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Space Science

Can Electricity Travel Through Space on Astrophysical Jets? ( 313

Slashdot reader Chris Reeve writes: An October 2017 paper titled Electric Currents along Astrophysical Jets reports that "Several researchers have reported direct evidence for large scale electric currents along astrophysical jets." A review of the citations at the end of that paper and others (here and here, for instance) would seem to suggest that one of the great Internet science debates has finally been settled: Electricity does indeed travel through space over vast cosmic distances.

What has been interesting to watch about this unexpected development is that science journalists have so far not explicitly reported this as a shift in theory, and commenters on sites like appear to deny that any change has even occurred: "The jets have been shown not to be electric currents, the energy and the physics involved are certainly not electromagnetic." This comment completely rejecting these new findings was highly rated by other readers, suggesting that the failure to explicitly report this as a change in theory has left this controversial topic in a highly confused state.

The paper summarizes what it calls "observational evidence for the existence of large scale electric currents and their associated grand design helical magnetic fields in kpc-scale astrophysical jets." And the original submitter details the history of the question in a follow-up comment arguing that at our current moment in time, "a mistaken bias against electricity in space continues to dominate conversations."

Can Electricity Travel Through Space on Astrophysical Jets?

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  • by Chris Reeve ( 2962081 ) on Saturday March 10, 2018 @07:35PM (#56240571)

    Dear Slashdot Community,

    Some 11 years ago, I watched a curious thing happen in the comments of a Slashdot article [], and it would forever change my life. I watched on as members of the tech community labeled as pseudoscience the simple idea that electricity can travel through space over plasma (and actually do stuff of importance at the largest observable scales). Since that day, I have systematically tracked this electricity in space debate, and I have come to view the reporting on this topic as the greatest science journalism failure of our time.

    To review, a plasma is just a gas with some percentage of unbound charged particles. We call it plasma, rather than gas, because it observably behaves differently. With less than even just 1% ionization, the ionospheric gas is observed to respond to electromagnetic fields. In the laboratory, plasmas can form into very complex structures like filaments. These filaments exhibit a long-range attraction and short-range repulsion with one another, which causes them to pair up without combining. Careful inspection of a novelty plasma globe will reveal that the filaments will tend to separate when they come into contact with the glass. The filaments can also link up with one another into very complex networks. All of this complexity is rather remarkable given that we are just talking about the "fourth" state of matter.

    Now, let's review the current state of this electricity in space debate as it should be reported by science journalists.

    1. It is not widely known, but definitely a fact that proper galactic rotation curves were simulated in the early 80's on government supercomputers [] by one of the world's leading plasma physicists, without the need for any dark matter. The reason that the arms appear to rotate as almost fixed plates, in this view, is that they are conducting electrical currents [].

    Galactic expert, Tim Thompson, has claimed that Peratt's decision to publish in IEEE was an attempt to avoid scrutiny. He admitted that no galactic researcher has ever read IEEE and they wouldn't know that the journal even exists (it's the largest technical organization in the world); and Thompson even went so far as to advise that galactic researchers intentionally avoid reading IEEE. You can see an annotated snapshot of his online forum post here. []

    2. We have been left with the impression that the CMB can only be explained as a remnant of the Big Bang expansion. This is simply not true:

    That quote comes from one of the world's leading plasma physicists, Anthony L. Peratt (Physics of the Plasma Universe, Second Edition, 2015, p.33-34.) Peratt would go on to publish a paper [] revealing more than a hundred local hydrogen filament structures which he claimed correlate with structures in the WMAP cosmic microwave background.

    It would seem that people are not yet connecting the dots here between these recent admissions by astrophysicists that large-scale electric currents are real, and this faint microwave fog that is apparently coming at us from all directions. There is, without a doubt, more than one way to explain this cosmic microwave background; but you'd never know this from the science

    • by DCFusor ( 1763438 ) on Saturday March 10, 2018 @07:44PM (#56240597) Homepage
      To say someone is wrong, Wolfgang Pauli would say "you're not even wrong".

      I will agree, and after reading the utter BS, not even rational, and very self and observation-contradicting commenters on who keyboard-warrior instead of do real science and make actual observations, I'm glad I didn't sign up. One might as well sign up to some alt-politics conspiracy theory site...for all the effect it'll have.

      At least physorg keeps the nuts all together.. maybe one grenade....

      Quoting tons of other errors doesn't make it right. Truth isn't up for vote.

    • Oh, are you one of those Electrical Universe crackpots? That makes sense. Nutters.
    • So fine, there are electric currents. How do you get from there to such idiocy as

      ... exotic and
      untestable amendments to traditional theory—from “black
      holes” to “dark matter” and “neutron stars”—all based on
      phenomena unknown in our practical world and disconnected
      from any verifiable behavior of nature. (from Edge Science #9, your link)


    • by Goldsmith ( 561202 ) on Saturday March 10, 2018 @10:22PM (#56241043)

      I am a physicist. You caught one, congratulations.

      I think you're spending a lot of time looking at web forums and not spending any time learning actual physics. In 11 years, you could have started from scratch with a Physics BS and finished a PhD by about now. If you'd done that, you would see that actual physicists have long ago incorporated much of what you're saying we don't acknowledge, and thrown out the things that don't match actual observations. It's great to be inspired by interesting theories to enter physics. I love science fiction, and it's why I got into physics. Being a professional physicist doesn't keep me from still appreciating science fiction.

      Modern models can incorporate MHD at galactic scale, along with all of the other physical interactions we know of, and so we do incorporate all those things. If you don't like the way it's done, I encourage you to go get a Physics PhD and write your own models. If you don't like the typical assumptions, spend more time coding and less time complaining. Modeling is so easy today that these questions can be posed in a homework assignment for a grad student. (Really, you're getting worked up over homework assignment level physics.)

      To physicists, "The Electric Universe" is an antiquated idea, with arguments many generations out of date. You're quoting 30 year old computer models, the proceedings of a minor conference 20 years ago, and a "this is your life, Jim Dungey" review focused on 1960s physics to complain about how modern astrophysics is done. You're referencing a theorist who's a retired engineer. The detail required for a convincing publication has increased dramatically over the last few decades, vocabulary changes every few years, and an understanding of what is "mainstream" changes about every year. It's hard to keep up for full time physicists. Referencing writing published to a much lower standard than what we're used to reading is not convincing.

      I've worked with an older theoretician who wanted to get a modern take on his old approach. He sponsored (paid the salary & tuition of) a grad student in a different group with modern computational resources. That's the appropriate way to make the argument you're trying to make. Instead the Electric Universe guys are pretending that 30 year old techniques and publishing standards are good enough. They're not.

      Last point, I promise. IEEE is an engineering society with no astrophysics community. It is inappropriate to publish an astrophysics paper there. That's journal shopping, and it is a violation of scientific ethics.

      • Anyone who has spent the time to really follow the controversy about the existence and primacy of electricity in space will immediately understand that the controversy cannot be solved by getting a Ph.D. and "writing a new model". There are lots of deep patterns at play that are effectively blocking the possibility for a conceptual revolution, e.g. a complete replacement for Big Bang Creationism, i.e. the idea that the whole physical world actually “began” some time ago; the conservation-defying

        • You've not been to the same colloquia I have. These are absolutely ideas that are discussed in physics departments. But please, tell me more about the conversations you know I have or haven't had.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        Re: "I think you're spending a lot of time looking at web forums and not spending any time learning actual physics."

        So, your suggestion for resolving the debate seems to be that I should just study one side of it.

        Re: "Being a professional physicist doesn't keep me from still appreciating science fiction."

        A crucial part of the process of untangling controversial science is to become fluent in the critiques of modern science. One of these critics wrote a stunning critique of what it means to be a "profession

        • by Goldsmith ( 561202 ) on Sunday March 11, 2018 @02:31AM (#56241599)

          Wow, you picked the wrong person to argue with here.

          I spent my time in grad school leading the student government, and bringing to light the issue of the 50% of people who leave PhD programs. There is a lack of a link between dropping out and academic problems. I got bad administrators fired, I talked about this nationally, I lobbied Congress. What are you doing? Posting online?

          I've chewed out Chancellors, Deans, Admirals, Grant Managers, and CEOs. I've quit jobs, left tenured positions, and put myself in financial distress to prove my points. And I'm a more successful, better scientist for it.

          You don't study physics because it's too hard for you.

          "Physics" isn't a side. It's work. It's offensive to use people like Jeff in your argument. He's put in the work. And the physics community ended up supporting him.

          Go away back to the corners of the internet and know that you can't compete with people like me. You're too lazy to walk into the room where the discussions happen.

        • by joe_frisch ( 1366229 ) on Sunday March 11, 2018 @03:40AM (#56241701)

          Science is a very complex web of interacting theories and experiments. Any new theory has to not only explain a particular phenomena, but to not contradict a great many other experiments. This rules out a great many alternate theories. This isn't taking "sides", it is just trying to find theories that are consistent with experiments.

          There is some "bias" against non-scientists, but that is because people outside of the field are unlikely to know all of the measurements that have been done. Scientists don't have infinite time, so they are not likely to be willing to do the leg-work of doing research for people who haven't already done a lot of that work themselves.

          It is pretty rare for someone outside of a well established field to make a major contribution.

          Scientists do try to find entirely new theories. I was at conference where one of the speakers mentioned how many theories had died the day that LIGO saw gravity waves from the neutron star collision - the measurement that gravity waves traveled at the same speed as electromagnetic radiation to very high precision, ruled out a range of alternative gravity theories.

          In this case though, there are lots of effects that depend on the strength of magnetic fields in galaxies so they can't be very far from what is predicted by conventional astrophysics.

        • by BadDreamer ( 196188 ) on Sunday March 11, 2018 @07:05AM (#56242037) Homepage

          So, your suggestion for resolving the debate seems to be that I should just study one side of it.

          The suggestion is that in order to resolve the debate, you should learn what the debate actually is about, and how to evaluate the claims made on all sides. You do that by learning physics.

          Physics is not a series of dogma you memorize. It is methods to analyze the world, and tools you use to examine whether a proposal actually matches up with observed reality.

          If you study physics, you do not study either side of this debate. You study the tools used to determine what is actually consistent with reality, and learn to use them, and then you can use them to analyze all sides of the debate to see what actually matches up with observation.

          Your "freedom" now is to treat both sides as dogma, because you do not have the tools to evaluate either side. And dogma is not physics, and physics is not dogma, so you end up doing nothing at all.

      • by quax ( 19371 )

        Fellow physicist here, thank you, that you took the time to make this point so extensively yet politely!

        I've long ago ran out of the patience to do so.

      • Unfortunately your last paragraph undermines a good deal of what you said earlier.

        Prior to that, you make some interesting assertions that physicists have incorporated "all those things" (referring to what might loosely be called one of the many "electric universe" models), and you make a persuasive case for everyone to accept that the current physics models are collectively the One True Right and Only Way. It is a very good religious argument.

        But then you say

        IEEE is an engineering society with no astrophysics community. It is inappropriate to publish an astrophysics paper there. That's journal shopping, and it is a violation of scientific ethics

        Now that is an inappropriate demonization. Lik

  • Here we go (Score:5, Funny)

    by flopsquad ( 3518045 ) on Saturday March 10, 2018 @08:03PM (#56240667)
    "All aboard the armchair astrophysics train! Next stop, Electric Universe! Red Line right to Not Even Wrong, making stops at Time Cube, Flat Earth, Luminiferous Aether, and Turtles-All-the-Way-Down Town."
    • I certainly don't have a horse in this race but if that rapid-fire series of strawmen that you just spewed forth are any indication [of the intellectual capacity of those espousing the prevailing theory], there might actually be something to it...
      • Now now. I'm sure we can have a discussion without stooping to insults. For example, I'd wager you have the intellectual capacity to understand what a strawman is, even though right now you clearly don't.
  • It was been proven that these currents emanate from the Timecube, and terminate in the Host Files. Laugh all you want, but we will ride these EmDrive jets to other stars. And you won't be invited.
  • ... are shaped that way because in-falling matter crossing the event horizon of a black hole causes radiation of massive proportions.

    Because those particular black holes have accretion disks, out-gassing has no where to go but out the unobstructed poles.

    That action causes vortexes of streaming particles and ions that travel at close to the speed of light.

    Electricity is one feature (and a small factor) of the "confusion."

  • It's simply charge. Scientifically 'electricity' is more of a field of study today than a thing because in science electricity has many forms with 'current' and static electricity being only two.

    Electricity is not a form of energy. []

  • Do not be misled (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rknop ( 240417 ) on Saturday March 10, 2018 @08:32PM (#56240777) Homepage

    It is telling that all papers by this author and his collaborators seem to be in a closed ecosystem of citation where they only are cited each other. I am not familiar with the "Galaxies" journal. At least one of these papers is from A&A, which *is* a real peer-reviewed journal.

    There are many red herrings here. First of all, the whole "we have a model that can explain galaxy rotation curves without dark matter" is not nearly as meaningful as some seem to say it is. There is a whole host of observations explained by dark matter, in detail, and with precision. Explaining just one of them doesn't do much if you can't explain all of the rest of the observations.

    Likewise, the Big Bang model has a host of observations that support it, in detail, and with numerical precision.

    The "electric universe" is not something that is worth paying attention to.

    For popular-level information about the problems with the whole electric universe business, see this site: []

  • Good grief (Score:4, Insightful)

    by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Saturday March 10, 2018 @08:41PM (#56240807)

    So the submitter is apparently extremely distressed regarding what goes on in internet discussion threads, both on and on Slashdot (based on his extremely long comment further up), for some reason.

    My advice is - don’t get so worked up over what people say on the internet.

    • So the submitter is apparently extremely distressed...

      Where did you come up with that?? So he wrote a fucking novel; that says absolutely nothing about the content or tone... which struck me as quite mild.

  • Mistaken Bias? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kozar_The_Malignant ( 738483 ) on Saturday March 10, 2018 @08:48PM (#56240835)
    The submitter write, "a mistaken bias against electricity in space continues to dominate conversations." What dominates conversations is a complete lack of credible evidence for this. It reminds me of the old days when Archimedes Plutonium invaded sci.physics and
  • If there are large currents, endpoints should gain charge over time. Does that means we observe electromagnetic forces at large scale between charged regions?
  • In University I learned that an electric current is a flow of charged particles. Particles like electrons, protons and all kinds of ions like hadrons for example. It does not matter in what medium the motion happens. It may happen in solids like copper, liquids like acidic water, gasses like air (lightning) and of course by exentision ionized plasmas (lightning). It even happens in a vacuum which is evident by the electron current that flows through vacuum tubes that we've used for many decades in electroni
  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is clearly a troll submission. Bullshit paper in a bullshit journal. Basically the equivalent of a crackpot posting on his own blog. How did this shit get posted?

    • @Anon []: "This is clearly a troll submission. Bullshit paper in a bullshit journal. Basically the equivalent of a crackpot posting on his own blog. How did this shit get posted?"

      Slashdot are hiring on ten year olds to do the article vetting.
  • Electricity comes from other planets.
    • Electricity comes from other planets.

      Yeah, all these astro-folks have been asking the wrong questions about Mars:

      "Is there life on Mars . . . ?", "Is there water on Mars . . . ?", "Is there oxygen on Mars . . . ?"

      Instead, they should have been asking, "Is there electricity on Mars . . . ?"

      This is why Elon Musk is planning to fly his Tesla to Mars. He will plug it into Mars, and see if it charges.

      Then we will have the electricity on Mars question answered.

      These electric astrophysical plasmatic jet thingies are also good news. We can bui

  • by najajomo ( 4890785 ) on Saturday March 10, 2018 @10:37PM (#56241079)
    What is this pseudo-science doing on slashdot, it this the best you can find as an article on what used to be a top tech site?
  • It's been decades since Slashdot had an electric universe story. Brings me back to the early '00s. Thanks for the memories Slashdot!

Top Ten Things Overheard At The ANSI C Draft Committee Meetings: (10) Sorry, but that's too useful.