Sunday, September 30, 2012

Death by Electric Universe. IV. The Z-Pinch (Solar Resistor) Model

I'll conclude this thread of topics (Death by Electric Universe. I. EU's Unsolvable Problem, Death by Electric Universe. II. The Solar Capacitor Model, Death by Electric Universe. III. EU Excuses), for now, by describing some of the issues of Thornhill's Z-pinch solar model.

A z-pinch (wikipedia) is a very real plasma phenomenon, a consequence of one of the instability modes of a plasma stream.  In this mode, the magnetic field generated by the stream generates forces back on the stream which constricts the plasma flow, sometimes generating significant pressures.  The process has been studied extensively in controlled fusion studies.

Now let me present a brief description of the Thornhill Z-pinch solar model.  The basic idea is that the Sun is located at the constriction (Z-pinch) of one of these cosmic current streams that are always invoked but for some reason undetectable, according to Electric Universe 'theology'. 

Schematic of Thornhill Z-pinch stellar model with the star (yellow) and the source current stream (cyan) .  The blue curves with arrows represent the direction of the magnetic field created by the current stream.  The red curve represents the orbit of a satellite.

Note that this model is RADICALLY different current configuration from the Scott/Juergen's solar model which has the electron current flowing in from all directions to the Sun (see Death by Electric Universe. II. The Solar Capacitor Model).

Now as every competent electrical engineer knows, a current will create a magnetic field.  EUers try to push this claim all the time (see Electric Universe: Peer Review Exercise 3Article Reviewed: "Electric Currents Key to Magnetic Phenomena" by Donald E. Scott), usually forgetting the other electromagnetic characteristics which can also contribute to a magnetic field.  For now, we'll ignore the displacement current term, using the Maxwell equation

In most cases, we ignore the last term, called the displacement current, but I've added an exploration of the displacement current implications for a Z-pinch electric sun model to my 'to do' list.

This equation gives us a relationship between the current passing through a element of surface area, dA, and the magnetic field measured at the boundary of the surface.  The surface and its boundary are quite arbitrary, so we can choose a circular area which has a simple boundary and area.  Also, the result depends only on the total current passing through the surface of interest.  It doesn't matter if the current is one large current stream or hundreds of filamentary currents - the law only depends on the total current that passes through the surface.

The cool thing about Maxwell's equations is that once you define the distribution of charges and currents in your region, you define the electric and magnetic fields in that region as well , and vice versa.

This fact is ignored by EU supporters all the time - they fill the universe with current streams and charge excesses, but never actually compute the magnetic and electric fields these distributions would create!  As shown in this blog and elsewhere, computation of these fields show severe mismatches with observations and in situ measurements!

We can solve the Maxwell equation above to determine the magnetic field at a distance, r, from the axis of the current, I.  We can also write the equation in terms of the luminosity of the star, L.

This result was also demonstrated in Electric Cosmos: The Solar Resistor Model.

In the equation above, note the term in parenthesis.  The luminosity, L, of the star is energy per unit time, and is divided by the average kinetic energy per electron, Ek.  This gives the number of electrons per time passing through the region.  Multiplying this by the charge, q, per electron gives the current.  It is a very simple, and robust, result.  It is also important to note that
  1. this equation would be the minimum magnetic field produced by such a Z-pinch powered 'Electric Star'.  The equation above assumes that ALL the energy, L, goes into powering the star and none makes it out the other side to power more distant stars.  Therefore, 
  2. in reality, any realistic star in this model would need a much larger value of L and therefore have a much larger magnetic field than what we will explore next.
For a given average electron kinetic energy and stellar luminosity, we can graph the relationship of magnetic field with distance from the star.

Mimimum magnetic field for a Thornhill Z-pinch powered star with several choices of luminosity, L.  Average electron kinetic energy is 511keV.  The vertical blue dashed line marks the magnetic field value at 1 Astronomical Unit from the Sun.

We see that for electrons with an average kinetic energy of 511keV, the Sun's magnetic field at the orbit of Earth is about 5 Tesla, far larger than the measured value of a few nano-teslas (a billionth of a tesla).  You can see near-real time values of the Solar magnetic field near Earth posted in the sidebar at

Beyond the incredible large magnitude (and direction) of the magnetic field compared to the actual measured field,  there are addition implications of this Z-pinch magnetic field for space flight.

What Happens when a Conductor Moves Through a Magnetic Field?

By Faraday's Law of Induction, an electric field is induced around the boundary of a surface moving through a magnetic field, a net electromotive force.  This is how a generator or dynamo works, using mechanical energy to move a conductor through a magnetic field to generate a voltage and current.

So what happens when our satellite (represented by the red ellipse around the star in the graphic above), which contains some conductive components, moves through the magnetic field generated by this solar Z-pinch? 

To get an idea of the magnitude of this voltage for a satellite, for simplicity, we'll consider a square electrical circuit on a satellite, of length, L, on each side, and plug them into Faraday's law above.  It might be an actual electrical circuit inside the satellite delivering power to internal components, or it might simply be a complete circuit of conducting material that is part of the satellite chassis.  The area enclosed by the circuit, dA, is L*L.  The length of the boundary, dl, is 4*L.  If the circuit is moving at a speed, v, through the magnetic field, then it sweeps through an area of L*v per time.  Moving through a uniform magnetic field, B, then the induced EMF, the voltage induced around the circuit of length 4*L, is

V = E*(4*L )= B*(L*v)

Since we've assumed a uniform induced electric field, E, and applied magnetic field, B, our integrals in Maxwell's equations become simple products.  Using our approximation above, we can get some 'back-of-the-envelope' rough numbers.  We need to estimate some input values for the equations:
  • Our satellite is traveling at a speed reasonable for a solar orbiter, say 40 km/s = 4e4 m/s
  • Let our satellite be about a meter across, say L=1 m
  • And the magnetic field created by our Z-pinch, at a distance from the Sun of 1 Astronomical Unit (AU), per analysis above, is about 5 Tesla (Wikipedia: Tesla)
This means the voltage induced in a circuit around our satellite is on the order of:

V = (5 Tesla) * (1 m) *(4e4 m/s) = 200,000 volts.

This is a pretty hefty voltage to get induced on your satellite.   Definitely enough to fry most modern satellite electronics.  Note that this would be the current induced whenever the satellite moves through the REGULAR solar magnetic field.  This would not be an occasional event, but would happen all the time.  While transient energetic solar events can fry satellites, these are not events created by a sun-powering z-pinch advocated by Thornhill.

If the Sun were powered by Thornhill's Z-pinch, the induced current would most certainly fry most any solar-orbiting satellite.  The impact of this induced current on a mission with a human crew is particularly problematic.

Due to the nature of the velocity with respect to the magnetic field, this effect would be a minimum for a circular orbit, but become more of a problem for elliptical orbits.  Satellites tracing along most planetary orbits would not see as strong an induced current, but any satellite with a large radial velocity component with respect to the Sun would experience this induced current - so this would be a problem for any interplanetary mission moving between planetary orbits.

Needless to say, in now fifty years of interplanetary travel, we've seen no evidence of this kind of effect induced on satellites.

EU Theorists Flunk Maxwell's Equations Yet Again

The really cool prediction of the Z-pinch solar model is that we could power many spacecraft by allowing the spacecraft carry coils through the solar magnetic field.  If the Z-pinch model were really valid, this would be a very efficient way to generate onboard power for a satellite.

Another possibility that I haven't fully investigated yet is that this induced current might actually allow one to maneuver the spacecraft.  The current induced in the spacecraft circuit generates a magnetic field around the satellite, and creates a force within the field of the Z-pinch.  It might be interesting to explore possible spacecraft maneuvering that might be accomplished by this interaction.

Of course, all these fascinating possible applications are irrevelant as the star-powering Z-pinch current is a total fiction.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

On the Motivated Rejection of Science

(A minor detour from the Electric Sun to promote some recent studies of science denial)

A recent paper appeared in print related to the topics of this blog dealing with the sociology of pseudo-scientific belief.

While the primary interest of the paper dealt with the acceptance of climate science, it touched on a number of other aspects of science denial.  The primary conclusion of the paper is that there appears to be a strong correlation between various aspects of science denial.  To quote the authors from the abstract:
"we find that endorsement of a laissez-faire conception of free-market economics predicts rejection of climate science (r ≃ .80 between latent constructs)"
Because the study dealt with climate science, which has significant economic implications, it is not too surprising that there was a strong correlation with economic issues generally identified as 'conservative'.  It might be interesting to conduct a similar study exploring various New Age and similar claims promoted by groups that are more politically 'left-wing'. 

Here's some links to the preprint and news coverage:
and the 'controversy' which erupted after the preprint appeared online:

Not Too Surprising from My Experience

I found this paper particularly interesting as it seems to tie together a number of aspects of science denial and pseudo-science that I had long suspected from personal experience, but this is the first detailed study I've seen of the correlation. 

I have often encountered many promoters of pseudo-science who seem to view their science claims as something they have to 'sell', as if science is chosen like something from a restaurant menu with the difference between the choices merely a matter of personal taste.  I've even sat in on a talk where an individual who was no longer doing research attributed his failure to an inability to 'sell' his ideas rather than the fact that many of his ideas (which I had read about) could be demonstrated as incorrect by existing science.  This emphasis on selling and persuasion is a very important ability in business.

Also consistent with the report is that I've also noticed a high fraction of promoters of pseudo-science advocating various other conspiracies.  There are always the claims that 'politics' in science act to suppress alternative ideas, but these types of conspiracies can't last for long before real evidence vindicates legitimate science.  I have occasionally challenged some of the cranks on this blog who promote claims that would negatively impact the capability for space travel (Electric Sun claims and Biblical Geocentrism) to see if they also believe claims such as we've also never been to the Moon (see Moon Landing Hoax rebuttals at 'Exposing PseudoAstronomy').  I often find the cranks will go off on a totally different tangent from the original argument and conspicuously avoid, or evade, answering this direct question.

Seeking Solutions

The saddest aspect of this reported correlation between climate change denial and capitalism is that it makes it far more difficult to find real solutions to the climate problem which are more consistent with the principles of promoting free markets.  Like most businesses, climate change is an inventory and resource management issue, and the most successful business are those that not only produce good products, but manage their input materials and inventory well for the long term.  How can this not be an issue important to conservatives?

Fortunately, the correlation is not 100% (r=1).  There are some conservatives who not only don't deny the science, but also promote dealing with the climate problem along more market-friendly lines:

    •    Kerry Emanuel - Conservative for Climate Science
    •    Republicans Tired Of Climate Change Deniers Launch Initiative For Global Warming Action, Carbon Price
    •    How to be a climate conservative
    •    Republican meteorologist Paul Douglas: conservatives should embrace climate science

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Death by Electric Universe. III. EU Excuses

In the previous two articles in this series, I challenged Electric Sun (ES) supporters to demonstrate their 'theory' is actually useful for doing real space flight (see Death by Electric Universe. I. EU's Unsolvable Problem) and I've demonstrated how the solar capacitor model advocated by Don Scott predicts a solar particle radiation flux sufficient to kill astronauts, many times over (see Death by Electric Universe. II. The Solar Capacitor Model)

Over the several years that have elapsed since I first made this point, I've received a number of excuses from Electric Sun supporters in attempts to extricate themselves from this problem.  One thing that can be said about the excuses is that none of them meet the standards required by science or engineering - i.e. they still give no way for us to estimate an actual radiation flux which could be used to develop proper radiation shielding for our satellites and astronauts.

As I demonstrated in the previous post, for an astronaut in the region at the distance of the Earth's orbit from the Sun, the solar capacitor model predicts a hard radiation exposure of 38,000 rads/hour.  We note that the fatal dosage is 300-1000 rads in one hour.  While you can tweak the numbers a bit (astronaut size and mass, additional details of the particle flow), you will not substantially alter the conclusion that this would be fatal to astronauts for even short exposures.  Trips to the Moon would be deadly.

Let's go through just some of the excuses I've received from EU supporters in the years since noting this troublesome fact.

Excuse 1: But the spacecraft is shielded!

Now maybe you note that astronauts are usually inside a spacecraft which has shielding.  While true in most cases, astronauts don't stay in the spacecraft all the time, otherwise what would be the point of sending humans into space?

The problem with this excuse is this we're talking about the entire region around the Sun throughout the solar system and particularly when outside Earth's magnetosphere, beyond where the Earth's magnetic field might provide some protection.  While most spacecraft in low Earth orbit get some particle shielding from Earth's magnetosphere, the ability of the magnetosphere to be effective in the high particle flux of an electrically-powered Sun is a much more complex matter.  Most of the reasons we go into space is NOT to stay in low Earth orbit.  We want to travel between the planets and to other planets.

What about astronauts on lunar surface?  Apollo era moon walks were often performed when the Moon was not shielded by the Earth's magnetosphere and the Sun was in view.  Here, the astronauts would be fully exposed to an incoming particle flow needed to power the Sun.  There was also a spacewalk during the return from the Moon on the last Apollo missions, where the only protection was a space suit, far from Earth's magnetosphere, and where the astronauts would be fully exposed to the particle environment of an electrically-powered Sun.

Consider that the recently launched RBSP (Radiation Belt Storm Probe) required 8.5mm (1/3 inch) of extra shielding for an extended stay in the radiation belts (  The satellite would already include radiation-hardened electronics, and this additional amount of shielding is probably a fraction of what would be needed to appropriately shield humans for the equivalent type of mission.

I'll save computation of the shielding requirements for a future exercise in case someone wants to pereptuate this excuse.

Excuse 2: But Wait!  Isn't the total radiated Photon Energy the same as the total Incoming Electron Energy?
In some of the Electric Sun models, the total outbound solar energy flux (of photons) is the same as the incoming energy of electrons.  If so, why don't we also die from the equivalent photon exposure?

The outgoing solar radiation is composed of many more photons, with a much lower average energy.

A large fraction of solar photon radiation is in the 2-3eV range, corresponding to visible light.  The majority of solar UV radiation causes ionization in upper atmosphere (creating the ionosphere) but some does make it to surface.  Visible light can drive chemical reactions (Wikipedia: photosynthesis) but Solar UV is 3-6 eV, at the threshold of breaking chemical bonds.  This makes solar UV a double-edged sword as it is needed for Vitamin D production in the human body, but sunburns from UV radiation can cause skin cancer.
The solar spectrum from the WHI 2008 dataset, plotted linear in wavelength.  This is the solar flux at the top of Earth's atmosphere.  A large segment of the solar emission that reaches the top of the atmosphere in in the visible range (highlighted in blue) while there is much less of the higher energy photons (red region).
Remember that the incoming electrons must have a very high average energy to satisfy the Elecrtric Sun energy budget.   This is  high-energy, IONIZING radiation.  It destroys DNA by breaking chemical bonds through ionization and disrupting biochemical pathways. 

Excuse 3: What about those Drift Electrons?!
So another way EU supporters try to resolve some of the problems with the high-energy electrons is by replacing them with lots more low-energy 'drift electrons'.  Energies of these 'drift electrons' is so low that their speeds are sometimes claimed to be on the order of centimeters per second.  If you want to drop the energy per electron by a factor of a million, then to get the same total energy flux, you must increase the number of electrons by a factor of a million.  An additional complexity is created by the fact that the lower electron velocity means the electrons send that energy to the solar photosphere at a lower rate.

Some of the problems with this assumption are outlined  at in the third part of the solar capacitor series.  Some of those problems:
  1. To maintain charge neutrality of the interplanetary medium, the corresponding density of protons or ions would give an interplanetary medium denser than lead.   You're definitely not doing space travel through that!
  2. If you want to abandon charge neutrality, then you're stuck with a high density of negatively-charged electrons which want to repel each other.  Here's and exercise for reader: Since electrons repel each other, how much energy, or pressure, would you need to hold one cubic meter of electrons together at a density of 10^10 electrons/cc, 10^20 electrons/cc, 10^30 electrons/cc? 
  3. The higher the density of free electrons, the faster any charge or imbalance of electric potential would equilibrate to minimize the potential difference.  It would become very difficult for an object such as a satellite, to maintain an electric potential from point A, as a spacecraft moved through space to point B.  The satellite would quickly rebalance to the electric potential of the current location in space.  This means you would NOT get an electric  'discharge' between comets and a nearby spacecraft.  The Deep Impact Electric Comet claims remain dead (see references in Whines of the Electric Universe....).
Also, where does this large number of additional electrons come from?  This would require  significantly more electrons coming in from the heliopause than Scott used in his estimate (see Electric Universe Fantasies & Heliopause Electrons).  That number itself is MUCH larger than the number of electrons we've actually measured (see Electric Universe Fantasies & Heliopause Electrons. II.) coming sunward from interstellar space by Voyager.  What mechanism could create so many more electrons?  That mechanims would violate both energy AND charge conservation, both well-tested laboratory principles.

By now, it is clear that this excuse basically invokes magic or some other type of super-natural intervention.

Excuse 4: But a uniform population of drift electrons would be undetectable!
This is a strange one.  The argument that being imbedded in a uniform electron population makes the surrounding electrons undetectable.  Yet submarines move in a uniform distribution of water - is the water undetectable?  Aircraft move in a uniform distribution of air - is the air undetectable?

Since satellites will be moving relative to this electron population, there will always be more electrons accumulating on the leading edge of the satellite, while depletion will occur on the trailing side.  This difference in charge distribution will create an electric field across the satellite.  This is one of the known effects that can create discharges within the satellite and damage the electronics.  It is considered when designing satellites, and it also reflects the density of plasma surrounding the satellite. 

When EUers use this excuse, they are ignoring many of the basics of plasma physics, and further expose their inability to do the important tasks involved in building and maintaining satellites in the space environment.  This 'drift electron' claim doesn't even include the constraints on interplanetary electron density imposed by scintillation (Wikipedia) or plasma dispersion (see Electric Sun: Another Problem with Heliospheric "Drift Currents").

One of my personal hypotheses when I found the history of this: I suspect that the reason we didn't really discover the satellite discharge problem until the late 60s to 70s is that earlier satellites used hardier, heavy-duty electronics that were less affected by the 100-300 volts generated by this phenomenon.  The increasing use of microelectronics in satellites - with smaller voltage requirements and limits - made this electric field more of a problem.

Excuse 5: But Plasmas are Non-Linear!
Somewhere along the way, it appears some science popularizers have mistakenly promoted the idea that any non-linear physical system is 'unsolvable'.  Pseudoscientists advocating many different crank ideas seem to treat 'nonlinearities' like a 'get out of jail free card' for whatever position they want to defend, without doing any other work.   There are two major problems with this excuse.
  1. There are loads of non-linear systems which we routinely solve.  Multiple-body gravitational systems are non-linear, yet we propagate the positions of planets and spacecraft with high precision many decades into the future for use in spacecraft mission planning.
  2. While Maxwell's equations have some non-linearities, the problem for EU is that once you define your current and charge distribution, by Maxwell's equations, you have automatically defined the electric and magnetic fields of the configuration.  The non-linearities may make changes in TIME a problem so the non-linearities become a problem for STABILITY of the configuration - can it last any length of time.  Due to the forces created by the fields on the charges and currents, the forces may make the system undergo significant changes.  However, since the REAL Sun has energy output steady to less than 0.1%, the input currents and charge distribution must be very steady as well. 
Excuse 6: We could do it if we had NASA's budget
When I hear this excuse, I know I'm dealing with a scammer just out to collect what they believe is a fat, funded grant.  They don't realize that many of these models undergo fairly extensive testing with limited resources on small computing systems available to anyone. 

Plasma simulation codes are readily available (see Electric Universe: Plasma Modeling vs. 'Mystic Plasma') and many of these codes will run on commercially available desktop-class computers, and even laptops. 

Excuse 7: It's not Important for Electric Sun Models
This is the ultimate cop-out. 

They don't need to worry about the actual power source of the Sun.  It just is as they say.  So much for the superiority of laboratory principles.

Some try to make the power source an 'origins' problem.  But the problem EU has in the here-and-now is where does the energy come from that maintains the electric potential differences needed to drive the currents?  If you're trying to hide behind something like 'they've always existed', then you are basically saying they are supernaturally-powered, in violation of established laboratory principles and making EU like Creationism.  A pseudo-science is not 'Creationist' due to supporting a time of origin - it is 'Creationist' due to the reliance on supernatural agents.

The bottom line on these excuses is that they demonstrate a level of ignorance of space and plasma physics that would be dangerous to deadly for anyone trying to build or maintain a space program.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Death by Electric Universe. II. The Solar Capacitor Model

In my previous post in this series (see Death by Electric Universe. I. EU's Unsolvable Problem), I revisited the fact that, in spite of all the CLAIMED successes of Electric Universe (EU), no one has actually successfully DONE anything with their so-called 'science'.  In particular, no one has used models such as Electric Sun to determine details of the space environment needed for  a spacecraft and astronauts to travel in the region. 

This is important for a number of different reasons.  As mentioned in the previous post, one important aspect is that the spacecraft needs to survive the radiation environment - an issue far more important in Electric Sun models where all solar energy is generated from particles traveling through interplanetary space.  Another issue is that when you design an instrument, say for measuring particle density and/or energy, you need to have an idea of the range of values the detector will encounter and know that it can return valid values, otherwise your ability to interpret the results are limited.  Explorer 1, the first satellite orbited by the United States (Wikipedia: Explorer 1 Results), actually encountered the problem where the geiger counter on the spacecraft became saturated from the trapped particle population in the Earth's radiation belts.  It actually took a while for the researchers to figure out that the counter was showing no radiation because the radiation was so high it was shorting out the counter.

Revisiting the Solar Cathode Model

Back in the early days of my involvement with the "Electric Universe" phenomenon, I did a very simple analysis of an Electric Sun model based on the description and parameters.  One of those models, where the Sun acts as a cathode, powered by electrons accelerated by a hypothesized potential difference between the heliopause and photosphere of billions of volts, were subjected to some basic analysis using fundamental conservation principles.  I called this model the "Solar Capacitor" model due to its similarity to spherical capacitors studied in much of the physics literature. EU supporters sometimes call it the solar 'cathode' model and it is based on models originally proposed by Juergens (see References below) and promoted by Don Scott in The Electric Sky.  My analyses of this model were summarized in a few blog posts.
Note that except for some of the numbers, Juergens and others used many of the same equations I used in my analysis above.  Yet Juergens and others did not compute the required particle fluxes or energy fluxes needed to explain the solar luminosity, quantities which could be measured by satellites.  They did this in spite of the fact that we had a number of in situ measurements of the solar wind at the time, which could be used for model testing.

My model analysis was the kind of 'back of the envelope' computation that all good scientists and engineers are (hopefully!) trained in to determine if an idea or design might be worth further exploration.  In the case of the 'solar capacitor' model, it simply required that electrons from the heliopause had to accelerate sunward under an electric potential that would give them energy sufficient at the solar photosphere to explain the power OUTPUT from the Sun. 

In the earlier articles, I mostly focussed on the fact that the fluxes and energies of the interplanetary medium required by electric sun models does not match with in situ measurements.  If they were off by a factor of 10 or so, it would be something that might actually be fixable - but the Electric Sun model was off by factors of thousands and more when compared to measurements.  This is a pretty reliable indicator of an unworkable theory.

EU supporters, undeterred by these inconvenient facts (particulately funny considering that they claim to regard in situ measurements as the Gold Standard of measurements), construct a variety of excuses to save this model (see Electric Cosmos: The Solar Capacitor Model. III).  I cover more of the problems with these excuses in a future article in this series.

The fundamental principles of the model are very basic:
  1. conservation of particles: no electrons are created or destroyed in the trip from the heliopause to the photosphere, and;
  2. conservation of energy: an electric potential difference between the heliopause and the photosphere provides the kinetic energy to the electrons on the inbound trip, and to the protons and ions on the outbound trip.  I did not consider how this potential difference was formed or maintained.
Schematic representation of the Solar Capacitor model.
The model assumes the flow of electrons from the heliopause approaches the Sun uniformly from all directions.  It it were not, we would expect significantly larger variations of brightness over the solar surface.  Even including the solar cycle, variation in total solar output is less that 0.1%.  The largest brightness variations in the solar surface are due to sunspots and faculae and those are a fairly small fraction of the total solar area.  Near the end of part two of the article, I note that the particle flux in just the solar wind of this electric sun model is more intense, in particle flux and energy, than the Van Allen Radiation belts (Wikipedia).  Here I'll explore the implications that statement in more detail.

Computing the Radiation Dose

We'll use the numbers from the earlier analysis for the energy and flux of protons and electrons at Earth's orbit.  We start with the claimed inbound electron flux at the heliopause of 1e5 electrons/cm^2/s = 1e9 electrons/m^2/s.  We will not use the revised value recently proposed by Dr. Scott (see Electric Universe Fantasies & Heliopause Electrons, Electric Universe Fantasies & Heliopause Electrons. II.) since the value appears to be unrelated to any actual measurements (i.e. made up).

Because the flow of electrons is moving radially towards the Sun at the center, the same number of electrons must pass through each spherical surface centered on the Sun,  This means the number of electrons passing through a unit area increases as the electrons get closer to the Sun.  It is a spherical converging flow, so at the orbit of Earth, the electron flux is higher by by a factor of the inverse square of the radial position:  (100AU/1AU)^2 = 10,000. 

With the electrons accelerating through the potential, and gaining energy, we find the energy of the electrons at the orbit of Earth is computed to be 4.6MeV (million electron volts).

Particle Flux: 1.0e+13 /s/m^2 = 1.0e+09/s/cm^2
Mean Particle Energy: 4.6  MeV

This gives a mean energy flux of 4.6e13 MeV/s/m^2

A curie is defined 1 curie = 3.7e10 disintegrations/second, which is the number of decays per second of about one gram of radium 226. (see How the Curie Came to Be by Paul W. Frame).  So our electron flux is equivalent to a radioactive source of beta rays with an activity of

(1e13/s/m^2) / (3.7e10 /s/curie) = 270 curies/m^2.

Electrons with energies of 4.6MeV are IONIZING radiation - it can knock electrons out of atoms, turning them into ions and disrupting chemical bonds.  Their energy is even well above the pair production  threshold to produce matter-antimatter pairs (Wikipedia: Pair Production).  This is NASTY stuff if you're exposed to it.   The high energy makes it pretty accurate to use the methodologies for computing hard radiation exposure.

Now consider the 'target'.  For our example we'll use an adult human being.  The area of radiation flux which a human body would intercept can be estimated assuming a human being is about 2 meters tall (6+ feet) and about 0.5 meters wide (about 19 inches).  That comes out to about 1 square meter (1 m^2).  This might be a little high.  Considering the epidemic of obesity in developed countries, this might be small, but most astronauts would not qualify as obese.  We'll use this number for ease in computation, knowing that adjusting it will be a simple proportional relationship.

To compute the radiation exposure, we multiply the energy flux by the duration of exposure (we'll use 1 hour =3600 seconds) times the area of the human target (about 1 m^2), and divide it by the mass (about 70 kg = 7e4 gm), since the hazard is how much radiation is absorbed per unit of mass.

To compute the dosage, we must multiply the flux by the area of the target, then divide by the mass of the target in grams:

dosage = flux * area/mass

dosage = (4.6e13 MeV/s/m^2) * (1 m^2) / (7e4 gm) = 6.6e8 MeV/s/gm

To convert to rads, a unit of radiation dosage (Wikipedia), we divide MeV/gm by 62.4e6.  We're receiving this dosage each second, so our dosage rate computes to

Exposure Rate:       10.5 rads/s

Since our astronaut is traveling through space, we expect them to at least be exposed for an hour (1 hour = 3600 seconds).  So our astronaut's exposure each hour is

(10.5 rads/s) * (3600 s/hr) = 38,000 rads/hr

In the 'solar cathode' electric sun model, radiation exposure at the orbit of Earth is 38,000 rads in one hour!

Compare this to the estimated total dosage for passage through the radiation belts by a spacecraft on the way to the Moon of less than about 13 rads for the entire passage (see Odenwald@SpaceMath, the Deadly Van Allen Belts?).  Some of the workers at the Fukushima nuclear disaster (Wikipedia) were exposed to 106 millisieverts = 0.106 sieverts = 10.6 rads (1 rad = 0.01 sieverts).

Above about 300 rads in one hour, you can expect serious health problems, and it gets worse with higher dosage.

If the Sun were actually powered by these currents, we would have a lot of dead astronauts. 

At this level of radiation, it is hazardous to robotic spacecraft as well. 

Note these were very simple computations, using basic principles of conservation of particles, conservation of energy, and basic geometry.  These are the types of 'back-of-the-envelope' calculations that real physicists and engineers often do as a 'sanity check' for ideas.

I'll leave it as an exercise for the reader to complete the dosage calculation for the outward streaming protons.  To give you an idea, here's a plot of the dosage rate for electrons and protons computed for this model.
A plot of the dosage rate by electron and proton radiation with distance (0.1-100AU) for the solar capacitor model.  The red vertical line represents the distance of Earth's orbit.

This is a calculation which can be, and has been, demonstrated by satellite engineers.  In the months following Don Scott's presentation at GSFC (Donald Scott, of "The Electric Sky", presents at GSFC), I received some interesting comments from those in the audience who remembered me from that event.  While Dr. Scott did not mention Electric Sun models in his talk (a fact that was noted by some members of the colloquium committee) some of them apparently examined Dr. Scott's Electric Sun claims in The Electric Sky and expressed horror at the realization of just how deadly the radiation environment required by the model.

Update: An Excuse from Electric Sun Supporters
Now Electric Sun supporters will sometimes claim that the astronauts can be protected by retreating to the more heavily shielded sections of the spacecraft, such as is done on the ISS (wikipedia) when a coronal mass ejection (CME, Wikipedia) is inbound.  It is very important to note that

this deadly radiation flux in this Electric Sun model is occurring all the time! 

This is not the case like the occasional CME where the astronauts can seek temporary shelter in a more heavily shielding section of the spacecraft.  This hard radiation to power an Electric Sun far exceeds the dosing from CMEs and is continuous exposure.  The astronauts would have fatal exposure in far less than an hour in just the regular interplanetary environment created by an Electric Sun!

In the next post in this series, I'll go into some of the bizarre excuses EU supporters construct when confronted with this problem.

Update September 10, 2012: Minor edit in references.
Update May 31, 2013: Added paragraph about Electric Sun excuses.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Death by Electric Universe. I. EU's Unsolvable Problem

I've often made the point in this blog that real science, even cosmological science, has implications for technology much closer to home.  I have made this point when dealing with creationist claims - describing how we have found evidence of new physics in the distant cosmos which we subsequently verify in laboratory experiments.  Some of this science even makes its way into everyday technology (see The Cosmos In Your Pocket).

The problem with pseudoscience is that it can never create new WORKING technologies, though you can find cases where cranks try to 'reinterpret' working technologies as supporting their 'theories' or the cranks build technologies that never seem to quite come to fruition or live up to their hype (free/cheap energy devices, medical 'breakthroughs', etc).

Creationists try to get around this problem by making the implications of their claims far away in time and space.  But advocates of Electric Universe (EU) are far more brazen.  Many of their claims, such as Electric Sun and Electric Comets, have significant implications less than 100 miles above our heads.  Yet, like biblical geocentrists, they evade the real life implications of their own claims.

Consider EU's notions about the Sun.

In the standard solar model, the energy generated within the Sun generates photons at the surface that stream outward from the photosphere.  In addition, the solar wind is essentially boiling or evaporating off the sun and streaming out into the solar system in the form of electrons and ions.  The solar wind is traveling at speeds between 300-800 km/s, with higher speeds for eruptive events such as coronal mass ejections (CMEs).  BTW, that electric fields have a role in the solar interior and atmosphere is something that has been known for decades and which I have documented (365 Days of Astronomy: The Electric Universe), in spite of EU's chronic whines that astronomers ignore electric fields.

However, Electric Sun (ES) models claim a VERY different environment for the space between the surface of the sun and the heliopause, which includes the region around the Earth.   In the Electric Sun models, the same region between the photosphere and heliopause is part of the power source that drives the Sun, and this incoming power is in the form of charged particles.  Thornhill's Z-pinch (see Electric Cosmos: The Solar Resistor Model) and Scott's solar cathode (see Electric Cosmos: The Solar Capacitor Model. I, Electric Cosmos: The Solar Capacitor Model. II) can be seen as limiting cases of any type of externally powered model for the Sun or stars.  Thornhill's model has driving currents flowing along an axis through the Sun while the Scott model has the currents flowing sunward from all around it.  There are a few others with some distinct differences which get invoked when fatal flaws with the dominant models are exposed.  Note that EU advocates have NO consensus model for powering the Sun - there are multiple DIFFERENT models pushed by the dominant egos of EU 'theology'

These two dominant ES models require a very different environment in the space between the solar photosphere and heliopause.  The problem for Electric Sun models is that we now routinely send spacecraft through this region, from Mercury, out to Neptune, and beyond, and even over the poles of the Sun (NASA: Ulysses).  We have active in situ measurements of the field intensities and particle populations at many locations throughout this region.  Yet none of these spacecraft have detected a particle population with the total energy sufficient to explain the Sun's total luminosity.

Now this is not just an academic question.

Why it Matters

If you're designing a satellite to send into a region of the solar system that no satellite has been prior, you need a reasonable estimate of the level of radiation, both in particles and photons, in order to design a satellite that has a reasonable chance of surviving the region long enough to accomplish the mission.  You can't just make a guess.  Guess not enough radiation shielding, and you risk losing the satellite from radiation damage (perhaps a $100 million+ investment of company assets or taxpayer dollars).  Guess too much shielding, and you might need a larger launch vehicle to handle the extra weight or you need to scale back the mission.   To optimize mission success, you need a reliable algorithm for estimating this quantity.

Consider the recently launched Radiation Belt Storm Probe pair of satellites.  Since they will patrol routinely through the Earth's radiation belts, they require extra shielding from the radiation (  They needed to not only estimate the amount of radiation the probe would encounter during its lifetime, but also compute the amount of shielding needed to protect the interior electronics during the mission.

Using the standard model, satellites have been successfully sent closer to the Sun than Mercury (Wikipedia: Helios probes) to 0.29 AU) and as far from the Sun as the heliopause and beyond - and the standard model has worked very well.  While we discover new details, the basic model has not changed significantly in over 50 years (just as discovering a new mountain or undersea trench does not invalidate the round Earth model).   How do engineers prepare satellites to survive this range of environments?  The standard model of the solar wind is good enough that it allowed Mariner 10 to use the solar wind for orientation control (NASA: Solar System Exploration).

If you were an aerospace firm contracted to build a satellite to travel into a region of the solar system never travelled before, you would need a way to get a reasonable estimate of the radiation exposure of the satellite.  If your scientists and/or engineers could not provide you with a reliable estimate, and cost, you'd fire them for incompetence. 

A Challenge to Electric Sun Supporters

Electric Sun models propose a radically different particle environment in the interplanetary medium than the standard solar models.  Therefore the particle radiation environment will be very different. 

I have repeatedly challenged EU supporters and 'theorists' to demonstrate how details of the heliosphere environment are calculated, but have received nothing but excuses (see Challenges for Electric Universe 'Theorists').  Perhaps this would be a good project for EU's new "scholarship" program (see Electric Universe 2013—Expanding our Scholarship Outreach)!

If Electric Sun theorists can't tell us how to estimate these important quantities, how can they be competent to build satellites to travel to these frontiers of the solar system?

Let's imagine an EU theorist is hired by a company which wants to compete for the contract of building a satellite to travel into a previously unexplored region of the solar system, either closer or further from the Sun.  How will they estimate the radiation flux to which the satellite will be exposed in order to determine how much shielding the satellite will need?

For that matter, let's use an upcoming REAL example.  Two new solar missions are under development by NASA and ESA, Solar Probe Plus (Wikipedia) and Solar Orbiter (Wikipedia), respectively.  Solar Orbiter will occupy a circular orbit inside the orbit of Mercury (at 0.284AU).  Solar Probe Plus will have a highly elliptical orbit, from between the orbit of Earth and Venus, down to about 10 solar radii from the Sun (0.034AU)

These are things that scientists and engineers who REALLY build satellites must be able to do to have these types of jobs.  Real engineers can build real things.

What do the cosmic electricians of EU tell us about these issues?  Are they going to claim it is all guesswork?  Are they going to claim it is all made up?  Perhaps they will invoke magically undetectable electrons and ions?  Can our hypothetical EU theorist demonstrate to his employer the type and amount of shielding that will be needed for these missions, or are they going to be fired for incompetence?

Next up, we'll explore what conditions would be like for astronauts traveling in the wind of an electrically-powered Sun.