. Modern estimates indeed consider that more than 99.9% of the mass of the universe resides in the plasma. Let us therefore spend a little time on the topic of plasma.


The Ancients discerned four “elements” of earth, water, air and fire. It is likely that they were describing the same reality as we now do when we speak of the four “states” of solid, liquid, gas and plasma. The idea of “plasma” was suggested by the various forms of electrical discharge that take place through what we have been accustomed to call ionised gases. The forms of this electrical discharge and certain of their properties brought to mind the properties of blood plasma in living beings, and so the name “plasma” has stuck for the state of matter in which the discharges can occur.


Dr. Donald Scott points out that the last state of matter to be identified in modern times, the plasma, is really to be understood to be the first, rather than the fourth state of matter. For one thing, nearly all of the matter of the universe is in this form, as Birkeland proposed. The galaxies, stars and planets are, comparatively speaking, specks of dirt and dust in a sea of plasma.


When an electrical potential difference is initiated across a length of gas at low pressure in a laboratory (or in a fluorescent light at home), certain changes take place that transform much of the gas into a state of plasma, because the atoms of the gas are being broken into their sub-atomic constituents. Unfortunately, cosmologists in general seem not to be able to apply even the most elementary knowledge about the behaviour of electrified plasma to the observations of their own field. Clear evidence of plasma in space, for example, is misleadingly interpreted or visualised as streams of gravitationally-driven gases, the “solar wind” being perhaps the most well-known example. Fundamental to an understanding of the workings of the Electric Universe is a basic knowledge gained from the electric discharge laboratory of how a body of plasma reacts to electrical stress.

 With thanks for feedback suggestions from

Wal Thornhill


Marinus A VanderSluijs

All articles in this series have been published in Cayman Net News.



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Bishop Nicholas Sykes

Nicholas JG Sykes, B Sc, Dip Ed, MTS Taught in mainly public schools and a teachers college for over 20 years, in Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and the United Kingdom in science and mathematics, as well as religious education, becoming the chairman of the Association of Science Teachers of Jamaica in 1979. Ordained priest in 1976 and consecrated bishop in 2012, currently the Rector of St. Alban's Anglican Church, George Town, immediate past Secretary of the Cayman Ministers' Association, and member of the Cayman Islands Human Rights Commission. Authored the book “The Dependency Question - a study of Church and State in the Cayman Islands” and numerous articles. Happily married for over 40 years to wife Winnifred, with three adult children born in Jamaica, and several grandchildren.