by Wal Thornhill | March 7, 2004 11:36 am
“It seems that every practitioner of physics has had to wonder at some point why mathematics and physics have come to be so closely entwined. Opinions vary on the answer. ..Bertrand Russell acknowledged..”Physics is mathematical not because we know so much about the physical world, but because we know so little.” ..Mathematics may be indispensable to physics, but it obviously does not constitute physics.”
– Etienne Klein & Marc Lachièze-Rey, THE QUEST FOR UNITY – The Adventure of Physics.
News reports about black holes seem to arrive about one per week. The claims are usually as outrageous as the concept of a black hole itself. Yet astronomers believe that a supermassive black hole exists at the center of every galaxy in the universe. In the BBC news report below it is headlined that a “huge black hole tears apart star.” Another report just out claims that black holes are “stringy fuzzballs.”
It is not a star but common sense that is being torn apart. Black holes are not ‘stringy’ or ‘fuzzy.’ They are a mathematical figment. They don’t exist. There was no need to invent them if the electrical nature of matter and the universe had been considered. The ‘black hole’ concept is a classic example of the malaise afflicting modern physics. Mathematicians dominate the discipline. And it is a common mistake to assume that to be very clever at mathematics is to somehow be a genius across the board. One past expert on Special Relativity took a very different view:
“It is usually taken for granted that the processes of mathematics are identical with the processes of reasoning, whereas they are quite different. The mathematician is more akin to a spider than to a civil engineer, to a chess player than to one endowed with exceptional critical power. The faculty by which a chess expert intuitively sees the possibilities that lie in a particular configuration of pieces on the board is paralleled by that which shows the mathematician the much more general possibilities latent in an array of symbols. He proceeds automatically and faultlessly to bring them to light, but his subsequent correlation of his symbols with facts of experience, which has nothing to do with his special gift, is anything but faultless, and is only too often of the same nature as Lewis Carroll’s correlation of his pieces with the Red Knight and the White Queen – with the difference whereas Dodgson recognised the products of his imagination to be wholly fanciful, the modern mathematician imagines, and persuades others, that he is discovering the secrets of nature.”
– Professor Herbert Dingle, Science at the Crossroads (1972).
The astrophysicist, Dingle, knew what he was talking about. He wrote the entry on Special Relativity for the Encyclopaedia Britannica for some years before he realized the logic was flawed. His many attempts to find an expert who could answer his simple question without resorting to metaphysics or answering some other less awkward question convinced him of the danger we face if we continue to allow mathematical theorists to dominate physics – hence the title of his book. But the juggernaut of science sped through the crossroads, unheedful of the red lights.
There are fundamental problems facing physicists. First, the real world is a complicated place so simplifying assumptions have to be made in choosing a mathematical model. The choice is crucial for the following steps. Second, mathematical rules are applied to the symbols as a tool that may provide insights into the physical phenomenon under investigation. Third, the results must be translated back into ordinary language.
In steps one and three physicists are generally far from perfect. In the first step, the “when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” tendency is a trap. For example, Eddington applied an inappropriate model of gas behavior inside stars that allowed him to dismiss electrical effects. In the second step there is a tendency in astrophysics for the mathematics to run into infinities. A process euphemistically called “renormalization” is used to deal with this problem. But as any high school student knows, there is nothing normal about infinity. Introducing infinity into an equation, effectively dividing by zero, allows you to “prove” that 1 = 2.
Running into infinities in mathematical models should result in questioning the appropriateness of the model and the limits of its applicability. However, astrophysicists simply plug in a measured result and carry on. But it is the last step that exposes physicists at their worst. Here, they use words or phrases, which have real meaning, in a whimsical or sloppy way when they mean something more mathematically abstruse. For example, using the word “dimension” when referring to more than the three spatial dimensions, as if a ruler can also be used to measure the extra dimensions. It gives rise to terms like four-dimensional “warped space” and “space-time,” or sometimes that weird cloth, the “fabric of space-time.” We also have the logically indefensible “parallel universe.” None make physical or logical sense.
The black hole is a choice example where all three steps have failed. In the first step, gravity is the only tool considered. For example, from a graduate textbook on astrophysics*: “No known physical force can stop the self-swallowing of mass that makes a black hole.” That is a model-dependent declaration. The force of gravity is effectively zero when compared to the electric force. If you allow for the electrical structure of matter, the almost 2,000 fold difference in mass of the electron and proton will ensure that in a strong gravitational field charge separation will operate to prevent compression. Charge separation prevents the collapse of stars. Exotic theoretical objects like neutron stars and black holes are impossible. Even internal nuclear fires are unnecessary to sustain a star. The standard model of stars fails if the wrong tool, gravity, is used exclusively.
In the second step, one infinity is used to counter another. Infinities abound in the literature on black holes. The infinitely weak force of gravity is balanced by postulating an almost infinitely dense object – the black hole. Playing with infinities like this can give you any result you desire. It sidesteps the fact that we do not understand the real nature of gravity, or the relationship between mass and matter, or the electrical response of matter to gravity, or the electrical nature of the universe. That’s a great deal of ignorance to be swallowed up, even by a hypothetical black hole!
The third step involves the language describing black holes. All four of the examples given earlier are used when referring to black holes. For example, the textbook goes on: “A black hole is a region of spacetime in which gravity is so strong that nothing, not even light, can escape it.” The phrase, “region of spacetime” is physically meaningless and results from a confused use of the word “time” and a nonsensical notion that gravity is a property of empty space instead of matter.
But most damning is that the narrow training of astrophysicists does not allow them to “see” the powerful electric discharge effects at the centers of galaxies. The x-rays, gamma rays, jets and radio lobes cry out for an electrical model. By simply invoking the electrical force, which is a thousand trillion trillion trillion times stronger than gravity, we can return to the realm of normal objects, normal physics, and common sense electrical engineering. The gravitational black hole model is fictional and worthless.
Without the checks and balances of experiment and direct observation of black holes, astrophysicists long ago slipped their leash. As exhibit, this recent story from BBC News:
Huge black hole tears apart star
Astronomers claim they have observed a super-massive black hole ripping apart a star and consuming part of it.
Comment: There is no way that astronomers can claim to “have observed a super-massive black hole,” far less “ripping apart a star and consuming part of it.” As we shall see, all they have observed is a burst of x-rays from the center of a galaxy.
Scientists think the doomed star drifted too close to the giant hole and gradually fell under the influence of its enormous gravity. The tidal forces of the black hole pulled on the star, stretching it until it broke up. The black hole then swallowed some of the matter left behind, causing a flare of X-rays that was detected on Earth.
Comment: This fabricated account relies on the model astronomers have chosen initially. If that choice is wrong all conjectures based on that model will be worthless. If something else is causing the X-ray burst, the whole theoretical edifice comes crashing down.
The phenomenon has long been predicted by theory and similar X-ray spikes have been seen before.
Comment: In this case, prior prediction does not help prove whether this particular theoretical model is correct because alternatives have not been considered and a means of falsifying the theory established. Many astrophysical models are practically unfalsifiable, and therefore worthless, because they are capable of being adapted to fit each ‘surprising’ new discovery.
But astronomers claim the new data, from the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton observatory and Nasa’s Chandra X-ray observatory, is the best evidence yet that these events do happen.
Comment: Such evidence would not stand up in a court because no limits are placed on the black hole model as a source of gravitational energy. It is like a theoretical spring that can be stretched to infinity without breaking. A theory that can ignore practical limits is fundamentally flawed.
The X-ray outburst is one of the most extreme ever detected and was caused by gas from the destroyed star being heated to millions of degrees.
Comment: Here is a bold statement of fact that is entirely model dependent. Using gravity to heat gas is the most unlikely method imaginable to produce X-rays. We use almost infinitely more efficient electric power to do it. And Nature is not known for being inefficient.
The black hole is at the centre of a galaxy known as RX J1242-11 and is estimated to have a mass about 100 million times that of the Sun. RX J1242-11 is an estimated 700 million light-years away from Earth. “This unlucky star just wandered into the wrong neighbourhood,” said Dr Stefanie Komossa, of the Max Planck Institute in Germany.
Comment: This is where the theorists overstep the mark by translating their theoretical model into real objects (one of them 100 million times more massive than the Sun!! That’s really stretching that spring!!) and discussing imagined events as if they actually took place.
“The centre of the galaxy flared up in a brilliant burst of X-rays thousands of times brighter than all of the billions of stars of this galaxy taken together.”
Comment: This is the only factual statement in the entire news release.
Dr Komossa said the emission’s wide spread of energy was characteristic of matter very close to a black hole.
Comment: This language is misleading. It gives the impression that “matter very close to a black hole” has been observed directly or there is no other way that the spread of X-ray energy could be achieved. A “characteristic” of something is the “aggregate of qualities that distinguish it from others.” But no “others” have been considered. More important information would be other qualities of the emission that don’t quite fit the model. Scientists are prone to ignore disconfirming evidence or, if the evidence cannot be ignored, to continually fiddle with the model rather than re-examine all of the assumptions underpinning their model.
“The gravity of that black hole is strong enough to swing around the stars in the centre and in the vicinity up to speeds of several thousands of kilometres per second,” Professor Guenther Hasinger, also of the Max Planck Institute, told a news conference in Washington DC, US. It is estimated that about one-hundredth of the mass of the star was ultimately consumed by the black hole.
Comment: These descriptions of the extreme behavior expected in the gravitational model should be viewed in the context of the inability of theorists to explain the motion of stars in a spiral galaxy using Newtonian theory without conjuring up invisible matter placed where needed in order to save the model. Modern astronomy has the reek of Ptolemaic epicycles about it.
This small amount is consistent with predictions that the momentum and energy of the process by which the star is consumed would fling most of the star’s gas away from the black hole.
Comment: A major adjustment of the black hole model was required to explain how matter could be flung out in polar jets at near light speed from an object from which there was supposed to be no escape. As usual, magnetism was called upon to rescue the gravitational model. No mention was made about the electric currents required to produce the magnetic fields.
One puzzle was how the jets can maintain their narrow trajectory over a million light years. The Chandra x-ray astronomy website offers this: “The best bet at this point is that a tightly coiled magnetic field is spun out with the particles. One team of scientists exploring this line of reasoning has concluded that black holes may be the primary source of magnetic energy in the universe. This could be highly significant because, as is known from observations of solar flares, magnetic energy can readily change into other forms of energy.” It is quite strange to witness this blind-spot that does not allow astrophysicists to see that magnetism is a secondary effect of electric current, and not a primary cause. The most simple method of creating a filamentary, glowing jet in plasma is to cause an electric discharge through it. Novelty store plasma balls show the effect clearly. Plasma physicists note that plasma filamentation is known to occur over at least 14 orders of magnitude of current, from microamperes to multi-megaamperes.
“Every galaxy contains a black hole, and there are millions or billions of galaxies. In principle, we are expecting these events to happen all the time,” said Professor Hasinger.
Comment: A final confident statement with no qualifications: “Every galaxy contains a black hole.” A fanciful model is made fact by fiat.
While astrophysicists have left the real universe for metaphysics, we must turn to practical engineers for some answers. The prestigious Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has recognized the subject of plasma cosmology for some years. Plasma cosmology has no problem explaining the ubiquitous spiral shape of galaxies and reproducing it in the plasma laboratory. All that is required to produce the phenomenon is electrical power. Galaxies are threaded like pinwheels on invisible cosmic threads of electric current. Those cosmic threads are fundamental to the web-like appearance of the visible universe.
Although operating in “dark current” mode in deep space, the presence of cosmic (Birkeland) currents is demonstrated by their magnetic fields. A galaxy like ours is effectively a giant homopolar motor, with current flowing along the spiral arms toward the galactic center and then out along the polar axis.
There is a simple device known as a dense plasma focus, or “plasma gun,” that mimics what is going on in active galactic nuclei, or AGN’s. It shows what happens when converging current streams along the galactic arms are focussed into a very small volume at the galactic center.
The dense plasma focus, first invented in 1954, consists of two coaxial cylindrical electrodes usually less than 30 cm in all dimensions in a gas-filled vacuum chamber connected to a capacitor bank. It is capable of producing high-energy X-ray and gamma-ray radiation and intense beams of electrons and ions, as well as abundant fusion reactions. In operation, the capacitors discharge in a several-microsecond pulse, the gas is ionized and a current sheath, consisting of pinched current filaments, forms and runs down the electrodes.
When the sheath reaches the end of the inner electrode (the anode), the filaments pinch together, forming a dense, magnetically-confined, hot spot or plasmoid. The plasmoid emits soft X-rays with energy in the range of several kiloelectron volts. X-ray pinhole images have demonstrated that the plasmoids are tiny, with radii of a few microns to tens of microns. These plasmoids emit intense beams of accelerated ions and electrons. Fusion neutrons are emitted from the device in large quantities. Simple plasma scaling laws allow us to see why it is that the source of the prodigious outpouring of energy from an active galactic center is so small.**
No peculiar physics, strange matter or singularities (infinities) are involved in the plasma focus model of galactic centers. Black holes are not required. Matter in the vicinity of the galactic center is under the control of powerful electromagnetic forces. Gravitational calculations of stellar masses and motions in the galactic center are inappropriate and misleading. During the time that energy is being efficiently stored in the tiny central plasmoid, the galactic center is quiescent. Jets are only produced when the plasmoid becomes unstable. The periodic outbursts from a galactic plasmoid can briefly release more energy than all of the stars in the galaxy. Precisely the same effect is achieved in the high-energy plasma lab, like that at Los Alamos, where more instantaneous power than is available from all of the power stations on Earth can be released in a volume the size of a baked bean can. Who, in their right mind, would try to achieve a similar effect by (in effect) dropping a great mass from a great height?
The fact that the center of a galaxy is the “anode” in a galactic discharge supports the electric universe model of stars as tiny secondary anodes formed and sustained in a galactic discharge. Stars cannot simply attract all of the electrons they need to achieve electrical neutrality and then “wink out” because the entire galaxy is a part of a far greater circuit. A galaxy and its stars are continually playing “catch up” with an unknown universal power source. And just as our power stations are usually out of sight of the cities that they light up, so the universal power source seems to be beyond the visible universe.
The situation with modern cosmology raises disturbing questions about physics training and the way science is conducted today. In physics, mathematical methods are emphasized and students are almost exclusively tested on their mathematical ability. For many the subject has become sterile and abstract. Mathematical cleverness counts for more than common sense, empirical observation and historical research. The inevitable result is that we now have a cosmology that is an oxymoron – scientific creationism, and a universe that has been called “the ultimate free lunch.” Tens of billions of dollars are being spent to satisfy the search for imaginary particles, objects and energies dreamt up by mathematicians. It seems the more preposterous the claim, the more chance of being heard when it comes to funding. We have unsuitably trained scientists foisting upon us the most super-expensive experiments: particle colliders to try to reproduce an imagined big bang; gravity wave telescopes, when we don’t understand the first thing about gravity; and seriously misguided space experiments. A flood of data returning from space probes is being analysed by a generation of researchers who do not comprehend what they are looking at.
The astronomer Halton Arp summed up the situation:
“After all, to get the whole universe totally wrong in the face of clear evidence for over 75 years merits monumental embarrassment and should induce a modicum of humility.”
– What has Science Come to? – Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 14, No. 3.
The last word, from half a century ago, goes to Professor Herbert Dingle. In his Presidential Address to the Royal Astronomical Society in 1953 he said:
“No great scientific work, it is true, has been done without the free and bold use of imagination, but let its products be properly assessed before they are announced as discoveries of the order of nature. Even idle speculation may not be quite valueless if it is recognized for what it is. If the new cosmologists would observe this proviso, calling a spade a spade and not a perfect agricultural principle, one’s only cause for regret would be that such great talents were spent for so little profit.
But I am not yet convinced that facility in performing mathematical operations must inevitably deprive its possessor of the power of elementary reasoning, though the evidence against me is strong. Let our younger cosmologists forget cosmology for the space of three years – the universe is patient – it can wait, and instead read the history of science – I mean, the work of the great scientists themselves. After asking themselves what meaning it has for the work of today, let them return to cosmology and give their attention again to the great problems into which they have prematurely rushed.
I do not enjoy the task of arraigning those whose mathematical facility greatly exceeds their judgement of scientific authenticity, and who have in consequence exercised this facility on any premises that will give it scope. But one who, however unworthy, accepts the honor of presiding over one of the foremost scientific societies of the world, accepts a responsibility. The ideas to which we give publicity are accepted as genuine scientific pronouncements and as such influence the thinking of philosophers, theologians, and all who realize that in no intellectual problem, however fundamental, can scientific research now be ignored. And so when it happens we have published, in the name of science, so-called ‘principles’ that in origin and character are identical with the ‘principles’ that all celestial movements are circular and all celestial bodies immutable, it becomes my duty to point out that this is precisely the kind of celebration that science was created to displace.”
– Observatory, 73, 42.
* Zeilik & Smith, Introductory Astronomy & Astrophysics, p. 303.
** Acknowledgement to Eric J. Lerner of Lawrenceville Plasma Physics for detailed information on the dense plasma focus in his paper, “Towards Advanced-fuel Fusion: Electron, Ion Energy >100 keV in a Dense Plasma”.
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