By Bishop Nicholas Sykes
Note from the author: This is a work in progress and is not to be taken as complete at this stage.
“The truth is like a lion, You don’t have to defend it. Let it loose. It will defend itself.”
– St. Augustine
1. The remarkable end of the second millennium.
A millennium is defined as a time span agreed or assumed to be one thousand years. The AD (or CE if you prefer) period that we live in now may or may not have been counted accurately (and whether it has or it hasn’t is a “whole other story”), but the end of the first decade of the period would be the end of the last day of the year 10 AD, the end of the first century would be the end of the last day of the year 100 AD, and the end of the first millennium would be the end of the last day of the year 1000 AD. And, of course, the end of the second millennium would be the end of the last day of the year 2000 AD. Just in the same way that a child counts his marbles, so we count the years: “1,2,3 …” For those familiar with the rosary, each “decade” consists of ten beads, and one counts them from one to ten.
We might be inclined to say that a child had lost some of his marbles if, when counting ten marbles, he arrived at a number less than 10.
My friend and cousin, who I refer to as IC (intelligent correspondent) remarked to me in some exasperation, “Does it in the least matter to God, Jesus or mere mortals whether Jesus was born in 4 BCE, year zero or 1 CE?” I would answer that the truer the story we can tell about an event, the more it matters that we tell it the way we know it is. We may not know the significance of telling stories inaccurately, but if we get a matter of fact wrong, we are aware that what may appear to be an unimportant inaccuracy can have a distorting effect upon the story we wish to tell that matters very much.
What IC was actually getting at, I assume (because he was responding to something I had written), was whether it really matters whether the end of the second millennium was the end of the last day of 1999, or whether it was the end of the last day of 2000. Viewed as an isolated datum, he might arguably be right to think that it has no significance. Others have underlined his view by pointing out that we are not certain when the “real” end of the millennium was, if it has yet occurred, in any case. How accurately have the first two millennia been dated? Are we sure that the “Dark Ages”, for instance, have been correctly dated, seeing that some of their supposedly contained history “went dark”?
And all this is true enough, though it is only tangential to the issue at hand of the meaning of a millennium. Yes, we can be no surer that the end of two thousand “real” years of the AD period was at the end of 2000 than at the end of 1999. But the use of the word “real” is important to us. It shows us that there is some truth locked away in this that we would like to find out about and tell about.
For the truth matters, even more than anything else, when we are telling a story.
When we have told a story, no doubt we will not have told the full truth about the events we relate. But it must be important for us to try to relate the events to the very best of our ability. This means that we should avoid like the plague any intention to deceive our audience. Such an intention may arise because of some “agenda” which we would like to conceal, in order to manipulate the views of our audience, to cause them to become convinced of things that have no basis in a story that is truthfully told. Or the intention may become, in a time of tiredness, just to get to a convenient apparent ending of a story, for the purpose of finishing and selling it, rather than reaching truthful conclusions.
One can wonder why the Western politicians, and many of the non-Western ones following them, seemingly lost their marbles towards the end of the second millennium: why London’s millennium dome, for instance, was opened with much fanfare (and not a little mishap) in time for the year 2000, rather than in time for the year 2001, which is when the third millennium (however correctly or incorrectly the first two are recorded) is defined to have started. For you cannot attach meaningfulness to the term “millennium” (equals a time span agreed or assumed to be one thousand years) if the second millennium does not end at the end of its agreed or assumed 2000th year – any more than you can truthfully or meaningfully say that the tenth marble or bead in a decade will already be the start of the second decade of marbles or beads, or that the cricketer who has hit ninety-nine runs is already poised at the beginning of his second century.
The tragedy which has hardly yet been told is that the mass media, who have their very reason for existence in telling true stories, monumentally failed in their duty to tell the truth about this matter in the public square. Yes, to their credit, some writers in the press went against the grain on the matter, but where were the editors, and where was television? What a story it was that they missed! Did they not dare to assert that the rich and powerful and politically and culturally influential lost their marbles and got it wrong? Were they bought out or did they just get tired?
In short, had the erroneous account been so inculcated into the public mind and perception that it became too big to fail?
This is where, contra my friend IC, the matter becomes of great importance and significance. For it was an indicator of the blooming of an unwelcome plant – the plant being the accepted notion in the public square of the story that is hollowed out, the public story whose inherent veracity is of little or no importance – a story of special effects rather than of coherence of plot. The blooming of such a woeful plant has enormous public consequences, as I hope to show.
It was in the last stages of work on the constitution of a British Overseas Territory that I came to the reluctant conclusion that in this type of legal document it had finally become necessary to accept the developing consensus over the word “discrimination” meaning something negative and undesirable. In the draft that was before me at the time, however, this negative connotation was being attached to and defined by the idea of “different treatment” of people categorised according to a variety of classes. Moreover, it was being made clear that the list of classes being provided was merely exemplary and not definitive. The negative connotation of discrimination was accordingly to be applied by law to acts that treated any one class of people differently to another, apart from certain specific exceptions.
One concern about this is whether such legislation was being brought in to target and re-engineer the natural human capacity to adjust to different people in different ways, and if so, whether such efforts of re-engineering might themselves be unjustified. I have, after all, been privileged to be the owner of a dog who quite definitely reacted to what he discerned to be the intentions of people, and in so doing distinctly discriminated between one person and another. There have been occasions when my wife and I were grateful for such canine discernment. While humans might not be right to behave, as a result of discernment, in the same way as a valued family dog might do, the actual discernment would surely not be wrong, and neither would reasonable and justifiable behaviour resulting from such human discernment be wrong.
Such behaviour would in truth be an example of discrimination (original meaning) between persons, and might on occasion, as with a dog, be successfully argued to include discrimination between classes of person. A dog might, for example, feel under threat more by young male persons than by older females, and may demonstrate more protectiveness of his human companions in the presence of those classes of persons he feels more threatened by. Does a good guard dog never “profile” the threats he senses according to the experiences he has learned from? This seems unlikely. It seems unlikely to me that this is not part of the human condition also, and that the attempt to re-engineer ourselves against it could prove to be very harmful.
There is a danger, accordingly, in using a word legislatively, as we have become accustomed to do with the word “discrimination”, in a sense that distorts and indeed demonises the plain and original meaning of the word. For instance, I have become accustomed for a few years to hearing a government advertisement that declares: “Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination”. This statement is quite meaningless and without effect if the word “discrimination” is correctly used in its ordinary and original sense of “making a distinction”. The trouble is that in the law being referred to in the advertisement, the word is assumed already to be demonised. And it is only with the demonised concept that you can piggy-back other bad things upon it to emphasise their unacceptability. But the trouble is that by doing this one has embarked upon the course of destroying language and meaning in general, and the last state of things becomes worse than the first. For one thing, it makes the task of sound legislation far more difficult, because good law-making is supposed to use words in the way that they are ordinarily understood, unless they are to be given a specific and declared definition in the law being made.
This is not dissimilar to the purported redefinition of a new millennium as beginning with the last year of the previous millennium, such as has already been noted. Only in this case the erroneous public story, hollowed out and internally incoherent, carries with it the force of law. We can see that this is a new shoot from the same baleful plant, and one with immediately frightening consequences.
In the absence of such a definition being provided, so-called anti-discrimination provisions effectively provide it by default, as is done in the modern constitutions of the Overseas Territories. But since the provisions concerned are “anti discrimination”, it is clear that what is being effectively defined is not “discrimination” in general (which is good), but “discrimination” that has already been demonised, i.e. assumed to be negative, because the law proscribes its exercise.
There is a serious tautological error in the laws, therefore, no doubt at work both in the Overseas Territories constitutions and in the legal construction of British anti-discrimination legislation at home as well as in constitutions further afield such as in Canada. However, some relief for this error was provided for the Cayman Islands eventually, and that was brought in by accepting, first of all, that what the relevant section (s.16) was effectively defining was not “discrimination” as it has ordinarily been understood, but a negative version of it, and then including the qualifier “and unjustifiable” to provide the appropriate context to “different” in its reference to the behaviour being proscribed. Accordingly it is now provided in the Cayman Islands that government may not “discriminate”, i.e. behave, not merely in a different way, but in a different and unjustifiable way, to different sets of people. The word “unjustifiable” provides a rational framework for legislating a concept of negative discrimination, and negative discrimination is provided with a way out from the irrational demonisation of “discrimination” that other laws and constitutions have wrongly accepted in an exercise of tautology. Under any future proposed adjustment to the constitution, the Cayman Islands must be prepared to work hard to preserve the particular phrase “different and unjustifiable” in this context.
For the erroneous and demonised account of discrimination that has been inculcated into the public mind must not be allowed to become too big to fail. Otherwise, serious injustices could result, or continue to result.
Behaving differently in various circumstances and to a variety of people, and even to sets or classes of people, may not in itself be judged to be unjustifiable: it may even be essential. As we have noted, discrimination in itself is a good thing, not an evil. Nothing could be declared “right” or “wrong” or even “on the right lines” without discrimination. Every teacher has to exercise it, and every pupil at any school must do so in order to advance. What mathematics teacher of any substance would treat a set of children who said that 2+2 = 22 the same way as a set who said that 2+2 = 4? Are not voters asked to discriminate, as a civic duty, at every General Election? Such different treatments must fail the additional test of justifiability before they can be recognised as (negative) discrimination by law. This ought to be the case in more places than just the Cayman Islands!
Are not all men and women required to “discriminate” – positively – when they ask or agree to be married? What else do we mean when we tell our intended spouse, “You are the only one for me”? Indeed they are so required; and therefore might we not suspect that yet another shoot from the same hollowed out and internally incoherent story is acting to stifle and disrupt the marriage culture of our time?
2.1 Prejudice and Discrimination
For several years, the phrase “Prejudice and Discrimination” has been used in the advertisements of advocates for social consciousness concerning HIV/AIDS. What I am about to say should not be taken as expressing any disagreement with the intent of their efforts. However, it is clear that in the repeated use of the phrase there is the practice, perhaps unconscious, of demonising the word “discrimination”, by using it in such a way that it is always being seen as appropriately accompanying “Prejudice”.
I believe that using the word in this way actually reduces the impact and effectiveness of those efforts, rather than increasing them. For discrimination, understood in its ordinary and positive meaning of making a distinction, in one way or another is in fact part of their message. For what they are advocating, all the time, is a change of behaviour arising from a change in the level of consciousness about the condition.
For a person to change his behaviour or raise his level of consciousness about the condition requires that he (or she) discriminates between those assumptions and acts that encourage the spread of the condition, and the purposeful wisdom that will act to contain the spread and reverse it. Such purposeful wisdom may be enacted in many different ways, some, no doubt, being wiser than others. Those who advocate for such change should certainly be encouraging more discrimination, exercised in its ordinary sense, rather than less. They should consider changing their advertisements. The phrase “Prejudice and Discrimination” is damaging, and results from the erroneous public story surrounding and prejudicing the essential human capacity of discrimination.
The Book of Common Prayer states that a Christian man being held free to exercise his own discretion whether to marry or not, such exercise of judgment is open to Bishops, Priests and Deacons. They should marry, or not marry, “as they shall judge the same to serve better to godliness”. (see Art 32 BCP 1662)
Whether such a consideration is very often in view in modern times, is less the point here than the observation that for at least hundreds of years people, both men and women, have been making deliberate choices about their marriages. Marriage has not been understood as the inevitable result of falling victim to uncontainable lust, or indeed of falling in love. At some point in the progression from acquaintance to marriage, there is always the necessary step of making a deliberate choice of whether to marry or not. Examples indeed exist of persons, who although they would have liked to have got married to one another, have forgone that state of life because they believed their chief calling in their life would have been damaged or compromised by entering that state. Married persons also have forgone the new attachment that may have led to divorce and re-marriage. Those unmarried persons who for the reason of their perceived calling remained unmarried are the true and sometimes heroic celibates of history, albeit in some cases one of the parties concerned may have subsequently married.
My chief point in this is to assert that the deliberate choice of marrying or not is essentially an act of discrimination, understood in its ordinary positive sense. Unless marriage becomes reconfigured to permit multiple sexual relationships, the decision to marry will always involve saying Yes to one and No to the rest. To make that decision requires an act of discrimination. Part of the attack on the marriage culture of our time is effected by demeaning or besmirching the concept of such discrimination, and this is accomplished in various ways.
(1) It can be accomplished by entering into marriage without a commitment to the marriage partner that makes the intended spouse “the only one for me”. This commonly results in a spouse being disappointed and often devastated by the unfaithfulness of her (or his) marriage partner. (2) Less commonly, the lack of commitment is agreed to, or tacitly tolerated, by both parties, in which case the marriage becomes what may be called an “open marriage.”
In either case, the act of discrimination necessary for “holy matrimony” – what is recited from the Prayer Book as a solemn promise by both parties to forsake all other and “keep thee only unto her (him), so long as ye both shall live” – has been broken or from the beginning never engaged in. For this solemn promise does not cease to have effect at the end of the wedding service: it involves a continuing mindset of positive discrimination and continuing acts of positive discrimination in favour of the one over all others for the duration of the marriage.
It seems most possible that if the idea of discrimination can be removed from the “good” corners of our mental chambers and relegated to the “bad”, this rearrangement will have a profoundly negative effect upon the marriage culture. For in that case, a difficult faithfulness may become seen to be the bad choice, and an easy and glamorous adventurousness may be seen to take tenancy of the good corner.
(3) The other way of damaging the concept of discrimination in relation to its necessary functioning to support marriage is to overturn marriage itself, i.e. redefine marriage to mean something that seems to be marriage but differs from it in such a way that the need for (positive) discrimination is lessened or eliminated. This seems to be an underlying intent of the so-called “equal marriage” effort by British and other Western legislators. First, more openly it declares that the general necessity of discrimination between male and female is to be abandoned in a decision to marry. But a second, less candid intent comes also into view. Because homosexual relationships that are said to be marriage’s equivalent have rarely been other than “open” relationships – and in the view of most practitioners this is essentially the case – “equal marriage” is in a hidden way declaring that “open marriage” is to be considered just as much marriage as is holy matrimony with its solemn commitments to faithfulness to the one marriage partner.
In this way the act of positive discrimination that has always been held to be essential to marriage has been made effectively irrelevant and thus eliminated from the marriage process (rather as the aether was effectively voided and held to be irrelevant for the transmission of light by the Theory of Relativity).
The “Equal Marriage” effort has been seen by many to be an attack upon marriage. It is not yet seen by most that it is also, and less openly, an attack upon the human capacity for and value of discrimination at the most human and personal level.
The answer is therefore clear to our earlier question, “Might we not suspect that yet another shoot from the same hollowed out and internally incoherent story is acting to stifle and disrupt the marriage culture of our time?”
The answer is resoundingly: “Yes.” But it is also true, conversely, that the attack on the marriage culture has a still more profoundly human target in its cross-hairs.
I hope that this small work will be regarded as a template to be filled in by others. There is and will be much more to be said, in the various areas I am touching upon. The question now being touched upon is the veracity of the story of “Hard Science” that is being fed by our institutions and our media to the young and other minds of our time. For we should be in agreement that the Science Story now being employed is of a very different nature than was the case at the beginning of the twentieth century in January 1901.
At that time there were researchers functioning unaffected by the sort of large grant from sources that can influence the outcomes of research that we commonly see today, and the peer review process such as what now exists was rudimentary. Researchers such as Faraday, Poincaré and Birkeland spoke what they thought was the truth about their researches; today, because substantial resources hang upon the outcome of researches, outcomes that are not consistent with the already approved story are not given fair consideration, and such outcomes as the use of powerful telescopes being denied to researchers who have reason to question or deny the accepted account, are the result. Inevitably today’s researchers are pressured to tack amendments onto a failing story, paradigm or theory, rather than providing a new and better one. In this way the prevailing story of science turns into an orthodoxy that becomes more and more unquestionable, at the same time as to many it becomes increasingly convoluted and internally incoherent.
Today’s science is not the science of those of us who dreamed in the 1950s of becoming science researchers one day. One memory that stands out for me is of the high-flying undergraduate physics student who said that like me he could not verify or confirm personally the truth of what he was learning, but knew that if he learned it and feigned acceptance of it in the way the book and the lecturer presented it, he would do well in the examination.
I have no idea what became of that student after he passed his finals successfully. I hope the manner in which he was learning to do science at university did not become the manner in which he did postgraduate or any other sort of science research. I do observe that this was a lesson that has been learned by many only all too well. The few that have refused to “learn” the prevailing science story, or whose integrity forced them, under the pressure of their research, to unlearn what they previously accepted, have often had to pay dearly for their boldness.
3.1 Mathematical Exoticisms and Fictional Physics
I was surprised to find some of my thunder being, if not stolen, at least partially discharged by a former UK Attorney General during a visit to Cayman recently. This was Baroness Patricia Scotland in a public lecture given on the 30th July 2013, which I attended, about fighting corruption.
A newspaper (Cayman Net News) reported: “Baroness Scotland said that mathematicians and physicists formulated mathematical computations that did not reflect reality.
“She said that such calculations created ‘amazing things about profits and products’ [which] were not supposed to be bought, sold or even traded, because they were just ideas and possibilities.
“She noted that traders in the financial markets did not understand that these were possibilities and not products based on reality, hence the fiasco that followed.”
She stated further: “The stock markets of the world were based mostly on mathematical models instead of nuts and bolts or bricks and mortar.”
She described this kind of decision-making as being tantamount to corruption, because it was based on undue influence and not reality.
“This disconnect allows businesses to forget their true profits and this is what brought the financial system to the brink of collapse.”
I think the Baroness was right about the mathematicians and their formulations. Indeed here we see yet another shoot from the same hollowed out and internally incoherent story, widely accepted but with no verifiability. I consider however that physicists have largely allowed themselves to be led by the nose as much as she says have the financial traders. The traders, she said, allowed the mathematicians, with their use of computer modelling techniques, to formulate computations “that did not reflect reality” – indeed. The result was that the traders abandoned their own tried and tested procedures and went for the “new girl in town”, which brought disaster down on nearly everybody. Much the same has happened (believe it or not) to Physics.
Both traders and physicists forgot that mathematics is a sort of factory of tool-making, and for the most part exists in a world that only impinges tangentially on the real nuts and bolts world. The amazing abilities of computers have hugely enhanced this tangential mathematical world, and have accelerated its placement in many people’s consciousness as left, right and centre, a world that actually, in some sense, artfully replaced for them the actual world we live in.
It could only be mathematics, for instance, that could cause sane people, who without exception all actually observe physical reality in three spatial dimensions, altering in a process measurable by a steady flow of time (which is perceived entirely differently from a spatial extension) to come to think that the observations we all have in common should be replaced by a new “reality” – namely a four-dimensional frame consisting of three spatial dimensions and an extra dimension that provides for the flow of time, all dimensions being orthogonal to one another.
Yet those of us who in childhood learned about quadratic equations should know that one has to “discard” those solutions to the equations that are said to be “spurious” – meaning, as we were taught, that those particular solutions, yielding perhaps negative numbers or perhaps imaginary numbers (a revealing phrase) had no relation to or use for solving the particular real life problem that gave rise to the equation to be solved. Quadratic and cubic equations have their uses for sure in solving real problems in the real world, and both negative and imaginary numbers have their specific uses also, but the student soon learns as well that mathematical processes can lead him beyond and away from observable and testable reality.
Traders have been characterised as forgetting that simple truth; physicists too, as I consider can be shown, have done the same.
3.2 Magnetic Reconnection
Magnetic reconnection is conceptualised, as its name suggests, as a phenomenon of magnetism. It hypothesises that a magnetic field, such as exists around the Earth may, under certain conditions, release energy explosively by a spontaneous reconfiguration of the lines of force with which it is visualised. This is effected – so the idea goes – by some of the lines of force “breaking” and then “joining up” with different lines of force. This produces a magnetic field pattern that stores less energy. The energy difference between the two patterns is manifested by conversion to the energy outburst requiring to be explained – such as, for example, the aurora borealis.
It is extraordinary, to say the least, that such an idea has gained so much support in the halls of academia. Electrical engineers and plasma cosmologists have been known to say that magnetic reconnection is one of the stupidest theoretical ideas that researchers ever derived from the mistaken belief that there are no significant electric currents in space. Yes, the mathematics can seemingly be made to fit with the energy needs involved, but it should be remembered that processes of physics are not explained by such mathematical equations. Moreover, in the case of “magnetic reconnection” there is a further difficulty. I refer to the inconvenient truth that the lines of force of a magnetic field do not physically exist at all! They are only a mental aid for us to conceptualise the shape and intensity of a magnetic field. Schoolchildren will agree that when iron filings are sprinkled on a table top upon which a bar magnet has been positioned, many of the filings join up into curved lines, but lines of force can just as well be thought of as between those lines as in any of the lines of filings themselves. Lines of magnetic force are not physical entities, any more than are the contours of a geographer’s map, or the isobars of a weatherman’s chart. One might just as well talk about a “contour reconnection” as being the explanation of a volcanic eruption, or an “isobar reconnection” as the explanation of a hurricane, as to consider “magnetic reconnection” to be an explanation of energy outbursts of various sorts. “Magnetic reconnection” is perhaps the quintessential example of the resort to a mathematics that is disconnected from physical reality. And did we forget that a magnetic field is, in our immediate experience, normally associated with the movement of electrical charge?
Perhaps the sheer incoherence of “magnetic reconnection” as an explanation of a range of physical phenomena taking place in the environs of both earth and space will cause us to search again and afresh for the real physical causes of these phenomena. We will not find those causes, or at least the beginnings of their identification, to be foreign to human thinking; only they have become sidelined for nearly one hundred years.
But, once again, for such a period of time and spread over the world in many prestigious institutions, we ask, once more,
“Has the erroneous account been so inculcated into the public mind and perception that it has become too big to fail?”
3.3 Birkeland and Plasma
Michael Faraday of the nineteenth century was the scientist who amongst many other achievements brought current electricity into mainstream science, famously experimenting with electric motors and generators, and publishing papers on their principles of operation. Inspired by Faraday’s investigations into the links between electricity and magnetism, the astronomer Sir John Herschel wrote to him in 1850 of the recent discovery at that time of a link between sunspots and magnetic storms on earth. In this letter, Herschel wondered if the sun could not owe its brightness to “Cosmical electric currents traversing space”. “If all this be not premature we stand on the verge of a vast cosmical discovery such as nothing hitherto imagined can compare with. Consider what I have said about the exciting cause of the Solar light – referring it to Cosmical electric currents traversing space and finding in the upper regions of the Suns atmosphere matter in a fit state of tenuity to be auroralized by them …” It is a shame that Herschel’s hugely significant insight remains 163 years later “on the verge”, pretty much where it was in his own time. But this is because of the path taken by the mainstream Physics of the twentieth century.
Michael Faraday had invented a device he called a “homopolar motor” – which is essentially the rotating disk type of electric kilowatt-hour meter we have in our homes. Going against the grain of mainstream physics (then and still now), the Nobel laureate Hannes Alfvén in 1986 posited both an electrical model of our galaxy and an electrical model of our Sun. Wal Thornhill has pointed out that Alfvén’s circuits are really scaled up versions of the homopolar motor. Now Physics students at school learn that ‘crossing’ the direction, v, of the electric current into the direction, B, of the magnetic field yields a rotational force. So here we have, as Don Scott has pointed out, an explanation – and in the homopolar motor a partial demonstration – of the otherwise mysterious tangential velocities of the outer stars in galaxies, as also of the observed fact that our Sun rotates faster at its equator than at higher (solar) latitudes.
Kristian Birkeland took Herschel’s and Faraday’s work a long step further with his researches, but even before we look at them we can already see in what I have written that we have a serious contender for the truth of the “science story” of our own day. Let us consider a galaxy that is electrically powered, just as is a motor. Would that not make the outer stars revolve more rapidly than if the whole structure were powered, as is assumed by today's "science story", by its own gravity? (So I suggest we can dispense immediately with any need for the oft-cited but entirely elusive “Dark Matter”.)
And let us consider that our Sun too is electrically powered, like a motor. Might not this simply cause the faster rotation at its equator than at the higher latitudes?
And is there any comparable cause of such an observed phenomenon as these different rotations to be found from an internally powered Sun, whose power source was non-electrical in nature, as we have so often been told?
Let us remember that real science is supposed to use the “Occam’s razor” principle: one is not supposed to reject the simpler explanation for the more complicated and less understandable one. Having dispensed with "epicycles" do we now settle for the "dark matter" of our own day's science story, which attempts to account for the galactic rotations by gravity? As C.S. Lewis has pointed out, it is part of our humanity that we are inexorably drawn to the thriftier model.
But now let me get onto Kristian Birkeland, the Norwegian investigator, and his experiments.
In my view these are the kind of experiments that should be popular in our colleges and universities today. Birkeland was of the view that there was an electrical interchange between the Sun and the Earth, because he took forward Sir John Herschel’s insight about “cosmical electric currents traversing space” and wanted to test its application to the aurora borealis. Now, there must always be a conducting medium for electricity to be conducted, and the word “plasma” is properly selected to be used for this medium, which is often termed “ionised gas”. However, the description “ionised gas”is quite misleading, because the very tenuous and ionised medium occupying space, although it may be composed of the same fundamental particles as a gas might posses, behaves in an entirely different way from a gas consisting of atoms and molecules, on account of those particles’ electrical dissociation in the plasma. Indeed, it is now clear that we should be thinking in terms of four states of matter: plasma, gas, liquid and solid. Plasma is no more a sort of gas than gas is a sort of liquid – even though in both cases the pairs may be composed of comparable particles.
Herschel and Birkeland were indeed embarking on the road to the insight that the first and most fundamental state of matter is plasma. The form of Birkeland's most well-known experiment was to investigate the electrical and magnetic effects of discharging currents of electricity through the plasma surrounding a magnetised globe – called by him a "terrella" – suspended inside a partially evacuated chamber. The magnetised globe, in other words, formed one of the electrodes of a "gas-discharge" apparatus. His finding that the discharges could under the controlled conditions be made visible along the magnetic field lines of his terrella (his "little earth") near its magnetic poles was revolutionary, because the experiment, creating an artificial aurora around the poles of the terrella, replicated the effects of the solar wind – the Sun to Earth electric current – on the magnetic Earth.
The fact that his findings about the nature of the aurora were wholly rebuffed by the scientific establishment for over half a century and are still marginalised today (in spite of verification) is a stark measure of the failure of twentieth century cosmology to keep experimental physics at the heart of its disciplines, preferring to rely rather on physically unverifiable mathematical construction.
For, as Hannes Alfvén so rightly commented, plasma is "too complicated and awkward” for the tastes of mathematicians. It is “not at all suited for mathematically elegant theories” and requires laboratory experiments. He thought that the underlying assumptions of cosmologists “are developed with the most sophisticated mathematical methods and it is only the plasma itself which does not ‘understand’ how beautiful the theories are and absolutely refuses to obey them.”
The true story about twentieth century science is rarely or never to be found in today's public media, and we must continue asking, for the sake of sheer sanity, over a seemingly ever-expanding field:
“Has the erroneous account been so inculcated into the public mind and perception that it has become too big to fail?”
3.4 The Expanding Universe?
3.4.1. What went wrong?
In the last three sections, I have sent out a warning that science academia in general has from the early to mid twentieth century taken a very seriously wrong turn. I should emphasise at this point that this essay is not in any sense a "science versus religion" argument: there will be some who, without any foundation, will seek to deride it as if it were. The reason for such a reaction may be that many who range themselves on the "science" side of that supposed divide will find themselves with a convenient stick to beat someone like me who points out that modern physics and cosmology are in a desperate state, as well as all the sciences that depend upon them. The twentieth century, so far from being the very model of pure scientific development, is likely to fare very badly at the hands of the future historians of science: perhaps no better, indeed, than it has at the hands of the narrators of twentieth century human cruelty. Has any other century seen torture and slaughter on the scale of those of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot, as well as their unnamed successors? In the minds of such perpetrators there was and is often a warped notion of science justifying their enormities. We should not then consider it impossible for the seeds of such enormities to have been planted earlier in the chain of events leading to such horrors.
I have pointed out that the wrong turn in science has involved, among other things,
(1) the misapprehension of the limits to the role of mathematics in constructing physical and cosmological theories and models,
(2) the refusal to allow the electrical force its evidently proper place in the workings of the universe, and
(3) the ignoring of the existence and role of the fundamental state of matter called the plasma, which permeates space.
These wrong conceptions and omissions have allowed and encouraged the replacement, fatal to real science, of experiment by an over-use of mathematical models. Indeed, some of those who have successfully relieved themselves of these widespread errors have found that laboratory experimentation is eminently possible and necessary for the building of cosmological science; while, on the other hand, those who have stuck to the prevailing science story have left themselves with no means of laboratory experimentation either to verify or to falsify their hypotheses.
An associated error is the reliance on a Lyellian uniformitarianism, which is entirely unlikely as a valid theory if electricity plays a major role in the workings of the cosmos. However, to deny the role of electricity in order to preserve Lyellian uniformitarianism flies in the face of evidence, and the result can no longer be regarded as science.
The theory of uniformitarianism underpins the idea that the solar system, not to say the galaxy in which the solar system exists, has remained essentially unchanged for unimaginable aeons, and this has been an assumption that has been propped up by fancy mathematics at every point of doubt, rather than by anything that is experimentally verifiable. The most convenient outcome of the assumption of uniformity is that it would (if it were true) render impossible any deployment of the electric force in the disposition of the visible heavens. But NASA is now beginning to find that electrical forces and currents are in so many places becoming too evident to be ignored, and "magnetic reconnection" is not always (though still too often) now being given as an explanation for these phenomena.
3.4.2 The evidence of comets
It is the theory of uniformitarianism, for instance, that underlies the belief that comets must be "dirty snowballs", an idea that has been presented in text-books as fact. In reality, that idea is an assumption built upon an assumption.
The first nexus of assumptions is that, because under uniformitarianism there is no possibility of comets having been produced recently, say in the last few thousand years, the rate at which they are disappearing should mean that there would be none left by now. For the assumed theory is that they came into existence aeons ago, at the same time as the rest of the solar system was formed. All of this must be true, it is claimed, because of uniformitarianism. Yet it is undeniable that comets do, in fact, still exist.
This contradiction was "resolved" by employing a further assumption – that the comets we see from time to time within the solar system having come into existence through "condensation" like the rest of the solar system many aeons ago, have spent nearly all of those aeons trapped in a mysterious and unobserved "cloud" around the sun in the farthest reaches of the solar system. Very occasionally, some small part of that slushy cloud became condensed and heavy enough to drop out of it into the inner solar system as a comet, which, of course, because of its supposed origin, must be something like a dirty snowball, which in the radiative heat of the sun spews out the material of its tail.
In a 2005 NASA experiment, however, an 820 pound copper projectile was fired into the nucleus of one of these supposed "dirty snowballs", called Tempel One, and there was a huge flash, preceded by a smaller flash just before the projectile reached the surface.
The experiment produced clear evidence that it was a piece of solid rock and that electrical discharging was involved, and not just when the metal projectile was adjacent to it.
The simple, "Occam's razor"-style, model of comets that through this and other observations begs to be acknowledged is that their elongated orbits take them into space regions of such differing electrical potential that they start discharging like an electrode in a discharge chamber, or like a terrella in a Kristian Birkeland experiment. Such discharge, as schoolchildren know, may be in dark mode, visible mode or arc mode depending on the potential difference between the comet-electrode itself and its surrounding space-plasma.
Why, therefore, at the present rate of loss, have the comets not all disappeared by now? Because they – perhaps along with the rest of the solar system – were brought into their present form relatively recently. The evidence shows that comets have indeed been produced in recent times, not many aeons ago. The "Oort Cloud", as it is called, is fictional. And in reality comets have not had the time all to disappear yet.
This electric model of comets is extremely successful in accounting for the behaviour of comets in general. But if we accept the electric model of comets, then we must immediately start reckoning with the probability that the whole idea of uniformitarianism, discredited in its application to comets, is entirely erroneous in any application to the cosmos,.
And if uniformitarianism must be "out" with comets, and therefore with all else, so also "out" is any assumption that the electric force could not have had a hand – indeed perhaps a major hand – in shaping or reshaping our own part of the universe, just thousands of years ago.
It is time, indeed past high time, that we wake up to the very evident possibility that the "science story" that the twentieth century has taught us is most terribly wrong.
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