Monday, November 30, 2009

Charge Separation in Space

One of my readers asked me about this post from August 2004 on the Thunderbolts site: Charge Separation in Space

Here EU is playing games with what is professional astronomers mean by charge separation.  In general, astrophysical plasmas are electrically neutral on large scales.  This graphic indicates what is actually happening in a predominantly neutral plasma.


In this case, the free charges (red and green dots) are sufficiently intermingled that any sample of the volume with a large number of charges will be essentially neutral.  If you examined on a sufficiently small scale, you could probably find small regions (on scales of the Debye length (Wikipedia: Debye Length), which might be charge imbalanced for a short time.

While electrostatic forces will still try to pull ions and electrons together to form neutral atoms, the thermal energy of particles is sufficient to overcome the ionization potential of the atoms.  These particles are always in motion.  Any imbalance in charge will create an electric field which will act to return the plasma back to a neutral state.  If losses due to collisions with neutral atoms or photon emission is too low, the motion can set up an oscillation with a frequency of the plasma frequency (Wikipedia: Plasma Frequency). 

For a discussion of some of the conditions where astronomers know charge separation/electric fields can take place, see my earlier post, “The REAL Electric Universe”.   For the case of the Pannekoek-Rosseland field mentioned in the linked article, the charges are held separated by the gravitational gradient.  In this case, the entire mass of the Sun can only support a charge separation of about 100 coulombs.  This is a very small quantity when compared to an object as large as the Sun.

When astronomers say there is no significant charge separation in space, we are talking about bulk charge separation, contrary to what EU advocates want to claim.  EU advocates usually mean large groups of the same charge (red vs. green) are separated by some distance, like this:


Here, the black arrows represent the direction of the electrostatic forces which will work to pull the separated charges back together.  Also note that the regions of the same charge (electrons and ions) the like-charged particles will be repelling each other! 

Explaining various astrophysical phenomena by these mechanisms requires charge separations and electric fields far larger than can be provided by known mechanims.  The energy to separate the charges (not just ionize the atoms) has to come from somewhere!  Irving Langmuir, (Wikipedia) understood why you cannot get significant, sustained charge separation unless something stronger than the attractive electrostatic force, like your lab equipment, is holding the charges apart.

Another item is that the EU article has interpreted the spectroscopic notation incorrectly.  The number of electrons missing is one less than the value of the roman numeral.  OVIII has one electron remaining (it is called hydrogenic, Wikipedia: Hydrogen-like Atom).  Neutral hydrogen is HI, while ionized hydrogen is HII.  Similarly, neutral helium is HeI, while singly-ionized helium is Hell and doubly-ionized is HeIII.  In some cases, modern notation is creeping in, so some more recent papers use the superscript ionization notation, so HII = $H^{+1}$ and CIV = $C^{+3}$.  An atom with all the electrons missing cannot generate spectral lines by atomic processes.

The issues of spectral line formation were first figured out in the 1920s and 1930s with the development of quantum mechanics.  It's a fairly advanced spectroscopy topic
Astrophysicists have developed software that solves the very complex system of equations, described at the sites above, used to describe atoms, ions and electrons under these conditions.  Two packages I have had some experience with are Chianti and XSTAR.  For a gas of some specified composition of chemical elements and a specified temperature, these programs compute the amount of ionization and intensity of the spectral lines.  These programs are used to determine characteristics of astrophysical environments but are also tested against laboratory experiments.

As usual, the EU crowd is playing fast-n-loose with their 'facts'.

8 comments:

Chris Reeve (pln2bz) said...

Bridgman, I see that you're still trying to use electrostatics to explain plasma physics. The EU model does not have electrons separated from positive ions as shown in your diagram.

"Regardless of scale, the motion of charged particles produce a self-magnetic field that can act on other collections of particles or plasmas, internally or externally. [i]Plasmas in relative motion are coupled via currents that they drive through each other[/i]." A. J. Peratt, Physics of the Plasma Universe, p. 48. [Emphasis in original]

The idea that gravity alone can determine the electric charge sustainable by a star is nonsense when the EU model argues that gravity itself is an electrical force. (Astrophysicists have no idea what gravity is). The Pannekoek-Rosseland field assumes a simplistic model of stellar interiors as a perfect gas. It does not apply to the EU model. This is the hallmark of a pseudo-skeptic: there is no attempt to understand the thing being argued against. Instead, there are a series of knee-jerk responses to things they think they know better.

You are correct about the number of electrons stripped from atoms. It is a simple mistake and doesn't detract from the EU argument. But, as usual, a pseudo-skeptic will make a big deal of a non-issue.

Please stop confusing people about the behavior of charged particles. The damage you do with each of these malformed arguments is more than you can imagine. We should be teaching the public how plasmas tend to behave in the laboratory, and how they can understand cosmic plasmas based upon these laboratory observations. Science will continue to stagnate so long as you guys continue to perpetuate models for plasmas which are based upon idealizations and a refusal to read about the behavior of plasmas within the laboratory.

I expect that you will publish this comment in its entirety.

Anonymous said...

Electric Universe people actually agree that space plasmas tend to be electrically neutral on larger scales. This is due to a process called "quasi-neutrality".

However, quasineutrality is violated in space plasmas by charged particle beams and double layers. Space plasma physicist Lars Block noted that "The satellite S3-3 (Mozer et al., 1977) flew through, what appeared to be 'pairs' of double layers, with thickness d ~ 3-10 km"

Note though, that while the distance between the layers is still relatively small, the area of each layer may be huge. For example, the prediction of a lunar double layer was confirmed in 2003 and suggested a double layer with a 1km separation; of course the layer extended many tens of thousands of square kilometers across the lunar surface.

On the larger scale, the lunar plasma is still neutral.

W.T."Tom" Bridgman said...

The S3-3 satellite results are not surprising at all. The ionospheric region of the Earth gets contributions from both gravitational stratification of plasma (P-R field which is structurally a weak double layer) as well as effects from the rotation of the Earth's magnetic dipole field - both mechanisms I mention in "The REAL Electric Universe".

The electrodynamics of the solar wind's interaction with the Moon goes back much further than you imply:
"Electrostatic charging of the lunar surface and possible consequences",
"Lunar ion energy spectra and surface potential",
"Lunar electric fields, surface potential and associated plasma sheaths", (take a look at Figure 2 in this one).
None of these guys are EU supporters. F.C. Michel now studies the electrodynamical environment around pulsars today. Another blow against the claim that astrophysicists don't study electric fields.

But look at the small values of the voltages involved in these double layers. How much power could you get from this system before the current alters the field enough to dissipate it.

So this is the EU pattern: Claim (falsely) that astrophysicists don't study electromagnetic effects in space, then claim that any mention of electric fields or currents in space must be evidence for EU crackpot claims. EU is a pretty good racket, it relies heavily on its fans not doing even basic research.

W.T."Tom" Bridgman said...

Mr. Reeve (pln2bz),

As usual, you pack a lot of misunderstandings in a small space...

Are you claiming one can't use electrostatics to determine the configuration of a steady-state system? Then you must be saying that Langmuir ("Currents Limited by Space Charge between Concentric Spheres") and Cobine ("Gaseous Conductors", pp 205-289) are incompetent, as they noted that steady discharges convert Maxwell's equations into electrostatic solutions. If you want to claim that the EU model can power the Sun and maintain a steady thermal flux within 0.1% over a solar cycle using a time-varying solution, you had better demonstrate it, otherwise the nicest thing I can say about you is you are just making stuff up.

You claim the P-R field is only applicable to a perfect gas: Are you saying that particles with different charge-to-mass ratios will NOT stratify in a gravitational field if other forces exist between the particles? Why not? Document your claim. After all, this process has been applied to many types of plasma 'atmospheres' that can form around massive objects. It has also been used to analyze dusty plasmas.

Your claim that astrophysics deals too much with idealizations suggests a lack of detailed examination of the literature. You clearly have no understanding how mathematics is used to work problems in electromagnetism, mechanics, etc. Planetary orbits are not perfect ellipses due to perturbations from other objects, yet this idealization is sufficient for many applications. Or are you obsessing on concept of 'frozen magnetic field lines' like so many EU supporters? Astrophysicists were looking at MHD systems with less-than-infinite magnetic Reynolds numbers , since at least the 1960s ("On the Turbulence and Hydromagnetic Turbulence in Astrophysics (Second Paper)"). You're nearly 50 years out-of-date.

Do not confuse idealizations with constraints required by energy or particle conservation. Even plasmas do not violate these, but EU models do (Electric Cosmos: The Solar Capacitor Model. I.).

End Part 1

W.T."Tom" Bridgman said...

Mr. Reeve, Part 2.

If you want to have counter-streaming currents, you must have electric fields. How do you get the electric field? Charge-separation or magnetic induction (which is included in MHD). Astrophysicists use MHD all the time. How do you get charge separation? You need some other energy source to overcome the natural attraction of the different charges. In the case of the P-R field, this is provided by gravity.

Some was really 'asleep at the stick' to these erroneous statements multiple times:
Mg XII  --  Magnesium with all 12 of its electrons missing
    Ne X  -- Neon with all 10 electrons missing
    O VIII -- Oxygen with all 8 of its electrons missing
    N VII -- Nitrogen with all 7 of its electrons missing
    C VI -- Carbon with all 6 of its electrons missing

demonstrates that it is not a typo. An atom with no electrons does NOT emit an atomic spectral line! The statements immediately set off warning bells to anyone who actually understands anything about atomic spectroscopy. EU advocates have repeatedly demonstrated that they do not understand that spectroscopy tells us a great deal about the conditions of the gas, including its ionization state and magnetic fields.

Blogspot only allows publication or rejection of comments in their entirety. I don't believe editing comments is enabled.

You have not demonstrated that you understand anything about electromagnetism or plasmas beyond EU technobabble. So the only other post I will accept from you must answer these questions:

* If you are claiming that we should only rely on laboratory observations of plasmas and that our mathematical models are worthless, then where does that leave MHD? Is MHD, valid in its domain of applicability? Are you saying Alfven didn't deserve a Nobel prize for MHD?

* The standard for physical models is that they produce numerical values in agreement with observations (in situ measurements or fluxes) from well-understood, more fundamental principles. Yet the Electric Sun (ES) model produces no such values of solar wind or interplanetary magnetic field, values which we can compare to measurements from the many satellites flown from the orbit of Mercury to the heliopause. Why should the Electric Sun model be regarded as superior to the more standard model(s) when the standard models disagree at the few percent level, or at worst factor of a few, while ES produces no values for comparison at all?

Jeff said...

MDH is EU is MHD.

Reverse the equation - we know the outputs, in what range do the inputs need to be for an ES? Search for those inputs. If they're within range, ES valid, out of range, ES invalid. EU can't, Mainstream won't, we wait for ITER.

W.T."Tom" Bridgman said...

Unless under common use, you need to specify your TLAs. I know EU, ES, ITER, and MHD.

So WTF is MDH?

Jeff said...

MHD. I meant MHD. No wonder I couldn't find this post on Google.