Sunday, December 30, 2012

Electric Universe @ New Scientist

It was recently brought to my attention that, in response to a science story about the 'magnetic highways' detected by the Voyager spacecraft (see Voyager 1 Tastes Interstellar Space), a comment has been posted to New Scientist magazine advocating Electric Universe claims (comment at New Scientist).

I have sent a response to New Scientist, but as they have a 250 word limit, some of my approximately 350 word response may be lost.  I am therefore posting a complete copy of my response here.
This is in response to Greg Shanahan's letter in Opinion (18 December 2012) advocating Plasma Cosmology/Electric Universe claims as a solution to problems in astronomy.  The suggestion displays a lack of understanding of not just gravity, but electromagnetism as well.

Tony Peratt's galaxy model, while an interesting alternative in the 1980s, failed subsequent key observational tests.  First COBE, and later WMAP skymaps showed no trace of the spaghetti-like streamers of microwave emission, predicted by Peratt, which would be created by galaxy-powering electric currents.  Peratt's models could not reproduce the uniformity of the cosmic microwave background.

As for electric fields around stars, astronomers have explored these concepts since the 1920s starting with the Pannekoek-Rosseland field.  This was before Langmuir applied the term 'plasma' to an electrically conducting gas.  In the 1960s, these ideas evolved to modern 'exospheric' models which do predict an electric field in the solar wind accumulating potential on the order of a few hundred volts between the Sun and Earth.

Electric Universe's more bizarre 'theories', such as the stars being powered by external electric currents rather than internal fusion, have even more problems which Electric Universe theorists never acknowledge.  An undergraduate in physics can demonstrate that particle fluxes and fields needed to power these solar configurations are damaging to satellites and fatal to astronauts.   And that is before we get to the problem of how these interstellar currents streams are created, stabilized, and maintained - where's the generator?!

Science is about solving problems, but these solutions need to be testable and verifiable by others.  Like most crank models, Electric Universe models only predict what their supporters say they predict.  No Electric Universe 'theorists' are willing to spell out their algorithm for solar wind characteristics with sufficient precision to be used to plan a space flight.  Like most crank models, Electric Universe supporters want to focus on the 'problems' of mainstream models rather than the more severe problems of their own models.

Electric Universe 'solutions' are the logical equivalent of solving the problems in weather forecasting by removing the 'theory' that the Earth is round! 

W.T. Bridgman, Ph.D.
Links to the more details examinations of Electric Universe problems I've indexed and summarized at Challenges for Electric Universe 'Theorists'.

Update: 12/31/2012.  Corrected specification of solar electric field.  Thanks to the alert reader who pointed it out.

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