Engineer: “Captain, we can stop the flow with a concentrated beam of chronoton particles”
First Officer: “Aren't chronoton particles notoriously unstable?”
Engineer: “Not if we modulate it with a high-frequency pulse of tachyons.”
Anyone who's a fan of television or movie science fiction has doubtless seen a similar scene. A catastrophe is averted by judicious manipulation of terminology. Those of us familiar with the science snicker a little at scenes like these.
Many of these types of shows have inspired this author, and many others, to pursue careers in the sciences and engineering. But while television science fiction has inspired some to actually learn more science, it seems to have convinced others that most of science is manipulation of sophisticated-sounding terminology.
In dealing with pseudo-scientific claims, I have frequently encountered this kind terminology manipulation, usually with present-day scientific terms. However, using the terminology does not mean the speaker understands the concepts and implications behind the terminology.
As an example, I'll take a close look at a comment recently posted in this blog under the post “Scott Rebuttal. II. The Peratt Galaxy Model vs. the Cosmic Microwave Background". Any reasonable response would be way to long for the comments so I decided to make it a regular posting.
Commenter: "Is it to be assumed that electrons within a Birkeland current move in circular and spiraling motions? A circular motion at least, would indicate that the internally induced magnetic fields are more important than the ones driving the Birkeland current in the first place. Now, the Birkeland currents are per definition initially field alligned, and the additional induced magnetic fields (a collective cylindrical one), would be surrounding the Birkeland current, seen from a classical point of view. However, it is the Debye shielding that prevents the effect you propose are happening (that otherwise would produce cyclotron radiation). For this reason, it seems likely that Birkeland currents can be in “dark mode“ until they interact with considerable densities of plasmas or gases, seen as glow mode in various wavelengths (double helix above Milkyway centre?) or as auroras."In an attempt to salvage the Peratt galaxy model, the commenter has assembled an explanation which makes use of some real scientific terminology. It reads really impressive, even logical, every bit as good as the techobabble on television sci-fi. However, while they use the terms, I will now point out how they misuse the concepts that they represent as well as the consequences of those concepts. Each of the errors has, at its root, the notion that the terms we use to describe physical processes are somehow isolated, like the 'black boxes' of engineering - that the processes do not depend on more fundamental processes - and that these underlying processes interact in ways that limit the applicability of 'black box' processes.
The commenter's explanation has three major failures.
1) “electrons within a Birkeland current move in circular and spiraling motions? A circular motion at least, would indicate that the internally induced magnetic fields are more important than the ones driving the Birkeland current in the first place.”
Charged particles in ANY magnetic field move in circular/spiraling motions. Depending on the density, the particles may not complete a full circle before they scatter off a neighboring particle, but they still move in curving trajectories.
There are two sources of magnetic fields in the Birkeland current configuration. There is the field component along the axis of the current path, usually labelled the z-axis. This is the main field of the Birkeland current and has to come from some other source (rarely specified in EU literature). As the charges flow along the z-axis, that current induces an additional magnetic field, called the azimuthal field.
Another important thing to note is that for a current to exist, the charge carriers in the Birkeland current, ions and electrons, must travel at different speeds. In an electric field, the force on an electron and proton are the same (but opposite in direction). However, the electron will accelerate about 1800 times faster due to its proportionally smaller mass. Therefore, electromagnetic, as well as thermal mechanisms, have ions and electrons traveling at different mean speeds. If the electrons and protons travel at about the same velocity (magnitude AND direction), the net current flow becomes zero, and the entire system fails. The plasma becomes indistinguishable from a hot cloud of plasma.
Birkeland currents still require a magnetic field to align along their direction of travel. For the Earth & planetary magnetospheres, this field is provided by the planetary magnetic dipole field. What is the source of this field in Peratt's galaxy model? This would have to be a HUGE structure to be a source of magnetic field lines that can stretch across several hundred million light-years of the cosmos. I've yet to find anything in EU or plasma cosmology literature identifying the nature of this large-scale magnetic field.
All known cosmic Birkeland currents are relatively low current density, they do not themselves produce a significant magnetic field relative to the field aligned along their axis. If the current-induced field becomes large, the plasma confinement becomes unstable. This is well established observationally and experimentally. Therefore the commenter's claim that the induced (azimuthal) magnetic field is more important than the driving field (z-axis) immediately leads to an unstable configuration.
2) “it is the Debye shielding that prevents the effect you propose”.
First, I didn't propose synchrotron radiation would occur in the configuration advocated by Dr. Peratt. Peratt himself recognized that synchrotron radiation would be generated by the electrons moving in a magnetic field, as referenced in the original blog post. This process is well established, observationally & experimentally.
Debye screening surrounds a positive charge center with more mobile negative charges to give a net charge of ZERO beyond some useful distance scale. Debye screening relies on the light electrons having a roughly isotropic (uniform in all directions) velocity relative to the heavier, slower moving ions. This configuration gives electrons a net velocity of zero with respect to the ions and therefore the system has NO net current flow. But if your net current is zero, then so is your magnetic confinement mechanism, as noted above. Your Birkeland current is no longer confined by the magnetic field and becomes nothing but a blob of hot plasma.
If electrons have a net relative velocity with respect to the ions, as is needed for a current, then they can no longer form a uniform cloud around the ions to screen them. Debye screening no longer applies. Peratt's galaxy model relies on 30keV electrons as part of the main current stream. This is substantially above the ionization energies of even the innermost electrons in atoms with atomic numbers up to iron. Hydrogen, the most abundant interstellar element, has a 13.6 eV ionization potential, while iron needs about 7keV to liberate the innermost electron. The electrons in Peratt's current stream will barely feel any influence from the ions and therefore cannot change their motion substantially to screen them.
So suppose you want to claim that the electrons slow down around the ions and screen them? To get electrons moving in a bulk current flow to an isotropic distribution relative to the ions requires the electrons loose energy. This will occur by either collisions or scattering. Both of these processes can generate photons, by either exciting atoms or bremsstrahlung(wikipedia). I did a test calculation using Peratt's parameters which suggests there is very little energy loss via bremsstrahlung but I need to check this against other sources.
In fact there are numerous other processes, in addition to bremsstrahlung mentioned above, that can come into play that would make the Birkeland currents detectable. Electrons interact strongly with photons. If space were full of streams of electrons required by the Peratt model, they would Compton scatter (wikipedia), or Thomson scatter (wikipedia) in the case of non-relativistic electrons, off background photons, changing their energy.
The bottom line is that any interaction that alters the charged particle flows, results in energy being transferred between particles, which generates more emission. This makes the mechanism fail or you see emission as the kinetic energy of the electrons is converted to photons (most likely in the radio, microwave to infrared regions of the spectrum).
3) “Birkeland currents can be in 'dark mode' until they interact with considerable densities of plasmas or gases”
The “dark mode” term in regards to gas discharges is a laboratory description which refers to a lack of emission in the range of visible light. But even in the 'dark current', electrons and ions are still moving in the gas, accelerating & colliding through this region, it is just their emission is not in the range of visible light. These configurations emit in radio to infrared frequencies, depending on the gases and voltages involved. The commenter uses the term as if “dark mode” is still a mysterious process (perhaps trying to draw an analogy with Dark Matter?). These processes in gas discharges have been heavily studied in the laboratory and even computer simulations. There is a large body of scientific literature on this topic which the EU supporters routinely ignore.
In the final analysis, any mechanism that can hide these Birkeland currents also basically kills them. To hide behind the 'dark mode' claim ignores that fact known cosmic Birkeland currents emit in the radio band, such as the magnetosphere of Jupiter (Wikipedia),