Sunday, May 31, 2015

Electric Comets: More Failures of the Electric Comet Model

Electric Universe (EU) 'theorists', like creationists and other pseudo-scientists, like to latch onto the anomalies, or things they can try to sell to fans as anomalies, while ignoring the far larger body of agreement with the standard model.  This is much like using the existence of mountains as disproof that Earth is round.

Electric Comet supporters continue this tactic, most recently trying to exploit discoveries of the Rosetta spacecraft currently station-keeping with comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (Wikipedia).  I consolidate more responses to some of these claims here.  Some of this content has been distilled from the long-running Electric Comet thread at the International Skeptics Forum.  Thanks to many of the individuals who participated in this thread and provided some additional information that has been incorporated into this post.

More Short-Circuited 'Electric Comets'

What about those solar system scale electric currents so important for the Electric Comet model?   Spacecraft measurements have demonstrated that the solar wind is largely neutral.  Small scale electric fields are possible due to inhomogeneities and these amount to a few tens of volts.  High-speed solar wind streams can generate voltages up to a couple thousand when interacting with a solid body, such as a asteroid or spacecraft.  These are known in the standard model and are important in the design of spacecraft.

It takes less than 1000 volts to accelerate protons to the speed of the average solar wind.  It takes even less voltage to accelerate electrons to the same speed.  Yet, if the solar wind acceleration were done predominantly by a large scale electric field, electrons and ions would accelerate in opposite directions!  This is NOT observed!  This qualifies as a Major Electric Comet FAIL.

The Electric Comet Theory of Water Production

Rosetta has detected water coming off comet 67P.  In the standard comet model, this water is due to the sublimation of water-ice which is part of the comet composition.

Some Electric Universe 'theorists' claim the comet is negatively charged, forming water from positive H ions in solar wind combining with negative OH- ions repelled from nucleus.  So we should see OH- and water only ahead of comet, between comet and Sun where it is largely formed, at least according to their model.

Yet the OH ion observed is not OH-, but OH+!  Not only that, but the OH+ and water are observed in the TAIL of comet, always moving away from the nucleus and away from the Sun!  Virtually all ions observed in comet tails are positive ions moving away from the comet!  It positive ions are supposed to be attracted to the negative comet nucleus, according to the Electric comet model, then this too is a Major Electric Comet FAIL.

This is not a problem for the standard comet model as the neutral atoms from the comet are predominantly photo-ionized by solar radiation, which tends to liberate electrons, producing positive ions.

Electric Comet Not So Hot

Electric Universe 'theorists' like to claim the comet nucleus is hot, while measurements clearly show it to presently be quite cold.  As I demonstrated in the original post (Electric Comets II. Of Water & Ice), the temperature about what is expected for a dark body at the present distance from the sun, heated by solar radiation, NOT electrical energy.  This temperature will change as the comet gets closer to the Sun and some of the darker surface material is evaporated away.

WHERE are the explicit predictions of temperature, electric and magnetic fields, water production rates, etc. from Electric Universe theorists which we can compare to actual measurements?  

I and others have repeatedly insisted that Electric Universe supporters provide them.  THOSE are real predictions that can meet scientific standards.  Yet EU 'theorists' persistently make excuses evading these specific predictions, instead producing ambiguous, "it looks like 'x'", and similar weak 'predictions' more like those of a tabloid-psychic, and then claiming success.

So having failed so totally on things we can actually measure, as evidence of the Electric Comet model, such as the motion of charges and ions in the comet vicinity, the Electric Comet supporters retreat to any little thing they can claim is 'anomalous'...

Most of the rest of this post will deal with these types of claims presented by commenter Matt Wood (MW).
MW: The extremely odd double-lobed configuration, the extensive rock and boulder fields in evidence all over the comet seem inexplicable on such a low gravity object. The jagged cliffs and overall decimated and rocky features of the comet also seem to stand in sharp contrast to the theory that these bodies were assembled through accretion. 67P looks exactly like it was ripped from larger body.
How could a double-lobed configuration hold together of it were 'ripped' from a larger body?  After all, structures are usually weaker at their thinnest point.  How did the two lobes manage to hold together through a violent event?

However, if two roughly spherical accreted objects collided at low speed, they might generate just enough heat from their impact to melt a little of the water-ice at sufficient pressure it could liquify and anchor the two components together.  Such an event would be consistent with enhanced water emission from the neck area, where water-ice had an opportunity to melt, differentiate, collect and then refreeze. 

As for the probability of collisions in the Oort cloud or Kuiper Belt, we've already witnessed comets ripped apart by gravitational tides such as comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 (Wikipedia).  If the parts did not separate too much after broken apart, some could drift back together, and re-merge from the impact.

Why are there boulders?  Why would there NOT be boulder-shaped material?  Boulders can form from larger objects due to cracking from repeated heating and cooling cycles, much as they can on Earth.  There are probably a few additional processes under the conditions on a comet that go beyond the known Earth processes.
MW: Why does gentle warming on a cometary body produce such huge effects at such great distances and from the coldest regions of the object?
One wonders if Mr. Wood is deliberately ignoring that comets contain significant frozen CO2 in addition to water-ice.   CO2 ice sublimates at significantly lower temperatures than water ice (Wikipedia: Carbon Dioxide).
MW: Would a similar experiment with a dirty chunk of ice placed in a vacuum here on Earth produce the same extreme effects if it was gently warmed?
Again, Mr. Wood ignores the contribution of CO2 in the behavior of comets.  There is a popular classroom demonstration of 'comet making' using dry ice.
MW: And why do we not find visual evidence of these vents that are suppose to be blowing out all over the comet body? They should be visible all over the body but they are never imaged.
A body formed from accretion at low temperatures, with no opportunity for major compositional differentiation throughout, would have water and frozen CO2 well-mixed since they are accreting from a collection of small particles.  'Vents' would probably be so small and well distributed that you would not see them as discrete locations.  Some may erupt in direct sunlight while some on the dark side could erupt via heat conduction through the comet. 
MW: I lean toward the EU explanations. Maybe that makes me uninformed - but the experts who arrived at a bone dry comet with a lander equipped with "ice" harpoons don't look a whole lot smarter or informed that I would be.
How 'dry' is water-ice at T = -68C = -91F?  At these temperatures and pressures, water cannot exist in liquid form (note phase diagram at Electric Comets II. Of Water & Ice).   Precisely what is meant by 'dry'?  Does 'dry' only mean that liquid water doesn't exist, or can't exist? 

Are Electric Universe 'theorists' actually trying to claim that the mainstream model expects puddles of liquid water?
MW: Does 67P look like a product of accretion to you?
What do Electric Universe 'theorists' expect an accreted body, assembled from dust and gas at extremely cold temperatures, to look like?

Take a body formed by accretion in the outer solar system, then take that body and send it towards the inner solar system subject to repeated cycles of heating and cooling where materials will outgas at different rates at different temperatures.  What does that object look like after a few cycles like this?  

Electric Universe 'theorists' want to claim that it would look nothing like what we observe on 67P.  Based on WHAT,  their INTUITION? 

Comets are not just a product of accretion, but billions of years of orbital evolution.  For at least the past century, 67P has been a Jupiter-family comet subject to repeated heating and cooling from solar radiation, repeated cycles of sublimation and freezing.  Why is there more emission at the neck?  Perhaps, as I suggested in the original post above, this was where collision of two bodies generated enough heat to let water become liquid, collect, and refreeze.

How much experience do EU theorists have of these materials at low temperatures, low densities, and against the near vacuum of space?  None that I can find evidence of.   EU 'theorists' routinely exhibit ignorance about the behavior of snow, especially snow mixed with common dirt, subject to repeated heating and cooling of day and night on earth (Electric Comets: Failures of the Electric Comet Model).  Why should anyone believe their comprehension of materials behavior beyond the range of regular human experience?

It's dangerous to apply ones personal experience of materials in the temperatures, pressures of daily experience to radically different materials and environments.  There are people who are seriously injured, or even dead, from making these errors of judgement with materials on Earth under unusual conditions.  I've had a few close-calls myself back in the days when I did more experimental work.
MW: Do you find that odd, or do you think that standard comet theory has successfully predicted what is currently being seen on 67P?

I think the coverage by the EU modelers are making a lot of really excellent observations that standard theory scientists seem to ignore.
Where are those successful predictions again?  Because they were certainly not provided by Mr. Wood.  All of these claimed 'successes' are constructed from blatantly false arguments about what the standard comet model actually says, and/or ambiguous explanations of their own 'Electric comet' model.

Note that all the claims which would provide more direct evidence of the existence of claimed charges and currents, such as claims about the solar wind and comet water production noted above, fail miserably.  

So when that doesn't stick, Electric Universe supporters then fall back on claims about behavior of materials under extreme cold and vacuum where they appear to have even less expertise.  It is becoming something of a running joke among those who've been dealing with Electric Comet claims for some time that Electric Comet supporters seem to have no real experience with even regular SNOW and ICE in the Earth environment, much less dry-ice in space.
MW: I'm no scientist - but these seem like enormous blanks that were not predicted, expected or very easily explainable by current comet theory.
'I'm no scientist' has become the new popular disclaimer from cranks when they say something demonstrating their ignorance.  Many who use this phrase get their information, not from those who do the REAL work, but from posers and wannabes who seek the status without doing the work.

Why would a rational person believe information about the space environment from people (EU 'theorists') who have no experience or training designing and building spacecraft to travel through that environment?

What is even more shameful is that the facts they have chosen to ignore are, for the most part, freely available for anyone examine and explore, should they bother to expend the effort.  Scientific literacy is not just for scientists, it is vital to the economic success and future of any free society.

The success and future of any society (and more most individuals and corporations) depends on their ability to solve problems faster than the problems (and their consequences) accumulate.  Successful solutions require facts, and good science, not arrogant ignorance.
“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”
John Adams
We need science education to produce scientists, but we need it equally to create literacy in the public. Man has a fundamental urge to comprehend the world about him, and science gives today the only world picture which we can consider as valid. It gives an understanding of the inside of the atom and of the whole universe, or the peculiar properties of the chemical substances and of the manner in which genes duplicate in biology. An educated layman can, of course, not contribute to science, but can enjoy and participate in many scientific discoveries which as constantly made. Such participation was quite common in the 19th century, but has unhappily declined. Literacy in science will enrich a person’s life.
Hans Albrecht Bethe (1961)
Not enough of our society is trained how to understand and interpret quantitative information. This activity is a centerpiece of science literacy to which we should all strive—the future health, wealth, and security of our democracy depend on it. Until that is achieved, we are at risk of making under-informed decisions that affect ourselves, our communities, our country, and even the world.
Neil DeGrasse Tyson
The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.
-- George Orwell
Update: June 7, 2015.  Minor grammatical fixes.
Per my comments above about formation mechanisms of the double-lobed structure of the comet nucleus, a recent result has been published on simulations for these structures.  See How comets were assembled


Sn SM said...

Interesting list....

Bad Astronomy
National Center for Science Education
British Centre for Science Education
National Capital Area Skeptics
Talk Origins website
Talk.Origins (Google Groups)

As someone who just stumbled onto your blog and finding
and article trying to talk away the electric comet model
what surprises me is this list. This is "status quo"
dogmatic science...devoid of any experimental basis
or fresh its worse. Bad Astronomy is a
site that made an ass out of itself trying to carry
water for the NASA Moon hoax for example. The
cosmology of the moment is mathematics and theorizing
based on no experimental or observational foundations.
You must protect those sacred cows...I know...but it
is depressing for layman like us to what this.

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

To Sn SM,

Do you also think that 2+2 = 4 is just 'status quo, dogmatic math?

Dogmatic Science: gravity, the laws of motion, thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, particle physics.
Once it's pretty well established, it takes a lot of actual evidence to change it. Of course, you can find loads of cranks who will argue otherwise (see

How much of that science was first understood from 'cosmological' studies? A surprising amount.
The Cosmos In Your Pocket: How Cosmological Science Became Earth Technology.

Astronomy as an 'unprovable' science

"Real" Science vs. "Cosmological" and "Origins" Science
Testing Science at the Leading Edge...

'Out There' Astrophysics Impacts Technology (again)

It's easy to say that the 'cosmology of the moment' has 'no experimental or observational foundations', especially if one has not bothered to actually look at the data and observations and the science behind it. Various scammers will try to get people to focus on the 'anomalies' without considering the scale of the anomalies. My favorite analogy for this is using the existence of mountains as evidence that Earth cannot be round.

I've summarized some of the cosmological so-called 'anomalies' and their real consequences: Yet Another Claimed Stake-through-the-Heart of Big Bang Cosmology?

The only cosmologies with worse agreement with experiment and observations are those which today are only promoted by various cranks, such as the Peratt Galaxy Model.

Most cranks who oppose these sciences are trapped in wishful thinking, trying to avoid dealing with some hard reality they don't like: the existence, or non-existence, of a diety; hard limitations or other undesirable consequences of technology, etc.