Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Missouri, USA
The Cosmic Power Grid
The Cosmic Power Grid
"The extraordinary thing is that
scientists accept the Big Bang and in
the same breath deride the Creationists
-- Wallace Thornhill
AN IDEALIZED UNIVERSE
I remember once, back in 1980, catching a plane from Orlando to New York, wearing just lightweight clothes appropriate to the laid-back and balmy life of central Florida, where I had moved a year previously from Massachusetts. It was early February. Twenty minutes from landing, the pilot announced that the ground temperature at La Guardia was thirty degrees, and it was snowing. I took a cab into Manhattan, and the first place I directed the driver to was "a menswear store--any store!" Two or three days were to go by before I could feel warm again. It's easy to forget that what we see when we look out at our own back yard isn't representative of the way things are everywhere.
Modern astronomy has its roots in the work of such figures as Kepler, Newton, and Laplace, whose laws described a mechanical universe consisting of electrically neutral bodies moving in a vacuum under the influence of gravity. And today's reigning cosmological theory concerning the origin and evolution of the universe as a whole is based upon Einsteinian General Relativity, which again is an essentially gravitational picture. Yet over 99.9% of the matter that we observe in the universe exists not as solids, liquids, and gases of the kind that make up our immediate planetary environment, but in the form known as "plasma."
Plasmas contain particles which, unlike electrically neutral atoms, carry a net charge. They range from relatively cool mixtures of neutral atoms and atoms from which one or more electrons have been stripped ("ions"), along with the free electrons, to raw elementary particles moving too energetically to combine stably. Unlike neutral matter, charged particles respond to electric and magnetic forces. (A magnetic force is created by an electric current, which is the name given to charges in motion. The field of a familiar permanent magnet arises from the alignment of large numbers of tiny fields generated by electron currents which in atoms of some materials happen to exhibit a net reinforcing effect, for example iron, nickel, and cobalt.)
The electric force is the one that causes like charges to repel and unlike charges to attract, and diminishes as the inverse square of distance, just like gravity. But the electric force is 39 orders of magnitude--that's a thousand trillion, trillion, trillion times!-- stronger. Even in a plasma as weak as comprising one charged particle in 10,000, which would be typical of a proto-stellar cloud, electromagnetic forces will dominate gravity by a factor of 10 million to 1. So all of the matter in the universe, apart from a negligible whiff, creates--by the separation of charges--and is responsive to forces that dwarf gravity into insignificance. Yet the model of the universe that we've come up with takes no account of it.
In a book called Worlds in Collision, published in 1950, Immanuel Velikovsky presented a case for Venus being a young, recently incandescent object that interacted with Earth in historically recorded times, and was ridiculed by the scientific Establishment. One of their principal objections was that a highly eccentric, comet-like orbit such as Velikovsky described (he maintained that Venus was ejected from Jupiter) could never have circularized to the degree seen today in a few thousand years. The equations of celestial mechanics didn't allow it. As the missing factor to explain what he insisted the myths, religions, and art forms of ancient peoples said had happened, Velikovsky suggested that the Sun and planets must be electrically charged, and that electrical forces, which would be quite capable of cushioning encounters, altering rotations, tilting axes, and circularizing orbits rapidly, must play an unrecognized role in celestial events. The retort, of course, was that conventional mechanics based on gravity alone had shown itself perfectly capable of predicting the motions of the Solar System, and electrical forces were not needed.
It seemed to follow that the bodies of the Solar System couldn't be charged. If they were, the effects on planetary motions would have been obvious; yet no such effects had been detected. Having reached this conclusion, the scientific community was compelled to devise exotic theories to explain away evidence that the Sun, Earth, and other bodies do indeed carry a charge. The Sun, for example, possesses a complex magnetic field that exhibits an agitated structure in the lower atmosphere and a dipole component with configuration similar to the Earth's field. Only electrical currents give rise to magnetic fields, and the simplest explanation is that the solar gases carry an excess charge of one kind or another, positive or negative. (In an ionized mixture where the charges balance, the random thermal motions will cancel, yielding zero net current and hence no magnetic field.) Rotation of the Sun as a whole would produce the dipole component.
The existence of a downward electric field above the Earth's surface was first demonstrated in 1803 by a Professor Erman of Berlin, using a gold-leaf electroscope. The field strength has since been measured at 100 to 500 volts per meter on a clear day. (Voltage, also referred to as "potential," is a measure of the difference in electrical "pressure," analogous to a head of water in hydraulics. The field strength expresses the pressure drop per unit of distance through the field, or "potential gradient." In this case, the direction is downward, toward the ground.) The most straightforward explanation would be that it arises from a negative charge carried by the Earth. Nikola Tesla discovered that the Earth constitutes an enormous reservoir of free electrons, and one of his obsessions was to utilize this property for worldwide electrical transmission. In 1971 this finding was repeated for the Moon, when signals from the Apollo 15 command module were received at a time when the craft was behind the supposedly radio-opaque body. They had been carried around from the far side by electric currents in the Moon's surface layers.
How can such facts be reconciled with centuries of astronomical data showing that gravitational forces alone are sufficient to account for the observations? In 1962, instruments carried by the Mariner 2 Venus probe showed that the interplanetary medium, which generations of astronomers had treated as a near-vacuum, is actually a plasma. And when charged bodies are immersed in plasma, interesting things happen. Take a negatively charged body, for example--as we're suggesting is true of the Earth. The negative charge attracts an excess of positive ions from the surrounding plasma, causing a positive "space charge" to build up around itself and creating a negative layer--due to a deficit of positive charge--outside it, until the potential on the outside of this double-layer "sheath" matches that of the surrounding plasma. When this condition is attained, the full voltage gradient to be traversed in going from the Earth's potential to the plasma potential exists between the Earth and the sheath. No further gradient due to the charged Earth extends beyond the sheath. This gradient is how we measure the electric field. So what we're saying is that, instead of exerting their influence indefinitely as was assumed by the theorists who posited interplanetary space to be a vacuum, the electric fields of charged bodies--and hence also the magnetic effects that derive from them--are trapped in proximity to those bodies when the surrounding medium is a plasma.
The existence of the sheath has now been established by space probes. It sits around the Earth like a teardrop-shaped windsock in the solar wind, extending 10 Earth radii out on the sunward side, 40 Earth radii across at its widest point, and has been detected almost as far as the orbit of Mars in the direction away from the Sun. Although known as the magnetosphere, a better name would perhaps be the "plasmasphere." But the term is a product of a discipline still wedded to the "dynamo theory" of terrestrial magnetism being somehow due to circulating currents in the core.
We have a situation, then, in which planets orbiting beyond the range of their isolating sheaths don't "feel" each other's presence electrically, and move serenely under the influence of gravity alone. But consider what happens when the system is disturbed, either through the injection of another sizable body, either from outside or by fission from an existing planet as Velikovsky proposed, or by the onset of a chaotic instability in the existing configuration. (It is usual for textbooks to cite Laplace's proof that this can't happen. However, it turns out that the infinite series that he used--and later Poisson and Lagrange in their refinements--is not in general mathematically convergent as they believed, which is a necessary condition for the process to have predictive value.1) If two bodies come close enough for their magnetospheres to intersect, the full effects of unshielded electrical fields will suddenly come into play, subjecting them to powerful, complex forces and initiating electrical discharges between them on a scale that would make any lightning seen today seem puny as the potentials of the charged bodies seek to equalize. Seen in this light, the global calamities, clashes of celestial gods, and rains of cosmic thunderbolts that Velikovsky says were the only interpretation the ancients could make of what they witnessed don't seem so farfetched.
Such a state of affairs would rapidly adjust itself back to electrical quiescence. Imagine a skating rink containing a dozen or so skaters all twirling as they wander in a general precession around the center like dancers progressing around a ballroom. Ordinarily they are unaffected by one another, but if two come close enough to interact, their twirling causes them to rebound. The ones that happen to arrive in orbits that involve no further rebounding will obviously stay in them, while the others will repeat the process until the same applies. When all have found an encounter-free condition, a stable situation will ensue in which no further close-action takes place. Interestingly, besides the Earth's sheath extending to just short of the orbit of Mars, that of Venus extends to just short of the orbit of Earth, and Jupiter's extends almost as far as Saturn.
The state of the Solar System at the present time and over the course of the recent couple of millennia or more would therefore appear to be one of quiescence that has persisted since the electrical stabilizing system shut down. (Velikovsky believed that interactions between Earth and Mars persisted through to the 7th century B.C.) Hence, the comforting assumption made by the formulators of classical astronomy--and one still largely perpetuated today--that the present regularity can be extrapolated backward to deduce how things were at any time in the past is very questionable. On the same basis, I could tell you precisely the position and motion fifty years ago of a satellite that was put into orbit last week.
Although the occurrence of such events in the past would not be detectable from planetary motions today, wouldn't we expect to find records of such colossal electrical interactions written across their surfaces? The debate over volcanic versus impact theories to explain the craters on the Moon and other bodies of the Solar System goes back a long time. Although impact is currently favored, neither can fully explain all the features that are found. These include such recurring characteristics as craters with central peaks; flat, melted, glassy floors; and terraced walls, with the terraces again in some instances showing signs of melting. And then, along with craters, there are long, sinuous rilles and furrows; concatenated chains of craterlets--frequently scalloping the rims of larger craters; and raised blister domes, sometimes with burnt appearances.
Impacts cause very little melting. The pulverized rock tends to flow like a liquid under the overpressure and then freezes in a starburst pattern, leaving typically non-circular, dish-shaped craters with gently sloping walls. Laboratory simulations and experiments with explosives have consistently failed to reproduce the complex structures observed. But even down to the finer details, the marks and scars seen all over the Solar System bear an uncanny resemblance to phenomena produced routinely in electric spark machining, where material is removed by the focused energy of an electric arc discharge.
An arc discharge takes place when the electric field between two charged objects, a negative "cathode" and a positive "anode," is strong enough to accelerate charged ions of the intervening material to energies that ionize more atoms by collision, resulting in an avalanching current and breakdown of resistance. Common examples are arc welding, lightning discharges between clouds and the ground, and the lower-voltage glow of a neon tube.
The two ends of an arc behave differently. An anode discharge sticks to one point on the anode surface, producing intense heat and melting, with a tendency for the arc to move around the center point in a corkscrew motion, scouring a crater and throwing up a steep-sided, circular rim. Terraced walls are common, depending on conditions, as are conical central mounds, which tend to be left in larger craters in a way similar to the raised "fulgamite" blistering found on lighting conductors after a strike.
Scaled-up analogs of all these features are found across the Solar System, from the Moon, Mars, Venus, and Mercury to other satellites and the Asteroids. Some asteroids exhibit craters that are surely too large to have been produced by an impact without shattering the entire body. Mathilde shows five huge craters ranging from 3/4 to 1-1/4 times its mean radius. Vesta, 530 km diameter, has a gigantic circular crater 460 km across with a 13 km high central peak, yet the rest of its surface appears to be intact. Since impacts are the "in" fashion at the moment, elaborate mechanisms are contrived to find explanations that will fit. But such anomalies as the stratified central peak of the large buried Sudbury crater in Canada, thorium enrichment of the crater rim at Wolfe Creek in Western Australia (sufficiently powerful discharges can initiate transmutation of elements), and the "shatter cone" structure of the rim of the 70 km wide Vredefort Dome in South Africa seem more readily compatible with an electrical interpretation.
Cathode discharges wander across the surface, typically between higher points where field intensity is more concentrated, and produce linear, snaking features. Chains of circular pits and craters are common, sometimes following the rim of a larger crater just formed. Explosive discharges channeled underground can be extremely effective excavating agents. Again, the Moon, Mars, and other bodies are scarred with rilles and grooves tracing their own course without regard for the structure or slope of the pre-existing terrain. The record is held by Venus with a gouge winding 6,800 km over hill and dale, and a steady 2 km wide. It's described officially as a "collapsed lava tube." At the other extreme we find rilles on the 20 km rock Phobos, one of the moons of Mars. Presumably this would have to be ascribed to inner geological activity too.
Something removed two million cubic kilometers of material from Mars to create the stupendous Valles Marineris canyon, running a quarter of the way around the planet. This could perhaps help explain the rock-strewn appearance of large areas of the surface, discoveries of Martian meteorites on Earth, and maybe the origin of many asteroids, meteorites, and other bodies. Interestingly, ancient myths and legends worldwide tell of a thunderbolt striking the Mars god and leaving a scar in his cheek, brow, or thigh. A further implication is that the planets at that time came sufficiently close for the event to be visible.
From high above, the tracery of ridges and gorges around the Grand Canyon is strikingly (pun accidental; you can't avoid them when getting into this subject) evocative of "Lichtenberg figures" frequently etched into the ground after a powerful lightning discharge.
Io, the innermost Galilean moon of Jupiter, is very likely in the process of undergoing arc machining right now, under the eyes of NASA space probes. Except that the ejection of hot matter plumes 800 km into space with hot-spot temperatures second only to the surface of the Sun, fallout patterns of perfect concentric circles, and an apparently inexhaustible supply of volatile materials, are all attributed to volcanoes. The power to drive this is said to be tidal heating as Io rises and falls 100m through Jupiter's gravity field in its mildly eccentric orbit. Plumes have been followed migrating across the surface and leaving chains of small circular craters--one plume is measured as having wandered 85 km between 1979 and 1996. This is explained by some spokespeople as due to the vaporizing of "snowfields" of sulfur dioxide or sulfur by lava flows, and by others as "mantle plumes" of hot rising masses deep in the interior. Why the plumes should display a filamentary structure--the hallmark of plasmas conducting current--and how they come to exist without any connection to visible volcanic calderas remain unaccounted for. Proponents of an electrical model have no difficulty recognizing all of these features as indicative of an arc discharge in action between Io and Jupiter.
Io has been called "the great pizza in the sky" because of its orange, yellow, and red blotchy appearance, which is due to vast quantities of sulfur compounds covering the surface. Exotic chemical processes in the interior have been concocted to explain this abundance, all premised on the assumption of volcanoes. But if the jets mark the points of impinging cathode discharges, a more likely explanation would be that sulfur atoms are being produced by the combining of two oxygen atoms in the powerful field of the arc. Water ice, which occurs on all the other Galilean satellites of Jupiter, would provide a ready source of oxygen. The icy surface of Europa is covered by a network of furrows and grooves that are supposedly "cracks." Larger ones show regions of reddish coloring along the edges, and readings from the Galileo probe indicate a significant presence of sulfuric acid. A NASA researcher described the findings as demonstrating Europa to be "a really bizarre place." 2 Not really.