The Electric Universe

Wallace Thornhill

Delivered at the SIS Silver Jubilee Conference,
Friday 17th - Sunday 19th September 1999

Draft Paper for SIS Jubilee Conference 1999

"In questions of science the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual." Galileo Galilei

A few professionals, like the astronomer Halton Arp, are challenging the accepted Big Bang model of the universe. His latest book, Seeing Red, is a war-cry against Big Bang cosmology. He writes in the preface to his book, "This, then, is the crisis for the reasonable members of the profession. With so many alternative, contradictory theories, many of them fitting the evidence very badly, abandoning the accepted theory is a frightening step into chaos. At this point, I believe we must look for salvation from the non-specialists, amateurs and interdisciplinary thinkers [emphasis added] -- those who form judgments on the general thrust of the evidence, those who are skeptical about any explanation, particularly official ones, and above all are tolerant of other people's theories. (When the complete answer is not known, in a sense everyone is a crackpot ... ).

Hannes Alfvén wrote, "How our solar system was formed is a question that today attracts as much interest as the problem of the Creation did in the past. In many theories advocated today, the basic approach to this problem remains remarkably similar to what it was in ancient times: The author hypothetically assumes some specific primordial configuration of matter and then deduces a process from which some significant features of the present state emerge. When the basic assumption is unrelated to actually observed phenomena, chances are that the result will be the same as over thousands of years: a model which, by definition, is a myth, although it may be adorned with differential equations in accordance with the requirements of modem times.

Dr. S. Ross Taylor in July 1998 received the prestigious Leonard Medal of the Meteoritical Society. In his address, titled "On the difficulties of making Earth-like planets", he concluded: 'When the remote chances of developing a habitable planet are added to the chances of developing both high intelligence and a technically advanced civilization, the odds of finding 'little green men' elsewhere in the universe decline to zero." Something is seriously wrong if Taylor, using the best models that modern science can provide, concludes that we probably shouldn't exist! We are overdue for a better model of the universe.

There is another model - the Electric Universe. It is based on the fundamental role of charged plasma and the vastly more powerful electric force in organising and driving the universe. The phenomena associated with plasmas are scalable over an enormous range from atomic to galactic dimensions.

The far-sighted Kristian Birkeland' ' (1867-1917) wrote, "According to our manner of looking at the matter, every star in the universe would be the seat and field of activity of electric forces of a strength that no one could imagine." By the time that other Swede, Alfvén (1908-1995), took up the gauntlet our cosmology had been fabricated on our restricted earthly understanding of solids, liquids and gases. Too many fruitful lines of enquiry have since been discarded on theoretical grounds without due deference to the phenomena'.

The Electric Universe is a much simpler cosmology based primarily on phenomenology and experiment. Slightly charged plasma is capable of creating complexity and order in tenuous gas and dust. Even in a superficially neutral plasma such as a proto-stellar cloud, it has been found that one particle in 10,000 is charged so that electromagnetic forces will dominate gravity by a factor of 10 million to l! Galaxies are one example of a natural plasma structure, stars are another. The physicist Eric Lerner has published a populist description of a simple alternative plasma model of the universe. The model has been developed principally by Alfvén and plasma physicist, Tony Peratt. It closely matches deep space observations without recourse to unseen matter and other ad-hocery. But astronomers are custodians of the keys to the cosmos and will not give any credit to plasma cosmology.