is an immensely more powerful force than gravity, and far more complex
in the ways it interacts with matter. Yet modern astronomy remains
wedded to a belief in gravity as the dominant mover and shaper of
the universe, and seeks to explain new observations in terms that
conceptually go back hundreds of years. James Hogan describes an
emerging alternative theory that recognizes the important role played
by electricity on cosmic scales, offering explanations based on
principles that are well understood and demonstrable in laboratories,
without need of recourse to unobserved, untestable physics or speculative
a wonderful ability for creating visions of ways to improve themselves,
thereby making the world a better place; and then, it seems, for
losing track somewhere along the way of turning the visions into
Take the business
of science, for instance. After several thousand futile years of
fighting wars over whose revealed truth was really true, and attempts
to impose truth by decree with the aid of rack and thumbscrew or
deduce it via rigorous logic from self-evident premises that nobody
could agree on, the idea finally emerged that a better way of finding
out about the way things are in the world might be to stop fixating
on how they ought to be, actually look at what’s out there, and
accept what it’s telling you, whether you like it or not. It works
pretty well with such questions as figuring out why cannon balls
and planets move the way they do, what heat is, and other matters
that can be decided beyond argument according to whether your motor
starts or not, or if your plane gets off the ground — all of which
rapidly become engineering. But when it comes to issues that aren’t
settled so easily — the meaning and origin of life; how the cosmos
gets to be the way it is, and where it came from: areas where authority
can still command and get away with it — things don’t seem to have
really changed that much. Powerful establishments enjoying political
favor and monopoly privileges in teaching and promotion rigidify
into orthodoxies defending their beliefs tenaciously, with dissenting
views being dismissed, ridiculed, and marginalized, even when supported
by what would appear to be verifiable fact and simpler arguments.
In possibly an ultimate of ironies, in areas where hopes for science
were at their highest, instead of showing the openness to alternatives
and readiness to follow the evidence wherever it pointed that were
supposed to characterize the new way of understanding the world,
much of what we hear today seems to be taking on more the trappings
of intolerant religion protecting dogma and putting down heresy.
More than ninety-nine
percent of the observed universe exists in the form of matter known
as plasma. In the atoms that make up the planet we live on, equal
amounts of positive and negative electric charge are confined together
and cancel each other out, resulting in objects like rocks and cabbages
that are neutral on balance and hence “feel” only the force of gravity.
Plasma, by contrast, consists, fully or in part, of charged particles
— negative “electrons” and positive “ions” (an atom missing one
or more of its electrons) — that are separated, and hence respond
to electric and magnetic forces. The electric force between two
charged particles, which can be attractive or repulsive, is thirty-nine
orders of magnitude stronger than the gravitational attraction between
them. That’s a one followed by 39 zeros. Such a number boggles the
imagination. It is in the order of a millionth of a millimeter compared
to 10,000 times the size of the known universe. Even in a plasma
comprising just one charged particle in 10,000 — which would be
typical of the interstellar clouds of dust and gas from which stars
are formed — electromagnetic forces will dominate gravity by a factor
of ten million to one. Yet, conceptually, the prevailing view of
the cosmos remains essentially rooted in the work of such names
as Kepler, Newton, and Laplace, whose laws describe a mechanical
universe made up of neutral bodies moving in a vacuum under the
influence of gravity. And today’s reigning cosmological model, founded
on general relativity, is essentially a theory of geometry manifesting
itself as gravity.
models were reasonable two hundred and more years ago, when Newtonian
dynamics was shown to predict precisely the motions of the Solar
System. The plasma that permeates interplanetary space was unknown,
along with its ability to organize spontaneously into isolating
sheaths that, under stable and tranquil conditions like those prevailing
in our locality at the present time, screen planets from electrical
forces. And not a lot was understood about electricity in any case.
But more recent advances in observational astronomy have revealed
phenomena that do not lend themselves readily to explanation in
familiar gravitational terms. Pulsars — rapidly varying stellar
objects conventionally interpreted as spinning neutron stars — have
now been measured to fluctuate at rates that call into question
even the power of postulated neutron matter to hold together. Quasars,
if accepted in accordance with the customary reading of red-shift
as being the most distant objects known, radiate energy with intensities
that defy explanation by any process involving conventional matter.
The way galaxies rotate, and their violent ejections of matter jets,
do not conform to expectations based on gravity. To account for
these and other anomalies, such speculative devices as “dark matter”
— at the last count numbering seven different varieties — “dark
energy,” matter collapsing into black holes, and similar exotic
mechanisms that have never been observed are introduced to make
the theory fit the facts.
explain new findings in familiar terms is natural and represents
a desirable economy of thought. Models that have become standard
were not lightly arrived at and should not lightly be cast aside.
However, as was seen with the ever-more elaborate systems of epicycles
contrived to keep the Ptolemaic system alive for long after a change
of thinking was called for, such conservatism can be taken too far.
There comes a point where, “We don’t need another theory, because
the one we’ve got can be made to fit the data,” is saying more about
human inventive ingenuity than the accuracy of the theory.
Over the last
two hundred years an enormous amount has been learned about electricity.
Technology has gone from Faraday motors and hand-cranked Wimhurst
machines to super computers and satellite communications. In parallel
with these advances, electrical theorists have developed an alternative
paradigm for interpreting astronomical observations, based on principles
that are well understood and can be demonstrated in any electrical
or plasma laboratory. It requires none of the esoteric physics or
ad-hoc inventions that the mainstream has had to resort to repeatedly
when new observations failed to match expectations, or were never
anticipated at all, and it is proving to be more powerful predictively.
Proponents refer to it as Electric Universe theory. Its basic premise
is that what we’re seeing when we point telescopes at new stars
being born or violently energetic events deforming distant galaxies
are not results of gravity being intensified unimaginably and behaving
in strange and unheard of ways, but electricity. Where electrical
forces are operating, gravity effectively ceases to exist. A tiny
magnet will snap a nail up effortlessly against the gravitational
pull of the entire Earth. You don’t have to keep your coffee pot
below the wall outlet to enable the electrons to fall down through
turn of the nineteenth century, the Norwegian physicist Kristian
Birkeland studied the northern auroras and concluded that they are
caused by charged particles from the Sun being directed to the polar
regions by the Earth’s magnetic field, where they excite atoms of
the upper atmosphere to light-emission energies. This was not favorably
received by the theoreticians of his day, whose mathematical models
treated the Earth as an isolated object in space, and his work was
largely ignored. Although satellite measurements have since confirmed
the existence of interplanetary plasma and Earth’s complex environment
of fields, particles, and currents, there is still an entrenched
reluctance to accept them as parts of electrical circuitry that
not only connects the Earth to the Sun, but spans the entire Solar
of space as pervaded by plasma, and hence able to conduct electric
currents, is what distinguishes the electrical model of the universe.
Electric currents create magnetic fields, which induce secondary
currents, which in turn produce their own fields. The complex interplays
of forces that result can give rise to amazingly intricate structures
and behaviors of matter. Currents in plasma flow as elongated filaments,
which can be visible in instances like auroral displays and lightning,
where energies become high enough to initiate electrical discharge.
Parallel filaments are pulled together in an effect known as a “pinch,”
which can be very powerful. At shorter ranges, however, the net
force between the filaments becomes repulsive rather than attractive,
causing them to rotate and twist around each other into a braided
structure as they approach, instead of merging. The braid can interact
with similar braids to form “ropes” on a larger scale, which might
then repeat the process.
structures are the signature of electric currents in plasmas. They
have been shown to scale up through an astonishing fourteen orders
of magnitude. Effects produced on a microscopic scale in laboratories
can be observed unfolding at cosmological dimensions.
model of star formation has stars condensing from an accretion disk
of dust and gas as it contracts under self-gravitation. It has remained
essentially unchanged for two hundred years despite having a number
of problems. For a start, simulations and calculation indicate that
peripheral matter in such a disk would disperse rather than coalesce
into planetary clumps. Then there’s the question of how the angular
momentum — the property that makes a flywheel want to keep turning
— comes to be concentrated in the planets — 98 percent of it in
the case of our Solar System. A contracting disk should deliver
most of its angular momentum to the central part, giving the Sun
a rotation period of something like 13 hours instead of the 28 days
that it has. And further, where did it all came from to begin with?
Dispersed matter initially moving randomly should contain very little
net angular momentum. Finally, for a star the size of the Sun, gravitational
contraction won’t produce a high enough density at the core to generate
the temperature necessary for igniting the fusion reactions generally
believed to be the power source. To make it work, various quantum
mechanical improbabilities are wheeled in to allow things to happen
that all the odds say shouldn’t.
Stars are concentrated
along the spiral arms of galaxies, which is also where new stars
come into existence. The electric model proposes the arms to be
the paths of currents traversing the galactic disk, and stars as
the focal points of pinches occurring between them, strung like
beads on threads. Electrical forces offer a far more effective means
than gravity for gathering, compressing, and heating dispersed material.
And, from what was said earlier, rotation is no longer an anomaly
in need of explanation, but imparted naturally as a result of the
process. Here’s an example of where you can see it happening.
Butterfly nebula. Embedded current cylinders converging and producing
plasma glow discharge over a distance greater than the diameter
of our Solar System. The close-up of the neck shows a dusty toroid
occluding the central star. The physics of plasmas predicts such
On a larger
scale, the same process explains galaxies. Electric galaxies were
first proposed by the Swedish Nobel laureate Hannes Alfvén
in the middle of the last century, who envisioned immense rivers
of electricity flowing through space, of intergalactic extent.
a supercomputer simulation at Los Alamos National Laboratories of
the structure arising from a pinch between two plasma currents.
Above, a real galaxy for comparison.
rotate in the way that predictions from gravity-based cosmology
say they should. With the amount of observed mass and the velocities
measured at the rim, they ought to be flying apart. The solution
of choice is to invoke “dark matter,” never actually observed, but
which can be given just the right properties and put in just the
right places to produce the desired results. It has been called
“cosmic duct tape” — capable of fixing anything. By contrast, the
electric model holds that, far from being isolated, passive accumulations
of mass revolving under their own momentum after being spun up by
some unexplained cause, galaxies are active components in enormous
cosmic power circuits. They’re not flywheels, but motors, driven
by forces easily able to hold them together without need of invisible
glue. Inventing unobservables to hold up failed predictions is usually
the sign of a theory in trouble.
not distributed evenly through space, but concentrated in strings
and “walls” around voids that can be thousands of light-years across.
According to the standard theory, structures of that size shouldn’t
have had time to form in the 14 billion years since everything was
supposed to have started with the Big Bang. But it’s what would
be expected if galaxies result from cosmic electric currents, because
currents flow in filaments and sheets of filaments — the veils of
the polar auroras, for example. The cosmology developed by Alfvén
and his intellectual descendants proposes an earlier plasma epoch
in the evolution of the cosmos, in which electromagnetic forces
played the initial role of collecting matter together to create
the densities that enabled gravity to become a significant factor
only later, making the 14 billion years no longer an issue.
are found to be shooting out enormous jets of matter and energy
in the direction of their axes, often on scales that dwarf the galaxy
itself. The rotating system of currents converging on the axis,
along with its associated magnetic fields, stores enormous amounts
of energy. Releases due to instabilities or the need to shed excess
from an accumulating buildup would manifest themselves in just this
kind of way.
Radio Galaxy 1313-192. Jets emitted by the visible galaxy power
the x-ray emitting lobes. Such lobes were predicted by Hannes Alfvén
long before radio sources were discovered.
explanation of such energies requires postulating black holes to
concentrate to almost infinite density the weakest force known to
physics, and the creation of jets through unclear processes involving
acceleration and mechanical collisions in accretion disks of matter
spiraling into them. Despite widely repeated claims to the contrary,
black holes have never been observed. What is observed are enormously
energetic events occurring in space. Attributing them to black holes
is part of the assumed basis for interpretation. The way engineers
and researchers produce x-rays is by accelerating charged particles
with electric fields. Your dentist doesn’t do it by banging rocks
Jet emerging from galaxy M87 extends for thousands of light-years.
Electrical structures remain coherent over such distances, whereas
neutral gas would rapidly disperse. The glow is consistent with
electrically accelerated electrons spiraling along magnetic field lines.
The term “plasma”
was co-opted from biology in recognition of the eerily lifelike
forms and changes observed in electrical discharge experiments with
ionized gases. Besides forming filaments, braids, sheets, and isolating
layers, plasmas will organize into cellular structures bounding
regions possessing different properties such as temperature, density,
and chemistry. The Cat’s Eye nebula shows the kind of complexity
that can result.
And this is
the core region, with the star at its center.
So what are
we seeing? Gravity, which produces formless coagulations of matter
like clots in cream? Or electricity?
web sites for further information on the Electric Universe:
P. Hogan [send him mail],
a former digital systems engineer and computer sales executive,
has been a full-time writer since 1980. He was born in London, moved
to the USA for many years, and now lives in the Republic of Ireland.
His web site is at www.jamesphogan.com.