Assumptions About Space Science Need to be Revisited.

By   |  February 16, 2009

Magnetic fields find their genesis in electric currents. Magnetic fields are observed ubiquitously in space. However, space scientists illogically refuse to make the deductive leap required of them. Space is permeated by diffuse large-scale electric currents flowing in the interplanetary, interstellar and intergalactic plasma pervading it.

The hyperphysics site, administered by Carl Nave of the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Georgia State University, defines magnetic field genesis quite succinctly:

Magnetic fields are produced by electric currents, which can be macroscopic currents in [a conductor], or microscopic currents associated with electrons in atomic orbits.

Is this an accurate description of the relationship? Others sites appear to be in agreement. Wikipedia (despite its many flaws) succinctly states the same relationship in its article on electric current:

Electric current produces a magnetic field. The magnetic field can be visualized as a pattern of circular field lines surrounding the [current].

Electric current can be directly measured with a galvanometer, but this method involves breaking the circuit, which is sometimes inconvenient. Current can also be measured without breaking the circuit by detecting the magnetic field associated with the current.

In addition to stating the relationship, Wikipedia also observes that magnetic fields are diagnostic for electric currents. In other words, observing a magnetic field tells us that an electric current must be flowing and can (if we can gather enough information) tell us the direction and strength of the current.

Going further, Wikipedia elucidates the source of electric fields as well as magnetic fields in the article on the unified electromagnetic field:

According to Ampère's law, an electric current produces a magnetic field. The relationship between current and magnetic field follows the Right Hand Rule.

The electromagnetic field is a physical field produced by electrically charged objects. It affects the behavior of charged objects in the vicinity of the field.

The field can be viewed as the combination of an electric field and a magnetic field. The electric field is produced by stationary charges, and the magnetic field by moving charges (currents); these two are often described as the sources of the field. The way in which charges and currents interact with the electromagnetic field is described by Maxwell’s equations and the Lorentz force law.

So, charges relatively at rest with respect to one another (be they a proton and an electron, or a cloud of protons and a cloud of electrons some distance apart and at rest with respect to one another) create the electric field or voltage difference between charged objects.

Charges in motion, in currents, are the source of the magnetic field. To qualify as a current (generally) there must be a net motion of at least one sign of charge (say, electrons) all moving in the same direction, without an equal number of opposite charges moving in the same direction.

Lest we take Wikipedia’s word for it, we can fact-check with another field of inquiry. The World Health Organization recognizes the same definitions.

Electric fields are created by differences in voltage: the higher the voltage, the stronger will be the resultant field. Magnetic fields are created when electric current flows: the greater the current, the stronger the magnetic field. An electric field will exist even when there is no current flowing. If current does flow, the strength of the magnetic field will vary with power consumption but the electric field strength will be constant.
(Extract from Electromagnetic fields published by the WHO Regional Office for Europe in 1999 (Local authorities, health and environment briefing pamphlet series; 32).

Separated clouds of charge set up an electric field between them. This falls under the purview of electrostatics or charges at rest with respect to one another. Charges in motion in currents create a magnetic field around them. This falls largely under the purview of electrodynamics or charges in motion with respect to one another.

NASA scientists Dr. David P. Stern and Dr Mauricio Peredo explain electromagnetism in relatively simple (albeit lengthy) terms:

People not familiar with magnetism often view it as a somewhat mysterious property of specially treated iron or steel.

It is all related to electricity.

Close to 1800 it was found that when the ends of a chemical “battery” were connected by a metal wire, a steady stream of electric charges flowed in that wire and heated it. That flow became known as an electric current. In a simplified view, what happens is that electrons hop from atom to atom in the metal.

In 1821 Hans Christian Oersted in Denmark found, unexpectedly, that such an electric current caused a compass needle to move. An electric current produced a magnetic force!

Andre-Marie Ampere in France soon unraveled the meaning. The fundamental nature of magnetism was not associated with magnetic poles or iron magnets, but with electric currents. The magnetic force was basically a force between electric currents (figure below):


–Two parallel currents in the same direction attract each other.
–Two parallel currents in opposite directions repel each other.

Here is how this can lead to the notion of magnetic poles. Bend the wires into circles with constant separation (figure below):


–Two circular currents in the same direction attract each other.
–Two circular currents in opposite directions repel each other.

In space, on the Sun and in the Earth’s core, electric currents are the only source of magnetism. We loosely refer to the region of their influence as their magnetic field, a term which will be further discussed later.

So, it seems quite plain that there is wide agreement between various disciplines that electric currents generate magnetic fields and are in fact the sole source of magnetic fields in the microscopic realm all the way up to the cosmological realm. Magnetic fields reduce to a force between electric currents.

However, this fact seems to elude astronomers and astrophysicists. They constantly seem befuddled by where magnetic fields come from, how they got there. Case in point: galactic magnetic fields. the rather arcane current theory is that some kind of “seed field” (unclearly defined what that is or how it started) was created in the early universe and has grown stronger over the billions of years a galaxy has been in existence through some kind of “dynamo action” (also not well defined).

Astronomers believe the magnetic fields within our own Milky Way and other nearby galaxies—which control the rate of star formation and the dynamics of interstellar gas–arose from a slow “dynamo effect.” In this process, slowly rotating galaxies are thought to have generated magnetic fields that grew very gradually as they evolved over 5 billion to 10 billion years to their current levels.

But in the October 2 issue of Nature, the astronomers report that the magnetic field they measured in this distant “protogalaxy” is at least 10 times greater than the average value in the Milky Way.

“This was a complete surprise,” said Arthur Wolfe, a professor of physics at UC San Diego’s Center for Astrophysics and Space Sciences who headed the team. “The magnetic field we measured is at least an order of magnitude larger than the average value of the magnetic field detected in our own galaxy.”

But a team of Swiss and American astronomers reported in the July 17 issue of Nature that an indirect measurement of the magnetic fields of 20 distant galaxies, using the bright light from quasars, suggests that the magnetic fields of young galaxies were as strong when the universe was only a third of its current age as they are in the mature galaxies today.

Wolfe said those indirect measurements and his team’s latest direct measurement of a distant galaxy’s magnetic field “do not necessarily cast doubt on the leading theory of magnetic field generation, the mean-field-dynamo model, which predicts that the magnetic field strengths should be much weaker in galaxies in the cosmological past.”

They seem completely unwilling to revisit their cherished assumptions or admit that magnetic fields are generated dynamically in the present by continuous electric currents. Richard Fitzpatrick, professor of physics at the University of Texas at Austin, writes:

… steady electric and magnetic fields cannot generate themselves. Instead, they have to be generated by stationary charges and steady currents. So, if we come across a steady electric field we know that if we trace the field-lines back we shall eventually find a charge. Likewise, a steady magnetic field implies that there is a steady current flowing somewhere. All of these results follow from vector field theory (i.e., from the general properties of fields in three-dimensional space), prior to any investigation of electromagnetism.

Astronomers are equally reticent to acknowledge that such currents may play a non-trivial (or a more likely dominant) role in the structure and function of the universe.

The universe is threaded by them. Where electric currents flow, the force of gravity is overwhelmed by the electric force by many, many, many orders of magnitude.

In fact, if astronomers and astrophysicists were to acknowledge and apply electrodynamics from the lab in the realm of cosmological theory, we might finally make sense of some of the biggest riddles of the space age.

As one case in point, take cosmological “dark matter.” Fact right? Consensus, maybe… But consensus does not a fact make. Michael Crichton summed that up quite explicitly in an article entitled “Aliens Cause Global Warming“:

Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.

How and why did “dark matter” come to be? The answer boils down to a “framed hypothesis,” a hypothesis that “could not fail” (not because it’s right, but because there is an inertia of belief behind it).

The problem of “belief” in science is a tricky one. But one that must be dealt with.

David Harriman summed up the problem fairly well in his article “Where Have You Gone, Isaac Newton?

Isaac Newton called for an end to [un-scientific] lunacy. He famously declared that he “framed no hypotheses” — meaning that he dismissed any idea that was unsupported by observational evidence. After Newton, peddlers of nonsense were banished to the disreputable realm of pseudo-science.

Until recently.

Today, physicists suppose that a particle can travel many different paths simultaneously, or travel backwards in time, or randomly pop into and out of existence from nothingness. They enjoy treating the entire universe as a “fluctuation of the vacuum,” or as an insignificant member of an infinite ensemble of universes, or even as a hologram. The fabric of this strange universe is a non-entity called “spacetime,” which expands, curves, attends yoga classes, and may have twenty-six dimensions.

Physicists didn’t reach this state of intellectual bankruptcy overnight. Early in the 20th century, Einstein explicitly rejected Newton’s scientific method. “We now realize,” Einstein wrote, “how much in error are those theorists who believe that theory comes inductively from experience.” Instead, he insisted that theories are “free creations of the human mind.” The inevitable result of such freedom is the currently fashionable “fantasy physics.”

Of course, physicists don’t admit that they are engaged in fantasy. They say they are following the “hypothetico-deductive method,” which sounds much more scientific. This method, however, allows them to dream up any “theory” that tickles their fancy, provided they can deduce at least one consequence that might be observable sometime, somewhere, by somebody.

Real knowledge is the hard-won reward of a step-by-step process that takes us from observations to abstractions, generalizations and theories. In contrast, daydreaming requires little effort. That explains why theorists have been able to reach the “end of physics” so quickly and easily. Unfortunately, their stories about make-believe worlds are of no value to people living in the actual world.

Getting back to the issue of cosmological “dark matter,” let us return to Zwicky, Rubin, et al. A recent news article on “How We See Dark Matter” inadvertently laid out the indictment against them:

The idea of dark matter was born at Caltech in 1933. (Just three years later, JPL would be born there as the “rocket boys” began their first launch experiments.) In observations of a nearby cluster of galaxies named the Coma cluster, Fritz Zwicky calculated that the collective mass of the galaxies was not nearly enough to hold them together in their orbits.

He postulated that some other form of matter was present but undetected to account for this “missing mass.” Later, in the 1970’s and ’80’s, Vera Rubin similarly found that the arms of spiral galaxies should fly off their cores as they are orbiting much too quickly.

The issue here, in my opinion, boils down to a “framed hypothesis.” In other words, rather than looking at the data and allowing it to falsify their gravitational model (by far insufficient amounts of gravitating matter were observed to account for galactic and cluster structure and motions by solely the force of gravity), they instead chose to keep their falsified model and “patch” it up by inventing a new invisible form of matter that’s undetectable and does not proceed from any known laws of physics or previously observed entities.

One is tempted to say that the queen of the sciences (astronomy, so they say) has no clothes.

The alternative to “dark matter” lies in the falsification of the gravitational model by direct observations. If gravitational interaction of observable matter is not a sufficient mechanism, some other force and mechanism is required to be put in place of the failed model.

In Zwicky and Rubin’s defense, the alternative answer may not yet have been available until much more recently, with the advent of supercomputers and particle-in-cell simulations of electric forces within and between clouds of plasma. That still doesn’t excuse the failure to acknowledge that data had falsified the gravity-only regime and to look for alternatives.

We might, however, yet be able to salvage cosmology from the abstract mathematical cosmologists infesting the sciences today, who appear to have not visited a plasma physics lab or studied the behavior of real-world plasma.

A paper published in 1986 by a Los Alamos plasma physicist, detailing the behavior of simulated clouds of co-rotating charges in interaction, appears to show us a road down the path not taken.

Evolution of the Plasma Universe: II. The Formation of Systems of Galaxies is an excellent paper detailing the evolution of galaxies from the perspective of plasma physics, under the assumption that electromagnetic forces, and not the much weaker force of gravity, dominate galactic interactions. Its direct predecessor (dealing with double radio galaxies, quasars and extragalactic jets) is a good read as well. In neither is any “new physics” or “new exotic particle zoo” created. The existing laws of electromagnetism are simply applied as the foundational assumption and allowed to run their course. The results beg further investigation and independent replication.

It is some of these critical junctures where more than one interpretation may have been possible but alternatives have not been fully explored that must be reassessed in light of newer data and newer understandings. The universe may be a more “knowable” and less “dark” place after all.

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5 Comments on “Assumptions About Space Science Need to be Revisited.”  (RSS)

  1. There seems to be some level of groupthink and lack of follow-up.

    IE, not every scientist is able to themselves independently review or verify the claims made by others and tend to rely on “authorities” to tell them what to believe. So, it may not necessarily be the entirety of science that has gotten it wrong, so much as one or two who got it wrong, one or two who found it “credible” and then everyone else just smiled, nodded and went along for the ride down the garden path and straight into a blind alley…

    A course reversal is required before they reach the cliff and follow each other off like lemmings. *Wink*

    There’s also some grain of truth to the criticism of “peer review as scholarly conformity”… IE, nobody wants to rock the boat. OR perhaps some people don’t want to boat to “get rocked” and will do whatever is necessary to keep “troublemakers” off it.

    ~Michael Gmirkin

  2. Indeed, many theories that are touted as fact are based upon assumptions that are not held to the proper level of scrutiny.

  3. Hey there Emilio,
    Glad you enjoyed the article.

    Information overload? Yeah, that happens sometimes. :o)

    Be well (an aspirin helps, or so I hear).

    ~Michael Gmirkin

  4. Ahhh, here you are.

    Still thinking too much I see, but a well constructed article nonetheless.

    Thought provoking for most, I am sure, but I started getting a headache about half-way through.

    Keep up the good work.

    See you around.

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