Sunday, November 16, 2008

Electric Cosmos: The Solar Resistor Model

Here I'll continue my response to the Thunderbolts Forum (TBF) critique of my critique of Don Scott's book, "The Electric Sky".

In this post, I'll focus on their response to my calculations of the deficiencies of one of their proposed models for externally powering the Sun. Because this particular model seems to suggest the Sun is powered as a resistive load along an interstellar 'current', I will label this the “Solar Resistor Model”. This model has the advantage that it integrates nicely with the Plasma Cosmology galaxy model advocated by Peratt et al. If galaxies form at the intersection of giant current streams, what does this look like on a solar system scale? The main current can consist of many small filaments which light individual stars. This at least exhibits some physical consistency, which is more than can be said about other EU models.

M5k asks: "I'd still like to see some commentary on Bridgman's calculations under "Powering the Sun from Outside" that start on page 17 of the pdf."

This request is seconded by other forum members such as 'upriver' and 'JohnW'. Some TBF members had the integrity to point out that I had raised issues in my analysis that must be addressed. However, the only issue that made it to the forum and received any feedback was my electric solar power computation based on the solar resistor model. Here I'll respond to some of their statements on this particular topic.

I outlined the full details of my analysis. It is a high-school physics problem that could be examined on something as simple as a spreadsheet program. Why are none of the TBF members able to do even this simple analysis and report on the result? Isn't the forum the home of the 'brains' of the EU community? Why do they seem so incapable of doing even this basic math/physics problem?

nick_c asks: "Is Bridgman taking into account the amount of the power output that can be attributed to nuclear fusion taking place on or above the surface of the Sun?"

No I did not. But again, it is so simple to demonstrate that it doesn't help and in many ways makes things much worse for EU claims.

Work the problem from other direction. Knowing the magnetic field value you can have, determine the maximum power you can put into the Sun from an electric current. The difference between this and the total solar luminosity is the amount of energy you must make up from other sources.

This resistor model is sufficiently simple that from the details I've presented, it is easy to produce a 'Current-Luminosity' relationship with simple high-school algebra. From the relations defined in "Powering the Sun from the Outside", pp 17-18 of "The Electric Sky: Short-Circuited", we find:


and a 'Magnetic Field-Luminosity' relationship


where I've replaced the power, P, with luminosity, L, in the same units of watts. The only free parameter remaining in these relationships is the electron mean kinetic energy, E_k.

From these equations, we see that for any given luminosity, if we want to reduce the magnetic field, we must increase the energy of the electrons, an issue that creates a host of additional problems.

For a given electron energy, to drop the magnetic field to an appropriate value on the solar surface requires a current reduction by a factor of about a thousand. For the adjustment at Earth's orbit, a factor of about a billion is required. To solve this, we reduce the luminosity from the current by an equivalent factor. Any reduction of the main current sufficient to solve the magnetic field problem will require the power difference to be made up in nuclear energy, which means that now their model requires the Sun to be predominantly nuclear-powered.

Other than ambiguous references to producing helium from hydrogen, the EU proponents do not specify which nuclear reactions are taking place on the solar surface. Once you know the specific reactions, there are plenty of resources to retrieve experimental and theoretical reaction-rate cross sections. Combined with information about composition, temperature, and density (and it's easy to compute this over some reasonable range of values), it's generally very easy to compute reaction rates and energy output. Many nuclear reaction networks can be run on something as simple as a spreadsheet. I used to do my nuclear astrophysics homework problems in graduate school this way, and that was using a computer from over fifteen years ago.

X- and gamma-rays from nuclear reactions at the Sun's surface will also be very visible, since there is less matter at the solar surface to down-scatter the photons to visible light. The RHESSI spectrometer routinely observes the Sun in gamma-rays. Some nuclear reactions have been identified on the surface but at nowhere near the intensity to explain a substantial fraction of the Sun's output (see the RHESSI web site: http://hesperia.gsfc.nasa.gov/hessi/flares.htm).

David Talbott asks: "Does Bridgman realize that the subject is a glow discharge and that the electrons are drifting in ever-so-slowly (in aggregate, centimeters per hour?) along "transmission lines" following the direction of the magnetic field? Don't know, but let's find out."

Electrons carry energy via their motion. Low-speed electrons are low-energy electrons! If they're moving slowly, you need a lot more electrons to carry the same amount of energy. Note the relationships above. For a given luminosity, lowering the electron energy requires an increase in the current. It also generates an increase in the magnetic field.

And these 'transmission lines'? Carrying energy from where to where?

I don't see any demonstration from the EU advocates that a glow discharge (which is generally an emission spectrum) matches the spectrum observed in the solar corona (which varies between the regions known as the F- and K-corona).

MGmirkin asks: "Does he take into account that plasma / electrical processes can be non-linear processes?"

Since I spelled out the assumptions and equations used in my calculation sufficient for anyone to reproduce and/or extend them, you know exactly what non-linearities I'm including. However, if the EU advocates want to play in that ballpark, I invite them to spell out the non-linearities in mathematical form, with the appropriate physical justifications (Maxwell's equations, MHD, etc.).

Beyond that, I did a straight energy-budget calculation. Non-linearities may shift energy content between different modes, but it doesn't alter the overall amount of energy available vs. amount expended. Then again, I don't see any references or links to demonstrate that the EU community has actually done this calculation either.

This question also demonstrates a larger familiarity with buzzwords than physics. 'Non-linear' has become the new 'quantum indeterminancy' or 'zero-point energy', a term bandied about when someone wants to claim something is complex, mysterious and/or unknowable. Non-linear systems can tell you much, provided you ask the right questions. If you want to have fun with some simple non-linear systems, the Lorenz system and the Rikitake dynamo (lots of resources available through search engines with 'Rikitake dynamo') provide some interesting insights that are easily demonstrated on small computers.

This “Solar Resistor Model” raises a number of other questions which the EU proponents don't address but which I will ask here.
  1. Long current streams unconfined by wires are subject to a number of instabilities. How does the EU model prevent these instabilities from switching off the Sun in short timescales? Have they calculated the timescale for this process?
  2. Since the EU model rules out an internal mechanism for powering the Sun, what drives the 22-year solar magnetic cycle that is responsible for the 11-year solar sunspot cycle? How does an approximately steady current (driving a relatively constant luminosity) drive this mechanism?
  3. What is the origin of the current? I regard this as the true mystery of the Electric Cosmos that they never seem to talk about.
  4. If you can correct the problem of the magnetic field being too large, how do you solve the problem that the field is pointed in the wrong direction compared to the measured solar field?
  5. If you claim nuclear reactions are taking place on the solar surface, specify which reactions!
  6. I see no description of the optical effects due to Thomson scattering from the incoming electron streams. At the densities implied by these models, we should see bright columns from the north & south poles of the Sun during eclipses.

For my next entry on the Electric Sun, I'll demonstrate just some of the problems I encountered when working the spherical 'solar capacitor' problem using the same numbers Dr. Scott presents later in the TBF thread.

1 comment:

rspeir said...

Tom,

Where can I read responses to your comments here? I follow the forum links but they seem to only contain historical posts. Thanks.