Thornhill's Original Message

on the matter of the Electric Star Hypothesis

What follows is a copy of the original message from Wal Thornhill, which prompted my response. As with my own message, I have saved myself the trouble of HTML formatting. I have also removed all Email addresses from the message. Other than that, it is an unedited, faithful reproduction of the original, including the full inclusion of Joe Canepa's message.

At 9:36 PM 2/5/98, Joe Canepa wrote:
>On Wed, 29 Apr 1998, Robert Grumbine wrote:
>> Subject: Re: Going backwards on questions
>> >On Tue, 28 Apr 1998, Robert Grumbine wrote:
>Previously, I wrote:
>> >The ordinary theory of gases does not apply to matter in the plasma form.
>> >The sun is both plasma and energy and I would surmise that more is
>> >unknown than known about its interior.
>> >
>> >May I suggest Alfven as a start.
>R. Grumbine then replied
>>   If you'd read Alfven, you'd discover that the properties I list
>> apply to plasmas as well.  These are very basic things and observed
>> on the earth as well (labs, ionosphere, magnetosphere).
>T. Thompson also repeated my
>>> The ordinary theory of gases does not apply to matter in the plasma form
>and said
>> >Wrong, it certainly does.
>In 1981 Hannes Alfven started his book _Cosmic Plasma_ with:
>"Plasma physics started along two parallel lines. One of them was
>the hundred-year-old investigation into what was called 'electric
>discharges in gases'. To a high degree, this approach was
>experimental and phenomenological, and only very slowly did it
>reach some degree of theoretical sophistication. Most theoretical
>physicists looked down on this field which was complicated and
>awkward. The plasma exhibited striations, double layers, and an
>assortment of oscillations and instabilities. The electron
>temperature was often found to be one or two orders of magnitude
>larger than the gas temperature, with the ion temperature
>intermediate. In short, it was a field which was not well suited
>for mathematically elegant theories.
>The other approach came from the highly developed kinetic theory
>of ordinary gases. It was thought that, with a limited amount of
>work, this field could be extended to include ionized gases. The
>theories were mathematically elegant and claimed to derive all of
>the properties of a plasma from first principles. In realty. this
>was not true. Because of the complexity of the problem, a number
>of approximations were necessary which were not always
>appropriate. The theories had very little contact with
>experimental physics: all awkward and complicated phenomena
>observed in the laboratory were simply neglected.
>.........Theories about plasmas, at the time called ionized
>gases, were developed without any contact with laboratory plasma
>work. In spite of this - or perhaps because of this - belief in
>the theories was so strong that they were applied directly to
>space. One of the results was the Chapman-Ferraro theory (for a
>review see Akasofu and Chapman, 1972) which became accepted to
>such an extent that Bikeland's approach was almost completely
>forgotten. For thirty or forty years, Birkland's results were
>often ignored in textbooks and surveys, and all attempts to
>revive and develop them were neglected.
>The crushing victory of the theoretical approach over the
>experimental approach lasted only until the theory was to make
>experimentally verifiable predictions. From the theory, it was
>concluded that in the laboratory, plasmas could easily be
>confined in magnetic fields and heated to such temperatures as to
>make thermonuclear release of energy possible. When attempts were
>made to construct thermonuclear reactors, a confrontation between
>the theories and reality was unavoidable the results were
>catastrophic. Although the theories were generally accepted, the
>plasma itself refused to believe them. "
>This is not to say that Juergens' theory that the sun is an anode is
>valid. His observation was that the sun appears to violate the 2nd law of
>thermodynamics in that the heat transfer in the wrong way. My friend
>Leroy, if I recall correctly, once attempted to explain this
>by an analogy of a man with  a cigarette lighter in his extended arm.
>Neither suggestion is correct as the sun is not a collection of ordinary
>gas. It a collection of matter in the plasma form and as such the
>temperature of the electrons is orders of magnitude higher than the rest
>of the body. A normal condition for a plasma.
>The approach which Alfven suggested must ignore the elegant and simplistic
>ordinary gases theory as the electormagnetic forces within a plasma
>An example of why Alfven's approach within his _Cosmic Plasma_:
>"II.5         Local Plasma Properties and the Circuit
>Consider a plasma tube, in which the current I, originating from
>a battery with e.m.f. V`b, is transmitted by a circuit with a
>resistance R`o and inductance L (Figure II.16). The voltage V (L)
>between electrodes is a function of I and of plasma parameters
>                     R
>         _________________________
>         |                       |
>   ______|____|             |____|_______
>   |     |    |             |    |      |
>   |     |_______________________|      |
>   |              PLASMA                |
>   |                                    |
>   |                                    |
>___|___                                 |_
>|      |                                  )
>|      | R`o                              )
>|      |                                  ) L
>|______|                                  )
>   |                                     _)
>   |                                    |
>   |                                    |
>   |                                    |
>   |___________________|  |_____________|_
>                          |
>                        V`b
>Fg II.16  A plasma tube in a circuit. The behavior of the plasma
>depends on the circuit. If the plasma has a negative resistance
>R, it will oscillate if R`o + R < 0. Hence by varying R`o we can
>control the oscillations. Further, the inductance L determines
>the frequency and the total energy release should the current
>through the plasma be disrupted. Hence even if we know all the
>                                       ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
>plasma parameters (temperature, pressure, magnetization, etc.) in
>the tube,  we cannot predict the behavior of the plasma unless we
>know the parameters of the circuit in which the plasma is a part.
>density, magnetic field, temperature, etc. which depend on I in a
>complicated way, If, to the first approximation, we set
>V(I) = V`o +R (I-I`o) where I`o and R are constants, the voltage
>between electrodes at I = I`o, the circuit obeys the equation
>   dI
> L --   = V`b - V`o - ( R + R`o)( I -I`o)
>   dt
>If R + R`o = 0, the plasma will always be in equilibrium
>V`o = V`b. If R = R`o > 0 and V`o = V`b, the current will
>decrease until decrease until an equilibrium is reached. However,
>if R + R`o < 0 ( which it often is, because R is frequently
>negative), an equilibrium is impossible. As a result the plasma
>may produce regular oscillations with frequency f, or the current
>may go to zero with a certain time constant. In the later case,
>the discharge may be either automatically reexcited or left
>extinct (see II.6.1 and II.6.5).
>Hence, the behavior of the plasma depends on the outer circuit.
>       ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
>A stable plasma discharge may be made unstable by decreasing R`o.
>The frequency of the oscillations can be regulated by changing
>R`o ot L, and, of course, V`b is of decisive importance.
>In the case of the instability leading to an extinction of the
>circuit, it should be remembered that every electric circuit is
>                                 ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
>explosive in the sense that if we try to disrupt the current, a
>of the whole inductive energy
>       W`L = 1/2 L I^2
>at the point of disruption will occur. This is a well known
>phenomenon in high-power transmission lines: switching off the
>current necessarily leads to an explosion which must be absorbed
>by the switch.
>If the current disruption is caused by an instability in the
>plasma, the inductive energy W`L in the circuit will be released
>        ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
>in the plasma. It will then cause an explosion which may be
>violent if W`L is large. As we shall see, the disruption of a
>current is often caused by a double layer becoming unstable. "
>[all emphasis in the original, jc]
>note: the character ` is used to indicate a subscript, jc
>>From this one can readily see that ordinary gas theory has little
>relevance with a plasma explosion. Saying this in a different way, one
>could know exactly what the temperature, volume and pressure within a
>given body of ionized gas but have no explanation of why the gas exploded.
>I am not sure this any relevance to Wal Thornhill's theories as I have
>never read his work. On the other hand most of what Tim Thompson is
>saying appears correct but seems to have a different basis than the line
>of reasoning which Alfven suggests.


I'm pleased to see that someone else is treading essentially the same path
that I am. The "wake-up call" came for me when Ralph Juergens wrote in the
mid-70's that none of the observed features of our sun matched the
expectations of a radiant ball of gas. He quoted extensively from Alfven's
work. I agree entirely with your treatment of stars as a part of an
electrical circuit rather than self-sustaining, isolated gas spheres. (I
pointed out some years ago that the possible oscillatory nature of such
circuits may offer a simple explanation for some variable stars and
pulsars. The explosive effects are seen in novae and some features on the

Plasma cosmologists seem to me to be much closer than astrophysicists to
discovering the mechanisms that form stars, galaxies and the larger
structures we find in the known universe. Unfortunately, plasma
cosmologists and astrophysicists tend not to attend each other's
conferences. My last post on the subject attempted to highlight the
problems of such mutual avoidance when a respected plasma physicists noted,
within weeks of first looking at the problem of the dynamics of solar
prominences, that it was obviously an electrical discharge - so he asked
why were the astrophysicists concerned only with the magnetic structures?

Tim Thompson is merely repeating aspects of the standard model which, as
you say, "appears correct". But Tim has the unfortunate habit of the
SKEPTIC of presenting arguments in black-and-white terms when they are
actually all shades of grey. I should know, because unlike the caricature
of me constructed by my opponents, I am a skeptic who makes an effort to
learn as much as I can about a subject before putting my point of view. I
attended the postgraduate course in astrophysics at the University of
London a few years ago for just that purpose. I was particularly interested
in the unit on plasma physics. At the last lecture I approached the
lecturer and asked whether the subject of plasma discharges was to be
covered in any future units. The answer came "Oh, we don't do that." For
me, that pinpointed a glaring blind-spot in astrophysics. Unfortunately,
there was no course available in plasma cosmology (and still isn't so far
as I know).

When it comes to identifying grey areas in the standard model, they are
legion. The greyest of all is the source of the energy to hypothetically
support the sun against gravity. As Parker & Rolfs wrote in their paper,
Nuclear Energy Generation in the Solar Interior,  "...we may be forced to
conclude that after more than 60 yr, we still have only qualitative
evidence for thermonuclear reactions in the solar interior." (Solar
Interior and Atmosphere, 1991, Cox, Livingstone & Matthews, Editors, p.33).
Helioseismology is supposed to be the new tool to unravel what is going on
inside the sun. Yet here is another grey area. The fundamental question of
what causes the oscillations is unanswered by the standard model: "Another
unclear problem is that any oscillation must be triggered: the flute does
not produce music unless one blows in it, so to speak. Therefore one is led
to the question: who is blowing the pipe?", Pecker, The Global Sun, ibid,
p.21. Electrical discharges are inherently very noisy. If the granulations
in the photosphere do represent the tops of gigantic electrical discharges
(as suggested by another unexplained phenomena in the standard model - the
filaments of penumbrae), then there should be a constant barrage of
explosive pressure waves directed downward, sufficient to set the sun
ringing like a bell.
Another grey area is the high temperature of the solar corona. The latest
reports are coming down in favour of transfer of energy from within the sun
by "magnetic reconnection" rather than Alfven waves. But magnetic
reconnection in a plasma is, in my opinion, a euphemism for an electrical
discharge phenomena. The unwillingness of astrophysicists to deal with
first order (electric current) implications of second order (magnetic)
effects is quite striking.
Of course, the generation of the solar magnetic field by a solar dynamo is
another very grey area. DeLuca and Gilma, The Solar Dynamo, ibid, p.303,
write "In closing, we remark that, after many years through which the
prevailing opinion was that the problem of the solar dynamo was "solved" by
mean field electro-dynamics applied to the bulk of the solar convection
zone, new observational and theoretical results have now overturned that
belief, leading to a stimulating new period of proliferation of solar
dynamo theories." The motions inside the sun suggested by helioseismology
have generally conflicted with models of the solar dynamo. The more recent
discovery that the magnetic field lines near the poles of the sun are
evenly spaced rather than crowding together like a normal dipole field,
actually fits the model of the sun being a focus for an electric discharge.
In that model, the field lines trace the current flow and are evenly spaced
because of the short range repulsion of Birkeland currents. The filamentary
nature of most of the phenomena above the photosphere is characteristic of
Birkeland currents in a plasma.
Another grey area is that of the acceleration of the solar wind. Withbroe,
Feldman & Ahluwalia, The Solar Wind and its Coronal Origins, ibid, p. 1094,
write: "Finally, we still do not know how the coronal plasma in these
regions [coronal holes] is heated and accelerated to form the solar wind;
the coronal heating mechanism is unknown and there are uncertainties as to
the role of wave-particle interactions in accelerating the solar wind."

The electrical model of the sun has a simple plausible qualitative
explanation for most, if not all, of the features we see on and above the
photosphere. On the other hand, the standard model seems to rely on ever
more complex ad-hoc and disjoint theories to wind up with a grey, murky
picture which is supposed to provide us with a standard by which to measure
all stars. The electrical model lends itself to laboratory simulations
which should quickly show its worth. Anyone who scans the journals of
plasma physics will see that this approach is essential since the papers
are littered with caveats that anode and cathode behaviour in electrical
discharges are poorly understood.

It is not necessary for me to provide a full working model of an electric
star. I have many ideas, but our physics is lacking in some crucial areas.
And, a point I tried to make in my earlier post, which didn't seem to
penetrate, is that we do not know the true radius of the sun if the
photosphere merely defines the visible limit of a spherical discharge. So
even if the body of the sun obeyed the standard gas theory, the boundary
conditions defined by the photosphere are not primarily related to anything
going on inside the sun and cannot be used to deduce conditions in its
centre. Certainly, if the true radius of the sun is appreciably smaller
than that defined by the photosphere, conditions at the centre of the sun
will be less conducive to nuclear fusion. The lack of neutrinos tends to
confirm this view.

It is sufficient, surely, to tie together phenomenologically and
quantitatively all of the complex phenomena we can actually see to have a
strong argument for consideration of the electric discharge model. As Sir
Arthur Eddington wrote all those years ago: "Perhaps in the crude stages of
a theory qualitative evidence is more significant than quantitative." The
Internal Constitution of the Stars, 1926,  p. 310.

Wal Thornhill

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