by Wal Thornhill | October 23, 2008 6:33 pm
“The Genesis team can take great satisfaction not just in having salvaged their mission, but in underscoring once again how little we know about how our strange and wonderful home planet came to exist.”
— Kelly Beatty, Sky & Telescope
From the NASA website comes the following report:
“Kevin McKeegan’s announcement at the 2008 Lunar and Planetary Science Conference that the pattern of oxygen isotopes on the Sun differs greatly from that of Earth took many planetary scientists by surprise, but the findings may help them explain how Earth and the other planets grew out of the solar nebula, the giant cloud of gas and dust from which the solar system formed. McKeegan heads the UCLA team that is analyzing samples of the solar wind as part of the Genesis mission.
“I learned that experienced scientists were taking bets on the outcome of McKeegan’s measurements,” said cosmochemist Robert Clayton, “since many were reluctant to believe that the Earth and Sun could have different isotopic compositions.”
COMMENT: Given the vast, empty distances between stars, it seems sensible to assume that the Sun and its family of planets were born together. Scientists take for granted that gravity is the only force operating in the universe to cause matter to coalesce to form stars and planets. Astronomers observe dusty disks around some nearby stars and assume that those disks are the ‘leftovers’ of matter that formed the star. The observations appear to confirm the accepted story of the planets forming from collisions and accretion of matter in the proto-solar disk.
However, all is not as it seems. There are objections to the nebular disk accretion model that should be considered fatal were it not for the fact that no alternative seems possible — given the gravity-driven view of the universe. For example, a slowly rotating cloud may tend to collapse under gravity but a point is quickly reached where the outward rotational force counteracts further collapse. Rotational energy must be dissipated somehow to enable the cloud to collapse more. Assuming you manage to form the Sun inside a disk another serious difficulty arises. Gravitational interactions with the disk cause protoplanets to swiftly spiral into the star. Then there is the problem that the Sun, as the most collapsed object, should be spinning the fastest (like a pirouetting dancer pulling in her arms). But the Sun spins slowly. Almost the entire angular momentum in the solar system is to be found in the orbiting planets. And the Sun’s equator is tilted 7 degrees to the plane of the orbiting planets!
Instead of the expected gradation of properties of the planets with distance from the Sun, we find a ‘fruit salad’ of characteristics, which don’t make any sense in the simple nebular model. For example, the Earth has an abundance of water, yet the region where early Earth formed was too hot for water to be incorporated into a solid body. So, in ad hoc fashion, meteorites had to deliver it later. As one expert on the subject remarked, “you need to make a special case for each planet.” Gravitational accretion of planets from a dusty disk doesn’t work anyway—once a disk, always a disk—look at Saturn’s rings. Theory shows it is hard for a planetesimal to get to 1 km in size. But then to avoid fragmentation by collision, a body needs to be 1000 km to provide enough gravity to retain collision debris!
Special requirements abound in the accretion disk model. Even if we assume, despite the objections above, that planets the size of Jupiter can form, we then need a violent phase of activity from the new Sun at just the right time to dissipate most of the matter of the disk while leaving the gas giants with thick atmospheres. But then, how do we explain Jupiter’s three times the solar abundance of noble gases?
Perhaps the most significant problem with the gravity-only model is how to explain the circularity and long term stability of planetary orbits. After all, more than two bodies moving under the influence of gravity produce a chaotic system. There is no restoring force when a planet is perturbed in its orbit. Under Newtonian law, the solar system today cannot be the same as it was even in the recent past.
When we look at the nearest 100 bright stars in the solar neighborhood (within ~ 25 parsec radius) there are 40 binary stars, 15 triple stars and 5 quadruple stars. How can an accretion model explain so many multiple star systems? And where do the numerous brown dwarf stars fit? They have a much lower binary star fraction of ~ 15%. And why do stars seem to have a maximum mass of ~ 100 solar masses? As another expert put it, “the theory of star formation fails—mysteries abound!”
The Genesis mission provides at least one more mystery. Oxygen is the third most abundant element in the cosmos, of which the isotope oxygen-16 makes up 99.67%, oxygen-17 0.04%, and oxygen-18 0.02%. Kelly Beatty writes:
The Sun represented a critical missing piece of this isotopic puzzle. Cosmochemists assume that whatever atoms populate the solar wind must be representative of what’s in the Sun itself and therefore a sample of the raw mix from which the planets formed. So would the Sun’s oxygen ratios match those of Earth or of the ancient meteorites? The very framework of planetary formation hung in the balance.
At the 39th annual Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, Texas, Kevin McKeegan (UCLA) announced that the Sun has proportionately far more oxygen-16, relative to oxygen-17 and -18, than is present in terrestrial seawater. There’s a serious mismatch. Instead, the solar ratios follow the same trend seen in primitive meteorites.
Suddenly, Earth is the odd planet out. “We had little idea what the Sun’s ratios should be,” McKeegan told me after his presentation. Now, he says, there’s “no plausible model” to make Earth with the oxygen ratios it exhibits. “It’s always been a challenge to supply Earth with the water it has. And now we’re wondering how it got the rocks it has.”
That view was echoed by Robert Clayton, a University of Chicago cosmochemist. “The CAIs were thought to be the anomaly and we were normal but this result has turned that idea upside down.”
It is obvious that the model of the gravitational formation of stars and planets is a failure. So why are self–congratulatory statements like the following, delivered at an astronomical conference in 2005, being made?
“Two of the great scientific success stories of the last several decades are our growing understanding of the way stars form, and our ability to reconstruct the history of our own Solar System. These two lines of scientific investigation meet in the Sun’s protoplanetary disk.”
It seems scientists should be alerted to the human propensity for confirmatory bias!
“This refers to the tendency for humans to seek out, attend to, and sometimes embellish experiences that support or ‘confirm’ their beliefs. Confirmatory experiences are selectively welcomed and granted easy credibility. Disconfirmatory experiences, on the other hand, are often ignored, discredited, or treated with obvious defensiveness… the most costly expression of this tendency may well be among scientists themselves…
One study found that the vast majority of scientists drawn from a national sample showed a strong preference for “confirmatory” experiments. Over half of these scientists did not even recognize disconfirmation (modus tollens) as a valid reasoning form! In another study the logical reasoning skills of 30 scientists were compared to those of 15 relatively uneducated Protestant ministers. Where there were performance differences, they tended to favor the ministers. Confirmatory bias was prevalent in both groups, but the ministers used disconfirmatory logic almost twice as often as the scientists did. The costs of this cognitive bias are perhaps nowhere as serious as in the area of scientific publication.”
— Michael J. Mahoney, Cognitive Therapy and Research, Vol. 1, No. 2, 1977, pp. 161-175.
But despite scientists’ beliefs, there is an alternative to the gravity-only assumption of consensus cosmogony. Unfortunately astrophysicists are not trained in plasma discharge phenomena so that they might recognize this fact. As in many other scientific disciplines, the inertia of tradition, institutionalization and specialization to the brink of irrelevance has produced terminal tunnel vision. Astrophysics is hamstrung by an unreal but mathematically tractable view of plasma behavior in space. That view suits the dominant mathematical theorists but denies real physics. The specialty is called ‘magnetohydrodynamics.’ The name betrays the fundamentally incorrect approach. Magnetohydrodynamics treats space plasma as a mysteriously magnetized gas. So we hear of stellar “winds” and gaseous “shock fronts.” The solar wind “buffets” against the Earth’s magnetic field.
The ‘father’ of the subject, Hannes Alfvén, notoriously dismissed his own invention in his Nobel Lecture of December 11, 1970. He warned of the consequences:
“these [magnetohydrodynamic] theories had initially very little contact with experimental plasma physics, and all the awkward and complicated phenomena which had been treated in the study of discharges in gases were simply neglected…
The cosmical plasma physics of today is far less advanced than the thermonuclear research physics. It is to some extent the playground of theoreticians who have never seen a plasma in a laboratory. Many of them still believe in formulae which we know from laboratory experiments to be wrong. The astrophysical correspondence to the thermonuclear crisis has not yet come.
I think it is evident now that in certain respects the first approach to the physics of cosmical plasmas has been a failure. It turns out that in several important cases this approach has not given even a first approximation to truth but led into dead-end streets from which we now have to turn back.”
Thirty-eight years later, the thermonuclear crisis remains with us while the unacknowledged astrophysical crisis shows up in the crazy theories we see regularly in space news. Such is the moribund state of politicised and institutionalised science that we remain heading into a dead-end!
Meanwhile, unnoticed by those who have most to gain from it, the largest professional organization on planet Earth, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), have a Plasma Cosmology division with a far superior model that is amenable to laboratory testing and verification. It is based heavily on Alfvén’s insights and practical laboratory experience of plasma discharge phenomena.
[HII region Wikipedia]
Astronomers see in this image “thick and turbulent clouds of gas and dust” that are “being sculpted into pillars by radiation and winds from hot, massive stars.” The language is misleading and inappropriate. The pillars are not turbulent, they have the characteristic tornadic column form of parallel z-pinch plasma discharge filaments. Z-pinches are the most efficient scavengers of matter in space, having an attractive force that falls linearly with distance from the axis. (Gravity falls off exponentially with the square of the distance). Gravity and turbulence give no explanation for the surprising tornadic forms.
The notion of “triggered collapse” is merely hand waving. The inset image shows the telltale polar jet aligned with the z-pinch column. The glowing “ionization front” is not principally a photo-ionization or collisional effect but the glow of a plasma double-layer, energized by electric current. The nearby Herbig-Haro object, HH399, exhibits the typical thin polar corkscrew jet seen in more detail in the Herbig-Haro 49/50 below.
The heated, glowing plasma in these jets can extend for trillions of miles. They do not explosively dissipate in the vacuum of space because of the electromagnetic “pinch effect” of the electric current flowing along the jet. The spiral shape is that of Birkeland current filaments, which are the universal power transmission lines.
Birkeland current pairs have been shown by both experiment and supercomputer simulations to form an axial sump of plasma, segregated radially by Marklund convection. Marklund convection causes helium to form a diffuse outer layer, followed by a hydrogen layer, then oxygen and nitrogen in the middle layers, and iron, silicon and magnesium in the inner layers. So electric stars should have a core of heavy elements and an upper atmosphere mostly of hydrogen.
Birkeland currents align themselves with the ambient magnetic field direction. The hourglass z-pinch shape has been confirmed in the magnetic field of a star-forming region. (See SCIENCE Vol 313 11 August 2006). And in laboratory z-pinch experiments, the plasma tends to form a number of “beads” along the axis (see HH34 above), which “scatter like buckshot” once the discharge subsides.
Alfvén proposed the electrical circuit diagram for a star. It is in the form of a simple Faraday motor, which explains why the Sun’s equatorial plasma is driven fastest. It also explains the presence of the circumstellar disk, formed and held there by electromagnetic forces and not by weak gravity. And the problem of transfer of rotational energy does not arise because the entire system is held by powerful electromagnetic forces and driven like an electric motor. (The same explanation, of course, applies on a much grander scale to the anomalous rotation of the disk of spiral galaxies). When the star-forming z-pinch subsides, gravity is not able to retain the disk for long and current flowing in the disk (the stellar wind) sweeps the space clear.
Planets do not form from a disk of dust and gas about a star.
“Gravitational systems are the ashes of prior electrical systems.”
– Hannes Alfvén.
Due to Marklund convection, stars have cores of heavy elements. Electric stars are not nuclear furnaces! They shine because they remain embedded in the galactic power grid. The decay of the z-pinch exposes the newborn star to a new electrical environment. The critical factor in the star’s stability is the current density at its photosphere. If it is excessive, the star may electrically “fission” into two or more pieces in order to expose a greater surface area and reduce the current density to a manageable level. Ejection of stellar matter produces a companion star or “gas giant.” That may explain the baffling number of multiple star systems and close-orbiting gas giant planets. Distantly orbiting gas giants, like those in our solar system are another story.
Dwarf stars are born in the same process, probably in larger numbers than the bright stars. They do not require to fission because their electrical stress is low, as evidenced by their light. They may form fewer multiple star systems by a different process—electrical capture—to be explained later.
We have dealt with star birth but not the birth of planets like the Earth. The ELECTRIC UNIVERSE® model of solar system formation goes much further than the plasma cosmology model. Instead of imagining some initial state of the solar system and projecting the model forward in time, it is necessary to first look at astronomical records as far back in time as possible to check the basic assumption that the sky has not changed in that time. This may seem a waste of time given the usual mantra that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old. But all ancient cultures recall an age of splendid but terrifying celestial gods and wonders that departed the skies long ago.
Recent research, published by the authority on the many unique forms of high-energy plasma discharge instabilities, has found that prehistoric astronomers chiselled the most ancient astronomical records into solid rock around the globe. Using global positioning and logging the magnetic orientation of these petroglyphs has resulted in a mammoth 3-D dataset, which is expected to allow us to reconstruct the position and evolution of what might be termed “prehistoric mega-auroras.” It extends our understanding of real Earth history by about 10,000 years. A significant finding is that the petroglyphs point toward the ancient celestial plasma display having a focus at the south magnetic pole. That is what we expect of cosmic Birkeland currents, which align with the magnetic field.
The implications of this discovery are dramatic and unprecedented. It shows that the Earth and the solar system have a recent history of instability accompanied by planetary electric discharge activity on a scale unimaginable today. The story requires many books to tell. But the principal message is that the solar system is a composite family. Planets have been acquired at intervals long after the Sun was born. So, looking for isotopic signatures in the solar system is something like DNA testing. Familial ties may be established but they will have nothing to do with the Sun!
In a later news item I will discuss further the simple electrical feedback mechanism that swiftly restores stability in a disturbed many-body electric-gravitational system. (For those who can’t wait, the subject is dealt with in my paper to the SIS Cambridge Conference last year). For now I will simply outline the likely origin of the planets and moons in the solar system.
It is known that there are more brown dwarf stars than bright stars. Some astronomers have recently realized that a planet orbiting such a star closely could be the place to look for life. But brown dwarfs, like all stars, are an electric discharge phenomenon. Their visible diameter, like that of enormous cometary comas, is an electric discharge phenomenon and much larger than the star’s solid surface. So the fundamental mass-luminosity relation used to derive the mass, age and size of a star from the character of its light is inapplicable. The electrical nature of stars removes the foundation of stellar astrophysics!
However, a binary pair of brown dwarfs has been discovered, which allowed the determination of their masses and diameters by another method. The result was that “both dwarfs are remarkably large for their masses: about the same diameter as the Sun.” That’s about the same size as the coma of comet Holmes. Their masses were said to be 35 and 55 times Jupiter’s mass. The Sun is about 1,000 times the mass of Jupiter, although mass is not a measure of the amount of matter in a body—another major spanner in the works for stellar astrophysics.
Brown dwarfs of that size are considered to be too small to initiate thermonuclear fusion. But that isn’t so in an ELECTRIC UNIVERSE® where all bodies receive electrical energy from the galactic circuit. For example, consider Jupiter as an independent body moving in the galaxy inside its radiant plasma sheath (analogous to a cometary coma). It would be regarded as a brown dwarf star! And even if that glowing sphere were half the size of Jupiter’s present magnetosphere, which is 10,300,000 km in diameter, all of Jupiter’s large moons would orbit comfortably inside that cocoon.
I have noted the significance of this earlier:
“Since an electric star is heated externally a planet need not be destroyed by orbiting beneath its anode glow. In fact life is not only possible inside the glow of a small brown dwarf, it seems far more likely than on a planet orbiting outside a star! This is because the radiant energy arriving on a planet orbiting inside a glowing sphere is evenly distributed over the entire surface of the planet. There are no seasons, no tropics and no ice-caps. A planet does not have to rotate, its axis can point in any direction and its orbit can be eccentric.”
Such an arrangement is far more benign toward life than at present where the energy source, the Sun, subtends a small angle in the sky and the “habitable zone” of orbits is very narrow.
In our neighbourhood, there may be many more brown dwarfs than sun-like stars. They are difficult to detect since they glow mostly in infrared. A spectral class of “L” dwarfs, about one-tenth the mass of the Sun, has been found with an effective temperature of only 700K to 950K (about the same as the surface of Venus at 740K). This is way below the theoretical limit of 1750K for a nuclear powered dwarf star, while it is not a problem for the electric star model. The light from the “L” dwarfs is unaccountably bluer than expected and even exhibits X-rays! Only the electric model has a simple explanation for this conundrum. The higher energy radiation is emitted from the brown dwarf’s electrical corona. Therefore the light bathing a satellite will be strongest at the blue and red ends of the spectrum. Skylight on any satellites would probably be a pale purple (see later—the classical “purple dawn of creation”). Photosynthesis relies on red light so plant life could flourish, especially when the atmospheres of the “L’ dwarfs contain predominantly water molecules. Satellites would accumulate atmospheres and water would mist down.
Brown dwarfs are noted for their occasional inexplicable polar jets and “flaring.” As explained in my electric stars article, stars that do not have bright, tufted photospheres do not have the power feedback control that maintains the steady radiant output of the Sun while the power input varies—as measured by x-rays and sunspot latitudinal migration. So any power surge on a brown dwarf will be met with polar jets and flaring behavior. We know from coronal mass ejections (CME’s) on the Sun that this involves hurling matter into space.
Flaring would cause havoc on the satellites of a brown dwarf. In the extreme it would give birth to a new satellite. But existing satellites would suffer deposition of solids, liquids and gases and electric discharge machining of their surfaces. This is a scenario never considered by geologists but which explains all of the enigmas of planetary geology.
OK, let us assume that brown dwarfs and their satellites are the most hospitable places in the universe to establish life. That implies that the Earth was originally a satellite of a brown dwarf. That would explain many things, for example: where we got our water and oxygen atmosphere; why the high latitudes were so warm in the past that we find coal in Antarctica; how the Earth’s gravity and atmosphere in the past could have been so different that it supported megafauna and megaflora; what caused the global mass extinctions with instant burial and fossilization; and so on.
But hang on, you say. What about the fact that gravitational capture is highly unlikely? That’s true. But this is an ELECTRIC UNIVERSE®. Each star, being an electrical body in a galactic discharge, will have a plasma sheath that limits the weak electric field between the star and the sheath. It is the Sun’s heliosphere. The plasma sheath is a “double layer” where almost the entire voltage drop between the star and the galaxy will be found. The heliosphere is about 200 AU across. That’s a big target! You could fit about 1,300 such targets between the nearest star and us. The size of this electrical target is important because it is the minimum distance at which the electrical “insulation” between two stars breaks down. I say “minimum” because the polar circuit of each star extends much, much further—as we see where the circuit has been “lit up” in a planetary nebulae.
This beautiful example of a “planetary nebula” shows the classic features of a plasma z-pinch. The current density in the Birkeland current filaments is sufficient to cause the plasma to enter “glow mode.” The polar “circuit” is composed of concentric cylinders of parallel Birkeland current filaments. The polar double layers are regions of high electric field and radio “noise.” The cylinders pinch down at the star in the characteristic hourglass shape.
So what I’m suggesting is quite radical—that all of the planets and moons in the solar system did not originate with the Sun, they were captured. Capture of a brown dwarf star begins when the plasma sheaths touch and they “see” each other electrically for the first time. The brown dwarf changes from being an anode in a galactic discharge to a cathode in the Sun’s environment. The adjustment is drastic. The brown dwarf is no longer a star. It becomes the mother of all comets and subject to a steady electrical acceleration toward the Sun. That acceleration will tend to cause the satellites of the brown dwarf to be dislodged from their orbits and, in a dynamic equilibrium, strung out behind in their primary’s cometary wake. Since a comet’s ion tail is a discharge current, the satellites will experience “mega auroras” and devastating interplanetary discharges to varying degrees.
As a cathode in the Sun’s discharge, the brown dwarf will jet matter into space like a comet and lose electrons. This has the effect of reducing the gravity and apparent mass of the late star, which, in turn, modifies its orbit. Conservation of orbital energy requires that the cometary body moves in toward the Sun—in other words, it is captured. We see so-called “non-gravitational” acceleration to a small extent in modern comets. This lowering of the gravitational field of comets has given rise to the mistaken view that they are fluff balls. However they look like solid rock and they are solid rock. The effect on a captured brown dwarf is to turn it into a “low density” gas giant.
As the captured brown dwarf traverses the plane of the ecliptic, it encounters the current sheet of the solar wind. That may cause severe flaring and mass loss in the form of new cometary material. Even today, crossing the ecliptic plane is where comets are most likely to fragment. The enhanced electromagnetic forces encountered in the plane of the ecliptic may cause damped oscillations in and out of the plane until capture is complete. The presence of the newcomer is felt electrically by those planets that encounter its coma or cometary tail. Charge transfer occurs via the filamentary currents in the tail, which serves to space the orbits of both bodies until charge transfer is minimized. Circularization of orbits also occurs due to charge exchange with the solar wind until the voltage excursions in the Sun’s weak radial electric field are minimized.
Trying to devise an evolutionary model of the solar system from a simple beginning is not going to work. The expert was almost right, we need a separate story for each of the gas giants. And we need to identify their scattered family members. The simplest approach is to match axial tilts because phase lock with the primary is normal for a satellite. And a spinning planet or moon behaves as a gyroscope and largely maintains its axial direction in inertial space even when disturbed. A disturbance manifests as precession of the spin axis.
For example, based upon other independent evidence, Saturn, Earth and Mars were of one family. Their axial tilts are 26˚44’, 23˚27’, and 23˚59’ respectively. Saturn still has its ephemeral water-ice ejecta rings. And its calculated “density” is the lowest—less than water—a result of its recent severe discharge activity.
A final word about meteorites, comets and asteroids. They have nothing to do with the Sun. They are born at intervals from captured bodies in their cometary phase and during close electrical encounters between planets and moons in the process of capture and orbit stabilization. In 1988 I wrote that chondritic meteorites show all of the features to be expected of material that has been subjected to flash heating, acceleration, collision and ion implantation in a spatially restricted and compressed plasma stream, followed by sudden cooling. Isotopic modification by neutron bombardment and intense radiation are simply explained as the effects of a z-pinch plasma discharge. I predicted that the features of the enigmatic chondrule shells could be reproduced in the lab in a plasma oven. That remains to be tested.
Planets do not collide. Electrical forces and modification of orbits by charge exchange dominate in a close encounter. Mars bears the fresh electrical scars of its entry into the solar system with the mighty gash of Valles Marineris and the giant raised lightning blisters on the Tharsis bulge. An interplanetary discharge is the only way for Martian meteorites to have been launched into space.
It should be no surprise that this story of the formation of the solar system could not be constructed on a purely theoretical basis. It was wishful thinking that such a complex family could be explained with one simple story. We now have the technology in a select few laboratories to generate in miniature and record cosmic electrical discharges. It allows us to verify that prehistoric mankind cut into solid rock their view of the last spectacular and frightening chapter in the history of the solar system — the capture of Earth by the Sun. Comparative mythologists pointed the way by showing that the bedrock themes of mythology are universal and relate to memories of capricious planetary gods warring with thunderbolts in the heavens and wreaking destruction with them on Earth. It gives an unusual depth of meaning to the memory of “the purple dawn of creation.” Prehistoric mankind witnessed the “creation” of a new order in the heavens — the assembly of planets we see today. The serendipitous breakthrough in understanding of petroglyphs and the motivation behind their production requires that this story be examined thoroughly in the light of discoveries from space.
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