It seems astonishing that in the course of half a century of studies of the sun
in context with the thermonuclear theory, very few professional
astrophysicists have ever expressed the slightest discomfort over
discrepancies between observation and theory, or even over the fact that
an ad hoc extra theory has had to be devised to explain practically
every individual feature of the solar atmosphere. - Ralph Juergens
Electric Sun Skeptics
By Wal Thornhill
At the beginning of the month Dave Talbott forwarded for comment an email received from a skeptic.
It takes another swipe at an electric star model.
Skeptics puzzle me. Sir Fred Hoyle has commented
that academics generally will not read papers they disagree with. That would explain why so many
challenging papers from maverick scientists are met with silence. Halton Arp's work on non-velocity
related redshifts is a notorious example. Skeptics, on the other hand, seem emotionally compelled to
seek out challenges from "outsiders" and to uncritically fling every straw of orthodox
theory in response, without regard to its coherence or applicability to what is being proposed.
That results in a "straw man" which they then set about making look ridiculous.
They are those who, in the words of the astronomer R. A. Lyttleton, "... regard the opinion
of others, especially if they occupy positions of high rank, as providing a sound basis for their own
views. It is, of course, a form of sloth enabling them to spare themselves the hard work of properly
forming their own conclusion, and instead just take up a ready-made one issued by the establishment
free of charge, just as one might wear a ready-made suit, however ill-fitting."
In almost every case I have seen there is no genuine attempt to understand new ideas. That can be seen
in this case where it is obvious that no effort has been made to study the original papers by Juergens.
When the intention is clearly to not understand what is being proposed, the exercise can finally become
a waste of time. Initially however, it can be used to re-examine one's own assumptions and maybe express
the argument better. In that spirit I am responding ...
From a skeptic:
"The following press release, issued today, describes interesting new
results in the study of the solar wind & the sun's magnetic field. Scientists analyzing a 38 year
data set of solar wind and solar magnetic field data have determined a 27-day 43-minute period in the
solar wind that has remained fixed over the entire 38 years, slightly more than 3 of the 11 year sunspot
cycles, and slightly less than 2 of the 22 year full magnetic field cycles.
"Seen in light of current "standard" theory for the generation
of the solar wind & magnetic field, the implication is that fluid motion inside the sun is likely less
turbulent than thought, and more dominated by some large scale regular pattern that is yet to be described."
Thornhill: There is no "standard" theory for the generation of the solar wind & magnetic field. In "Solar Interior and Atmosphere", 1991, DeLuca and Gilman after discussing the present state of knowledge about the solar "dynamo" which is supposed to drive all of the complex phenomena in the Sun's atmosphere, write: "In closing, we remark that, after many years through which the prevailing opinion was that the problem of the solar dynamo was 'solved' ... new observational and theoretical results have now overturned that belief, leading to a stimulating new period of proliferation of solar dynamo theories."
On examination those theories have so many assumptions and "fudge factors" built in that they are a top contender for Langmuir's pathological science award. Poincaré has said that above all, a physical theory should allow predictions to be made. D. M. Rabin et al in the above volume report, "...as DeLuca and Gilman's chapter make clear, the daunting complexity of self-consistent dynamo models has thus far limited their role to achieving consistency with basic features of the activity cycle rather than making predictions at the detailed level of modern observations." The "standard" theory has not been able to predict anything that the new generation of solar observatories has discovered and has had to be "adjusted" repeatedly in an effort to cater for those observations. It cannot explain the many strange phenomena in the Sun's atmosphere nor the acceleration of the solar wind. It cannot explain the sunspot cycle or the totally unexpected correlations between neutrinos, the solar wind and sunspots.
Helioseismology, or the study of solar oscillations, has been used to help constrain solar dynamo models. The observations have been applied to the standard solar model in order to achieve this. So we now have two interlocked models concerning unseen things going on inside the Sun. And what has been said recently of the standard solar model? In the same volume mentioned earlier, in a chapter called "The Global Sun", J. C. Pecker writes: "...we have difficulty in matching the observations with a theory." So we are twice removed from reality with the solar dynamo models.
The electric star model makes the simplest assumption that nothing is going on inside the Sun. The few neutrinos we do see are generated in electrically mediated nuclear reactions in the photosphere. That provides a direct connection between neutrinos, the solar wind and sunspots. As the model name suggests, it takes into account the fundamental electrical nature of all matter.
Unbelievably, this is ignored in the standard solar model, which is based on the equilibrium between compression of a gaseous sphere by gravity and the expansive force of heat in the centre.
Eddington, who is responsible for the standard model, wrote: "In seeking a source of energy other than [gravitational] contraction the first question is whether the energy to be radiated in future is now hidden in the star or whether it is being picked up continuously from outside. Suggestions have been made that the impact of meteoric matter provides the heat, or that there is some subtle radiation traversing space that the star picks up. Strong objections may be urged against these hypotheses individually; but it is unnecessary to consider them in detail because they have arisen through a misunderstanding of the nature of the problem. No source of energy is of any avail unless it liberates energy in the deep interior of the star. [Emphasis in original] It is not enough to provide for the external radiation of the star. We must provide for the maintenance of the high internal temperature, without which the star would collapse."
So there we have it. The thermonuclear engine inside the Sun is required principally to save the model! If we can find a reason why the Sun is the size we see, given its mass, without requiring internal heat then an external source of energy is possible. A few pages earlier, Eddington seems to deal with electric charge in the interior of a star when he invokes the Maxwell-Boltzmann distribution law for a gas at uniform temperature in a gravitational field. It simply says that the lighter molecules will tend to rise to the top. He writes,
"In ionized material the electrons are far lighter than the ions and tend to rise to the top... But this separation is stopped almost before it has begun, because the minutest inequality creates a large electrostatic field which stops any further diffusion." The calculated result is "a deficiency of 1 electron in every million tons of matter. ...The electric force, which varies in proportion to gravity in the interior, is absurdly weak, but it stops any diffusion of the electron outwards."
Eddington's argument is too simplistic. Thermal ionization of hydrogen only becomes significant at a temperature of about 100,000K. So for most of the volume of a star where the gravity is strongest, atoms and molecules will predominate. (In the electric model that applies to the entire star). The nucleus of each atom, which is thousands of times heavier than the electrons, will be gravitationally offset from the centre of the atom. The result is that each atom becomes a small electric dipole. Those dipoles align to form a radial electric field that causes electrons to diffuse outwards in enormously greater numbers than simple gravitational sorting allows. That leaves positively charged ions behind which repel one another. That electrical repulsion balances the compressive force of gravity without the need for a central heat source in the star. An electric star will be roughly the same density throughout, or isodense. (An important corollary for the electric star model is that stars cannot be compressed to form neutron stars. The stronger the gravity the more powerful is the electrical repulsion to balance it. Since neutron stars are the theoretical pre-cursor of a black hole, both can be clearly seen to be a mathematical fiction).
Do we have any evidence that our Sun is essentially isodense? Some early work in helioseismology by Severney, Kotov and others found dominant pulsations of the Sun which fitted the homogeneous sphere model. They wrote in 1976, "The simplest interpretation is that we observed purely radial pulsations. The most striking fact is that the observed period [160 minutes] is almost precisely... the value if the Sun were to be an homogeneous sphere. ... We have investigated two possible solutions to this dilemma. The first alternative is that nuclear... reactions are not responsible for energy generation in the Sun. Such a conclusion, although rather extravagant, is quite consistent with the observed absence of appreciable neutrino flux from the Sun, and with the observed abundance of Li and Be in the solar atmosphere."
The second alternative involved force fitting the data to the standard solar model by assuming that the oscillations were not simply radial but of a more complicated form. However, the implications were so disturbing for theorists that the work was repeated in various locations and all sources of error looked for. The result in 1981 was that the original oscillation was found to be the highest peak in the power spectrum, and "one may conclude that 160-min oscillation shows mostly radial motion." In reporting the status of solar oscillation observations in 1991 in "Solar Interior and Atmosphere", F. Hill et al report on the 160-minute oscillation without any reference to the implied homogeneous Sun. Rather, they spend half a page casting suspicion on the extensive observations and attempting to minimize its significance. The reason is only thinly veiled; "Additional doubt comes from the difficulty of theoretically describing the nature of the oscillation. ...". In other words, we won't accept the data if it doesn't fit the standard model!
The solar dynamo theory requires turbulence to generate the magnetic field. The hypothetical convection zone was supposed to provide that turbulence. But then it was realized that the field structures would be too short-lived to explain the sunspot cycle so the turbulence was shoved deeper into another hypothetical zone of shearing. This 38-year pattern only makes matters far worse for that model.
Skeptic: It is up to someone else to see this in light of the "electric sun/star" hypothesis. We already know that the alleged rain of relativistic electrons responsible for the sun's surface temperature and magnetic field, according to the "electric sun/star" hypothesis, has as yet managed to remain undetected.
Thornhill: By ignoring, or not troubling to find out about Juergens' model, we have here a "straw man", built upon an unspecified model. Juergens was at great pains to describe the model of a cathode-less glow discharge in a plasma. That was the specific model he chose on the basis of its match to all of the observed phenomena we call "the Sun". That includes such things as granulation of the photosphere, chromospheric spicules, anomalous temperatures above the photosphere, anomalous Fraunhofer spectrum, and so on and on.
In a glow discharge, the current is carried through most of the volume, known as the positive column region, by a slow "drift" of electrons superimposed on their higher thermal velocity. It takes place in a quasi-neutral plasma with a low density of ionization.That is what we observe in interplanetary space. It is only very close to the anode that the electric field becomes strong and accelerates electrons to relativistic speeds. So if Thompson wants to find them he will need to get uncomfortably close to the Sun!
Of course, we have indirect evidence for that strong electric field in the accelerating positive ions (solar wind) heading in the opposite direction. The solar wind is a natural outcome of the electric Sun hypothesis. It is an embarrassment to the thermonuclear model of the Sun.
Skeptic: So does this mean that this rain of undetected electrons must have all of the solar periodicities buried in it (11 years, 22 years, 27 days 43 minutes), or do we accept even in this electric hypothesis, that these periodicities are of internal origin in the sun? If the latter, then why do we need an electric hypothesis to begin with? If not, then what effect imposes these periods on the incoming flow? And why does it remain undetected?
Having set up a straw man, the skeptic sets about making it look more ridiculous. It is unnecessary for all of the observed periodicities to be driven by the power source. Just as in electric circuits that have inductance and capacitance and non-linear plasma effects, there will be oscillatory modes that have nothing to do with the power source. Also it is well documented that the planets have an influence on the Sun which is too large to be attributed to the conventional view of gravity. However, if both gravity and magnetism are derived from the electrostatic force there is a connection that could affect the Sun in a cyclic fashion.
In the specific case of the Sun's magnetic field returning to the same configuration in each 11 year cycle, I consider the notion [see below] of Dr. Marcia Neugebauer, a Distinguished Visiting Scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. to be supremely ad hoc: "There may be something asymmetric about the Sun's interior, perhaps a deep-seated lump of old magnetic field,". After 30 years astrophysicists have still not learnt Alfvén's lesson that it is not possible to "freeze" magnetic fields into a plasma indefinitely.
I am not required to provide an explanation for all of the observed periodicities in order to have the electric star model considered seriously. The standard solar model cannot do it and it has had the full attention of hundreds of scientists for many decades. I can, however, provide some ideas that make more sense than that of Neugebauer.
The switch in polarity of the Sun's field is likely to be superimposed on other rhythms by the current source that feeds the Sun, that is the Birkeland currents that shape the galactic arms. The relative movement of the Sun transversely across each filament will see the Sun's local galactic magnetic field reverse polarity roughly cyclically.
The 27 day 43 minute cycle seems to be tied to the rotation of the Sun's core. In the standard model it is hard to imagine anything in a fiercely hot plasma that could lend itself to a longitudinal "memory". In the electric star model, it is likely that there is a solid object composed of heavy elements at the centre of the Sun. That would be much more likely to retain a longitudinal "memory".
Variability in the external power source of the Sun is evident in the solar wind, UV and x-rays. The standard solar model has no generally accepted way of explaining any of these phenomena, let alone their considerable variability. None of them have any business being there if the Sun is merely a thermonuclear heat source, radiating into space. The standard solar model doesn't predict any of them and the solar dynamo is simply an ad hoc barnacle added to that theory in an unsuccessful effort to save appearances.
Skeptic: It does seem that the "internal" solution is more parsimonious to me.
Comment: See Lyttleton's quote in para. 2 above. This is a remarkable statement because there simply isn't a single coherent "internal" solution to explain all of the complexity we see on the Sun. And since the action is coyly taking place out of sight (as with so many other astrophysical models), ad hoc changes can and are being made continually to force-fit the data to ever more models. They all argue backward from effect to cause so they cannot predict anything. In Poincaré's terms, the theories are almost certainly wrong. Who would be happy with "some large scale regular pattern that is yet to be described" as an explanation?
The solar dynamo "internal" solution is only parsimonious in its predictions, not in its assumptions. Juergens' work, on the other hand, has a distinct advantage in that it starts from the observations and looks for a physical model that best fits them all. It has predictive power and does not require a return to the drawing board with each new discovery.