homeaboutessential guidepicture of the daythunderblogsnewsmultimediapredictionsproductsget involvedcontact



pic of the day
  subject index
  abstract archive



Electric Cosmos

The Universe

Plasma Cosmology

Society for



Dec 30, 2004
Prediction #4: The Scars of Planetary Violence

Laboratory study of the way electric arcs affect surface materials will soon challenge traditional geologic models. The evidence will show that the cosmic “thunderbolt” dominated planetary evolution.

When speaking of solar system history, proponents of the electric universe realize that their message can create huge difficulties in communication.  Abbreviated “first glimpses” of their viewpoint will provoke incredulity, shock, and irritation. In the electric model, the actual history of our solar system does not resemble the currently accepted theories of the sciences. Therefore, the reader must be asked to suspend all prior beliefs on the subject, including matters thought to have been settled decades, or even centuries ago.

In the later years of his life, Nobel Laureate Hannes Alfven, the founder of plasma science, reached a startling conclusion about the nature of the universe. He said that gravitational systems are the “ashes” of prior electrical systems. This remarkable idea would require the investigation of our solar system to move in an entirely new direction. But the history of science suggests that such dramatic turns do not occur easily, or without a jolt of unnerving proportions.

In contrast to conventional theorists, advocates of the electric universe contend that as recently as several thousand years ago, planets moved under the influence of electrified plasma, a medium that can easily overwhelm gravity.  Orbits changed, and catastrophic electrical encounters altered the terrain, the climates, and the atmospheres of planets, including our Earth.

Though the duration of  instability is unknown, the final episodes of catastrophe occurred in the time of our early ancestors, who witnessed celestial wonders beyond anything imagined today. Charged planets and moons were held in a close array by electrical forces and were seen as huge spheres in the sky. In periods of instability, plasma discharges passed between planets, capturing the obsessive attention of human witnesses. Ancient sky worshippers observed the resulting plasma configurations as the discharges mutated from one unstable phase to another, seemingly alive, intelligent—and habitually combative.  It was these events, often earthshaking and terrifying, that supplied the raw content of world mythology and inspired the great religious and symbolic traditions of antiquity.

Planetary science will play a critical role in testing the electric universe hypothesis. The claimed events could not have occurred without leaving vast physical scars on all the rocky bodies involved. Because most of the rocky bodies in the solar system have surfaces unaffected by atmospheric or fluid erosion, they must have preserved a relatively pristine record of these events. The scars should still be visible today.

To produce the discharge formations claimed by the electric theorists, one must envision interplanetary lightning raking across the surfaces of the celestial bodies, alternately removing material and implanting material.  This re-sculpting of surfaces occurred through intensely violent action, in stark contrast to geologic processes occurring on Earth today.  But presently-observed terrestrial events provide most of the content of modern geological theory. Hence, the electric universe challenges standard theory at the level of underpinnings.

Charged bodies within a plasma develop insulating “sheaths” or plasma cells around them. In space, we call these sheaths “magnetospheres”.  So long as charged planets remain outside each other’s plasma sheaths they will stay electrically "invisible" to each other. But two planets in close approach, moving deeply into each other’s sheaths, will cause the electrical insulation to break down, and the resulting arcing will leave surface features that can only be obvious once the question is raised.

No inquiry into the issues raised here could afford to overlook the thousands of channels torn across surfaces of planets and moons. The lunar surface, for example, presents huge channels, called "sinuous rilles”, first observed through earthbound telescopes, then viewed close up from Apollo craft orbiting the Moon in the late 1960’s. [Photograph above, upper right]

As seen from Earth, some lunar rilles look so much like a terrestrial river that early astronomers wondered if subsurface water might be present on the Moon. Yet closer views showed that the characteristic features of rivers—tributary systems, braids, smoothly curved meanders, delta fans, alluvial flood plains, etc.—are either missing or oddly displayed in lunar rilles.

Before the space age, only the Moon could be seen with enough detail to reveal the existence of sinuous rilles.  But after more than three decades of space exploration, virtually identical terrain is known to exist on every closely observed body of the solar system—on all of the rocky inner planets, on the Martian moon Phobos, on the moons of the gas giants, on asteroids, and even on comets. How did the same morphology occur in such radically different environments?

The mystery only deepens as we learn more about these celestial bodies.  Many space objects are too hot, too dry, too airless, too cold, or too small to have rivers of water.  Where  any kind of flowing liquid is excluded, the specialists have proposed cracking of ice under tidal stresses, or cracking of rocky surfaces by meteoric impacts, or collapse of surface material above subterranean flows of liquid, or venting of sub-surface gases.  These diverse "explanations" have been offered for essentially identical geologic formations.

In the mid-1970’s, engineer Ralph Juergens described for the first time the expected effects of interplanetary lightning on the surfaces of solid bodies in space. His original insights are particularly valuable in light of plasma cosmology, with its emphasis on electricity in the evolution of stellar and planetary systems. Juergens showed that the strange features of sinuous rilles can be explained by scaling up features of powerful lightning strikes on Earth.  Interplanetary lightning could act (with variations) on worlds that are hot or cold, on worlds with high or low gravity, on worlds with or without an atmosphere, and on worlds with or without water, lava, or other liquids.

• Often a rille begins or ends on a crater or has a crater straddling the rille at the place where the rille changes direction. Hyginus rille on the Moon is a good example.

• Many craters are perched on the edges of rilles--far in excess of the random distribution predicted by orthodox impact theory.

• Sometimes craters are so densely distributed in and around rilles that when scientists count the craters to estimate the age of the surface their conclusion flatly contradicts the claimed age of the rille itself.

• Crater chains frequently run parallel to a rille, as near Valles Marineris on Mars, or they can run along the bottom of the rille for all or part of the rille's length.

• Sometimes the rille appears to be constituted of overlapping craters, making clear that the force producing the craters was the agent producing the rille.  This apparently continuous cratering will often give a clean "cookie cutter" or fluted appearance to the walls of the channel with no evidence of the slumping that would follow fluid undercutting. 

Experimental work is now underway to explore the relationship between the electric arc and scarring patterns in the solar system. Much more such research is called for, but even the initial results, as they are published, should be sufficient to provoke more vigorous laboratory work.

The channel produced by an electric spark, such as the one shown above, is a sinuous rille in miniature. Electrical phenomena are scalable: they exhibit the same forms and characteristics whether the discharge occurs over a fraction of a millimeter or over thousands of kilometers. In fact, computerized simulations of high-energy electrical discharges indicate that the same patterns can be scaled up yet another 100 million times to galactic size.

Scalability carries sweeping implications for planetary science. With a microscope, industrial engineers observe the characteristic features of rilles in the tiny scars that electric arcs leave on damaged insulators and semiconductors or on the surfaces of spark-machined tools. If interplanetary lightning caused the rilles on space objects, then inexpensive and controlled experiments on Earth may answer puzzles that have vexed planetary scientists for decades. Present knowledge of electrical phenomena will also enable scientists to calculate the energies involved in the formation of rilles. How powerful is an interplanetary lightning bolt? Plasma cosmologist Anthony Peratt estimates that a single such bolt would be as powerful as 3000 100-megaton nuclear explosions.

In the coming year, our “Pictures of the Day” will return to these questions often. Active “volcanoes” on Jupiter’s moon Io and Neptune’s moon Triton reveal the telltale signatures of plasma discharges. Enormous “dust devils” moving across the surface of Mars, suggest similar phenomena at lower energies. The tracks of these Everest-sized whirlwinds are eerily similar to the spidery patterns of supposed “cracks” on Jupiter's moon Europa. In wildly different contexts, we observe vast fields of parallel grooves, flat-bottomed craters and crater chains; domes and blisters, all explicable in fine detail as the scars of electric arcs.

In surveying scientific opinion on unexpected planetary geology, we have found that the "best scientific guesses" frequently ignore the most telling features. Experts may be reluctant to concentrate on anomalies to phenomena they claim to understand. In fact, the astonishing surface relief has forced planetary scientists to produce whole libraries of fragmentary and often-contradictory “explanations”, none of which has withstood closer scrutiny.

This is not, then, a mystery that can be resolved overnight. It requires close examination of anomalous but recurring patterns. And when it comes to the alien landscapes revealed in recent decades, it is no exaggeration to say that every recurring pattern is an anomaly.


TOP ROW: Left: Pattern traced by an electric spark across an insulating surface dusted with fine powder. Note the parallelism of the spark paths and the tendency for the tributaries to join the main channel at near right angles.  Note also the deep secondary channel running along the center of the primary. Center: Lunar rilles reveal features remarkably similar to the scars left by electrical arcs. Sharp turns unrelated to topographic inclination, and circular or oblong pits strategically placed along the rilles, are two key pointers to electrical forces. Right: With the curvature of the Moon as backdrop, this photograph of the  Aristarchus Plateau underscores the extraordinary length of many lunar rilles--far exceeding any observed  lava flows on Earth.  Note also that some of the rilles cut across elevated terrain, a fact that precludes creation by flowing liquid.

LOWER LEFT: This bolt of lightning carved a 40-foot furrow across the infield of a baseball diamond. The more sinuous path taken by the lightning can be seen roughly traced in the bottom of the furrow, a key to understanding the patterns of electrically machined rilles on bodies in space.

MIDDLE RIGHT: Schröter’s Valley on the Moon, commonly said to be caused by basaltic lava flows from volcanic sources. A much more narrow stream of pits winds its way down the valley.

LOWER RIGHT: The 700 km Martian rille, Nirgal Vallis. Note the tiny tributaries for such a gigantic channel, the extreme sinuosity, and the “fretted” cookie cutter appearance of the “lower” reaches, all inconsistent with the dynamics of flowing water.


David Talbott, Wallace Thornhill
Amy Acheson
  CONTRIBUTING EDITORS: Mel Acheson, Michael Armstrong, Dwardu Cardona,
Ev Cochrane,   Walter Radtke, C.J. Ransom, Don Scott, Rens van der Sluijs, Ian Tresman
  WEBMASTER: Michael Armstrong

Copyright 2004: