The Absurdity of Neutron Stars
By Wal Thornhill
Nowhere is the gravitational paradigm of cosmology shown to
exhibit more strangeness than in compact high energy phenomena in
deep space. A report in the journal Nature of 15 November
proposes that a recently discovered star "is made of an exotic
stuff called 'strange matter', never yet seen on Earth". In other
words, it may be a "strange star". This bizarre suggestion comes
out of the mathematics describing stars that generate rapid
pulses of radiation, commonly called "pulsars". The x-ray pulses
are thought to be due to a rotating beam of x-rays that flashes
toward the Earth once per revolution like a cosmic lighthouse.
See picture at:
This seemingly simple model began to show signs of strain many
years ago when the first millisecond pulsar was discovered. In
order to flash (rotate) several times a second a pulsar would
need to be very compact indeed, only a few kilometres in
diameter. But to generate x-rays gravitationally requires an
extreme concentration of matter to accelerate particles to a
sufficiently high energy so that when they strike the star x-rays
are produced. The only objects that theoretically meet that
requirement are neutron stars and black holes. Both kinds of
object are well outside our experience.
The discovery now of an x-ray pulsar SAX J1808.4-3658 (J1808 for
short), located in the constellation of Sagittarius, that flashes
every 2.5 thousandths of a second (that is 24,000 RPM!) goes way
beyond the red-line even for a neutron star. So another ad hoc
requirement is added to the already long list - this pulsar must
be composed of something even more dense than packed neutrons -
When astrophysicists are having difficulty with their models they
traditionally turn for rescue to the nuclear physicists. (They
were called in to explain away the missing solar neutrinos).
The news report goes on: "The most fundamental building blocks of
nuclear matter are thought to be particles called quarks. The
'regular' nuclear particles or 'nucleons' - protons and neutrons
- are composed of 'up' and 'down' quarks: two up quarks and a
down quark make one proton, while a neutron consists of two downs
and an up. But there are at least four other, more exotic, kinds
of quark, amongst them the so-called 'strange' quark. In
nucleons, quarks are supposed to exist in inseparable groups of
three, which is why no one has ever seen an isolated quark. But
at extremely high densities of matter, quarks may become
uncoupled or 'deconfined'. 'Strange matter' is a melange of
deconfined up, down and strange quarks. Physicists are hoping
that the new particle colliders currently under construction,
such as the Larger Hadron Collider at CERN in Geneva, will create
conditions extreme enough to break quarks free. But the Universe
may have got there first. X.-D. Li of Nanjing University, China,
and colleagues' suggestion that J1808 is a strange star follows a
small number of similar proposals for other astrophysical objects
that emit bursts of X-rays. The X-ray bursts from these objects
are signs of violent activity of a sort that becomes possible
only when matter is pushed to extremes."
Wal Thornhill comments:
I think J R Saul highlighted the language problem we are seeing
here when he wrote, "Ten geographers who think the world is flat
will tend to reinforce each other's errors. If they have a
private dialect in which to do this, it becomes impossible for
outsiders to disagree with them. Only a sailor can set them
straight. The last person they want to meet is someone who, freed
from the constraints of expertise, has sailed around the world."
J R Saul, Voltaire's Bastards.
The Nobel Laureate, Irving Langmuir, coined the term
"pathological science" for "the science of things that aren't
Two key symptoms of such science are:
(1) the resort to fantastic theories contrary to our
(2) the use of ad-hoc requirements to save the appearances.
If we apply these criteria, two disciplines that share line
honours for pathological or strange science are cosmology and
particle physics. They both deal with unseen objects - neutron
stars, black holes, quarks, etc. They both produce fantastic ad-
hoc requirements to explain new discoveries - dark matter, super-
heavy objects and exotic particles. They cross-infect each other
with their theoretical requirements both to save appearances and
convince governments to spend large sums of research money for
super-colliders to replay bits of a hypothetical Big Bang, or to
build gravity-wave telescopes when we have no proof such waves
exist. The above report brings such strange science sharply into
It is not ordinary matter, but scientific models that are being
pushed to extremes. Einstein warned: "Most mistakes in philosophy
and logic occur because the human mind is apt to take the symbol
for reality". Neutron stars and quarks have never been seen. They
are derived from mathematical symbols. Let's take quarks first.
There is little to suggest that any of the shrapnel from high
energy colliders exists in normal matter. If enormous energy is
spent in shattering a proton to unlock the hypothetical quarks
then the energy itself may manifest as particles that don't play
any part in ordinary matter. Flying a 747 into a mountainside and
picking over the ruins is not the best way of finding out how an
aircraft works. Suggesting that a star can be composed stably of
unobserved particles simply because a theory of invisible, super-
heavy objects demands it is asking too much!
Here are some of the many unstated assumptions underpinning the
X-ray pulsar model:
1. It is assumed that the physics of neutral matter and ideal
gases on Earth can be used to explain the operation of the
glowing balls of plasma we call stars.
Wal: 99.999% of the universe is made of plasma. It is not
necessarily electrically neutral and does not behave like an
2. It is assumed that all interstellar plasma is mostly an
ionized, uncharged, superconducting gas that can trap and carry
Wal: Plasma is not a superconductor so magnetic fields cannot
be trapped in it. The origin of the magnetic fields is not clear
from standard theory. The Electric Universe proposes that
magnetic fields and plasma filaments in space are formed by
electrical currents in charged plasma. (No book on astronomy
mentions electrical effects).
3. It is assumed that we understand how our Sun and other stars
shine, evolve, and someday die or form neutron stars.
Wal: We do not understand the Sun's magnetic field, the hot
corona, solar wind, solar cycle, x-ray variability, coronal mass
ejections, sunspots, low neutrino count, etc., etc.
4. It is assumed that we understand what causes a supernova
Wal: The number of ad hoc assumptions required for a mechanical
explosion following a sudden stellar implosion results in a
highly unlikely explanation. SN1987A showed that such explosions
are not spherically symmetrical.
5. It is assumed that a supernova can "squeeze" stellar protons
and electrons together to form neutrons.
Wal: A first-order wild conjecture. The model incorporates many
unproven assumptions about the unseen internal structure of
stars. If the implosion is not spherically symmetrical there may
be insufficient "squeeze" to force protons and electrons to
merge, even if that were possible. No account is taken of
electrical effects. Our own Sun with a mean density only slightly
above that of pure hydrogen shows that electrostatic forces are
at work within stars to offset compression forces.
6. It is assumed that it is possible to form a stable neutron
Wal: When not associated with protons in a nucleus, neutrons
decay into protons and electrons in a few minutes. Atomic nuclei
with too many neutrons are unstable. If it were possible to form
a neutron star, why should it be stable?
7. It is assumed that a supernova can further squeeze neutrons
until they "pop their quarks".
Wal: A second-order wild conjecture.
8. It is assumed that it is possible to have a stable massive
object composed of quarks.
Wal: A third-order wild conjecture based on the pathologies of
both astrophysics and nuclear physics. It is an unseen object
composed of unseen matter.
9. It is assumed that a neutron star can convert the energy of
infalling matter into tightly collimated, pulsed x-ray beams.
Wal: It is difficult to imagine a more unlikely way of
achieving this effect.
10. It is assumed that a spinning object is required to cause the
Wal: Only required in a purely mechanical model.
11. It is assumed that Nature overlooks the normal (and
infinitely easier) method of creating x-rays by accelerating
electrons in an electric field.
12. It is assumed that Nature overlooks the simplest way of
creating pulsed radiation by a charge-discharge relaxation
oscillator cycle (where electric charge builds up slowly until a
threshold is reached and a sudden discharge occurs).
13. It is assumed that Nature ignores the simplest way of
creating a highly collimated x-ray beam and particle jet (if one
is required from the observations) by the use of the plasma focus
The Electric Universe model assumes that Nature knows best. It
does not require strange matter or a strange star. The x-ray
pulses are caused by regular electric discharges between two or
more orbiting, normally constituted, electrically charged bodies.
It is a manifestation of a periodic arc instead of a spinning
star. If beaming of the radiation is occurring then that should
be verifiable here on Earth in the lab by studying the plasma
For diagram of the plasma focus device, go to:
The Electric Universe model lets go of the Newtonian dogma that
gravity is the driving force in the cosmos. It allows for the
possibility that the fundamental characteristic of normal matter
- its electric charge - plays the most significant role. So if
gravity wave telescopes detect anything at all, it won't be
gravity waves from super-heavy objects. And particle physicists
who are trying to work out how the universe was constructed from
strange matter early in the Big Bang are wasting their time. The
astronomer Halton Arp, author of the Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies,
has conclusively disproven the theory of an expanding universe
and so knocked out the foundation of the Big Bang theory.
Meanwhile the plasma physicists and electrical engineers are
waiting in the wings for those astro-and nuclear-physicists
parading their strange science in public to get off the stage. It
would be entertaining if it weren't so serious. But it is costing
us dearly and holding up real progress.