The current delayed mission of NASA's Space Shuttle Endeavour constitutes the penultimate launch for the Space Shuttle program. It comes at an end of an era, with over thirty years of Space Shuttle flights contributing to the launch of satellites, space telescopes and astronaut missions. The end of the Shuttle program will come at the loss of several thousand jobs and an increasing privatization of space missions thanks to the policies of the Obama administration. The increased focus on profit-based space excursions may well be to the detriment of scientific research into the nature of our universe. While we have learned a considerable amount of information about the environment outside our planet; there are clearly more things to learn and discover. We could also go as far as to entirely question our current understanding of the universe. Indeed, as the era of the Space Shuttle comes to a close, perhaps this could help direct resources to help herald the dawn of a new era in the sciences of astronomy and cosmology.
The delayed Space Shuttle Endeavour is scheduled to launch on the 8th of May at the earliest, and will carry several items to the International Space Station. Among them is an instrument called the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2 which has been designed to measure a phenonema known as "cosmic rays" - which are basically a collection of charged particles flowing from outer space. NASA have also stated that the instrument may help scientists learn more about the nature of "dark matter" and perhaps unveil some of the mysteries surrounding this hypothetical form of matter that allegedly constitutes the majority of the mass of the universe. The mentioning of such a phenonema like "dark matter" has been accepted as a credible possibility among the majority of the astronomical community. Indeed, it forms part of a panoply of weird and exotic phenonema such as "black holes", "dark energy", "gravitons", "WIMPS" and "MACHOS" (among others) that mainstream astrophysicsts have added to the consensus vocabulary and which continue to be repeated on popular science websites and news articles. But what if such phenonema are merely misleading entities created to fit the holes in an erroneous mainstream view of the universe? How much of our current gravity-dependent understanding of the universe is actually correct? A small group of scientists have long held an understanding of our universe that flys in the face of the mainstream consensus, and recent discoveries have helped bolster their theory.
On the 13th of April, the European Space Agency (ESA) announced that its Herschel space observatory discovered "networks of tangled gaseous filaments" in the clouds between stars. These filaments have been imaged in unprecedented detail; spanning distances of many light years, and in places crossing and apparently entangling with other filaments. Interestingly the densest regions of these filament networks are said to contain "newly-born stars", according to the ESA press release. Göran Pilbratt (the head of the Herschel project) stated that "we can actually see stars forming like beads on strings in some of these filaments”. Herschel has also discovered that the width of each individual filament is approximately the same. The discovery of the equal widths of each filament has come as a "very big surprise" to the researchers involved. The lead author, Doris Arzoumanian, measured 90 filaments within the gas cloud known as IC5146 and found that each one measured 0.3 light years across. Such a consistent width prompted a need for an explanation, and this was met by computer models based on a hypothesis that dissipating "sonic booms" from exploding stars manifest as shockwaves in these clouds, and form the filaments. The project authors have stated that such an explanation does not constitute direct proof, but they do claim that these "sonic booms" are strong evidence for the formation of the filaments and that this also has implications for the conventional understanding of star formation. Indeed, one of the Herschel scientists stated that the filament-forming shockwaves “provides a very strong constraint on theories of star formation”. Conventional theories of star formation rely on theories such as “gravitational collapse” or “accretion disks” of interstellar clouds. Such theories, however, have been challenged by the ESA Herschel discovery as well as a small group of scientists that follow a cosmological model known as Plasma Cosmology.
The Plasma Cosmology model was originally conceived in the mid 1960's by the physicist Hannes Alfvén - who won the Nobel Prize as a result of his studies on plasmas. Since then, his work has been expanded on by a variety of scientists primarily working in the field of Electrical Engineering, particularly since the nature of plasma is essentially electrical. It can be regarded as a state of matter composed of charged particles (such as atoms that have gained or lost electrons) that can often be diffusely mixed with free floating electrons and neutral atoms. It is the behaviour of such matter in outer space that Plasma Cosmologists (sometimes also known as Electric Universe theorists) claim can explain how stars are actually formed. An important mechanism that is used by plasma theorists to explain much of the phenonema in space is collectively known as Birkeland Currents. The currents are named after the pioneering Norwegian physicist Kristian Birkeland, who predicted them as part of the behaviour of the polar auroras which he studied in the 1900's. These interesting magnetic-field aligned currents were among a variety of phenonema that was discussed by electrical engineer Dr. Donald Scott in a presentation at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in March 2009. While being only an amateur astronomer, Dr. Scott's knowledge of electrodynamic plasma warranted an invitation to speak at the Goddard institute particularly since the publication of his book “The Electric Sky”. While Dr. Scott's talk has been met with skepticism amongst the mainstream astrophysical community, his analyses and observations should not be dismissed without serious investigation. In his talk, he mentioned how the vast majority of space contains charged particles which produce electric currents that are often manifested as Birkeland Currents. These currents often manifest in the form of pairs of conducting plasma filaments wrapped around each other almost like a double-helix. In areas where the current-density is weaker, the filaments are invisible and are in the “dark mode” of plasma. He mentioned that plasma tends to also have a cellular structure, with regions of sufficiently large charge differentials being surrounded by an entity known as a “double layer”. Most importantly, he stated that the force and energy created by the behaviour of inter-stellar space plasmas vastly exceeds the strength of gravity. This challenges the mainstream consensus viewpoint that has restricted the role of electrodynamic plasma to specific regions where the magnetic field-lines are “frozen-in”. Dr. Scott challenges the notion of “frozen-in” magnetic “field lines” by stating that they do not have distinct countable identities. In a 2007 paper published in an IEEE journal Dr. Scott stated that "When, in his acceptance speech of the 1970 Nobel Prize in physics, Alfvén pointed out that this frozen-in idea, which he had earlier endorsed, was false, many astrophysicists chose not to listen”. Thus, Plasma and Electric Universe cosmologists state that the space between stars and the entire environment of space can be said to be full of flowing electromagnetic currents which manifest the varied phenonema that can be observed in the sky.
The recent ESA Herschel discovery of “tangled gaseous filaments” in interstellar clouds may well be little to do with “sonic booms” and very much to do with the behaviour of Birkeland Currents in plasma. The stars that have been observed “forming like beads on strings” by the Herschel researchers could really be a cosmic equivalent of bead lightning. In an article on his website in 2008; Australian physicist Wallace Thornhill wrote that stars are formed by the stellar equivalent of lightning bolts in clouds of plasma. He wrote that matter is scavenged, heated and squeezed along the discharge channels with the current being “pinched” off where the squeeze is most intense – forming plasma beads. He talked about laboratory experiments conducted with high-energy plasma discharges which yielded hot plasma beads (also known as 'plasmoids') forming along the axis of the discharge and scattering after the discharge dissipates. The ESA Herschel scientists discovered that the densest regions of the gaseous filaments were forming stars; and this correllates with the behaviour of magnetic field-aligned Birkeland Currents producing periodic magnetic forces that compress currents into a phenonema known as "Bennett pinches". The ESA scientists also stated that the consistent width of the gaseous filaments was a “very big surprise”, but yet – they were able to hypothesize an explanation without resorting to inter-stellar electricity. The Plasma Cosmologists, on the other hand, claim that electric discharge channels in high-energy space plasmas can be constrained to constant widths over vast distances. Indeed, such discoveries are not a "very big surprise" for plasma cosmologists. No "dark matter", "black holes", "sonic booms" or "gravitational collapse" mechanisms are required to explain such phenonema. Perhaps it is time that mainstream scientists approached the work of Plasma theorists (such as Dr. Donald Scott and Wallace Thornhill) with a more open-mind. As the pioneering scientist Hannes Alfvén once said about the need for more dialogue between different scientific disciplines (and which Dr.Scott mentioned at the end of his NASA lecture): “It often happened that one group reported that in their field they had a special problem which they could not possibly understand. I told them that if they cared to open the door to the next room, it was not locked. Just this special problem had been solved half a year ago, and that if they injected the solution into their own field – it would take a great leap forward. Often they were not at all happy for this suggestion”.