Thursday, June 10, 2010

Electric Universe: Do I Have Any Readers in the UK?

Actually, it is a bit of a rhetorical question as Google Analytics and e-mails indicate that I do have some readers in the UK and some are professional astronomers.

There is apparently an upcoming talk by one of the 'High Priests' of the Electric Universe (EU), taking place in Surrey, UK (just south of London) on Saturday, July 10, 2010.

Wallace Thornhill: 'Exploring the Electric Universe' (link to details)

The web site suggests questions be submitted in advance, with a deadline of May 31 (drat!) but only for those who will be in attendance.  However, it  appears the floor may be open to questions.  Perhaps some professional astronomers may attend who are sufficiently familiar with the EU problems that they can ask some insightful questions.

Note that I am NOT advocating any kind of confrontation with the speakers.   The nature of British libel law makes this particularly hazardous (See, SenseAboutScience).  Indeed, due to the nature of British libel laws, it might be far more useful to listen carefully to how EU talks about their critics.

Most of these types of presentations I've attended by creationists and others, I have kept quiet, though I would often participate in conversations among the audience before and after the presentations.  Even professionals should be very wary of confrontations in these environments.  When it comes to questions, I have often, but not always, seen a limiting technique similar to that mentioned above, where the questions must be presented in advance.  That way, the audience need never know which questions the presenters actually try to evade.  When I have asked questions of the speaker, I have tried to keep the focus on my specific question rather than allowing the speaker to divert the question into other topics.

Here's my questions which I have sent to the site.  Since I will not be in attendance, Mr. Thornhill may feel free to ignore them, but I suspect there will be some in his audience who will be very interested in the answers,  Since I've made them available here a month prior to the talk, allowing Thornhill plenty of time to prepare a real answer, many in his audience will know if he ignores them.

1) Hannes Alfven received his Nobel prize ( for the accomplishment of making certain types of plasmas mathematically tractable.  Langmuir (1913PhRv....2..450L, 1924PhRv...24...49L) and others were developing other mathematical models of discharge plasmas predating Alfven.  REAL plasma physicists continue to revise the mathematical models and these models have improved significantly.  Even the classic discharge graphic in Cobine's “Gaseous Conductors” (pg 213, figure 8.4) has been modeled with Particle-In-Cell (PIC) plasma modeling software (see Studies of Electrical Plasma Discharges, figure 10.1).  Plasma models, some sold as commercial software, are also used to understand the plasma environment in a number of research, space, and industrial environments (see VORPAL).  Why do Electric Universe supporters consistently dismiss the use of mathematical modeling of plasmas?

2) Astronomers have studied about the effects of free charges and electric fields in space as far back as 1922 (1922BAN.....1..107P) and 1924 (1924MNRAS..84..720R).  Note that this work predates Langmuir coining the term 'plasma' for an ionized gas (1928, 1928PNAS...14..627L).  Rosseland and Pannekoek's work is still cited today since gravitational stratification is one of the easiest ways to generate and sustain an electric field in space.  Why do EU supporters continue to claim that astronomers ignore electric fields and free charges in space?

3) Space weather forecasting is vital to protecting the lives of  astronauts as well as billions of dollars in satellite assets.    The different professional computational models used by NASA, NOAA, the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, etc. (CCMC) agree very well on large-scale behavior of coronal mass ejections and other space weather events.
a) Where is the Electric Sun model that can compute the particle fluxes, energies and fields from first principles which are consistent with the measured solar luminosity and in situ spacecraft particle and field measurements?
b) If EU does not publish its models where they can tested against other models as well as measurements, how can they claim they are doing science? 

4) Mainstream solar physics uses Doppler imaging of the solar surface to construct images of the farside of the Sun (see Acoustic Imaging of the Entire Farside of the Sun).  Now the STEREO spacecraft are approaching positions where we will finally see almost the entire sphere of the Sun and will be able to conduct more direct tests of this capability (see STEREO: Comparison with GONG and MDI farside maps).  This capability critically depends on our understanding of the solar interior, yet EU claims that all our models of the solar interior are wrong.
a) If mainstream models of the solar interior are so wrong, why does this technique work at all?
b) All of the solar data for this capability are PUBLIC (see MDI Data Services & Information) and the software runs on desktop-class computers you can buy at almost any computer store.  So when will EU demonstrate that their Electric Sun model can generate equivalent or better results?

5) Every book on how to write applications & interpret the signals from GPS satellites emphasizes the importance of relativity in converting these signals into a high-precision receiver position (see Scott Rebuttal. I.  GPS & Relativity).   Yet EU supporters deny the importance of relativity in this application.  Has any EU supporter designed and built a working high-precision GPS receiver that can be certified as free of relativistic corrections?

6) Mainstream astronomy and astrophysics has guided science into pioneering discoveries in gravity, with the application of space flight, and atomic and nuclear physics, with the applications of semiconductors and materials science (see The Cosmos In Your Pocket).  Humans have moved into space without one single model that yields testable measurements from the Electric Universe supporters.  What does EU provide that is not already provided by mainstream astronomy and geophysics?

I could add a significant number of additional questions, many of which are also asked in my many blog posts on EU, but this is getting a little long already.

If anyone following this blog manages to attend this event, I would enjoy hearing about it.


The_Self-preservation_Society said...

I see that those creationist nutters at Conservapedia are also in denial about the Theory of Relativity.

WARNING: Before clicking on that link and reading the article, place suitable cushion on your computer desk -- in case you get a sudden urge to repeatedly bang your head against said desk!

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

Yes, I've read this one. It's a hoot.

I address one of the references in the GPS/relativity claim in Scott Rebuttal. I. GPS & Relativity.

I always love these types of claims from people who have never actually developed a GPS receiver. The really funny part is the relativity issue was so contentious during development of the GPS that they included two frequency synthesizers for the clock on-board the satellites. The system didn't work until the synthesizer with the relativistic corrections were used.