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.

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