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Squashed Star Flattens Solar Theory

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By Wal Thornhill June 24, 2003

The following report appeared in New Scientist for 12 June 2003:

Flattest star puts astronomers in a spin

Danny Penman

The flattest star yet seen is forcing researchers to revise their ideas on the dynamics and
structure of celestial bodies. The star, called Achernar, was observed by astronomers at the
European Southern Observatory in Chile.

According to standard celestial theories, the fast spinning star should be only 20 to 30 per cent
wider across its equator than from pole to pole. But Achernar, which spins at 225 km per second,
has a colossal bulge around its equator and is 50 per cent wider.

Artist's impression of ACHERNAR (Alpha Eridani). Brilliant blue Achernar, the ninth brightest star in the sky, lies at
the southern tip of the star-river Eridanus. It has a belt of emitting gas circling its equator. It is a member of a
peculiar class of stars known as "Lambda Eridani" stars that show tiny but very regular periodic light variations.

All stars and planets that reach a critical spin velocity bulge slightly at the equator. The Earth is 40
kilometres, or 0.3 per cent, wider from east to west than from north to south. Astronomers had
been confident that their calculations of this oblateness were fairly accurate. But the new
observation means that the model for fast rotating stars is not complete, says astronomer Pierre
Kervella, one of the team at the European Southern Observatory. We clearly do not know
enough. Either the core is rotating faster than the surface or the stars matter is circulating in an
unexpected way. Were not sure which possibility is correct at the moment, he told New Scientist.

The discovery was made by astronomers using the Very Large Telescope Interferometer at
ESOs Paranal site in Chile. This uses two 40-centimetre reflecting telescopes to produce images
which are then combined and passed through an interferometer. This permits extremely accurate
measurements the instrument could spot a one euro coin at 2500 kilometres distance.

The astronomers now plan to gather even higher resolution images using a trio of 1.8 metre
telescopes. But our immediate task will be to re-design our computer models, says Kervella. The
team hopes to use the models to distinguish between the two possible explanations for the stars
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extraordinary flatness.

Comment: There is a third important alternative, notable for its absence from the discussion. Perhaps we dont
know how stars work! The simplest way to explain stellar flattening due to swift rotation would be if the star
were more homogeneous in density. But that would require giving up the notion of a central thermonuclear fire.

Predictive success is a key indicator of the correctness of a theoretical model. The above report demonstrates
once more the predictive failure of present astrophysical models. The recommended scientific approach to such
a dilemma is to question all of the assumptions that go into the failing model. However, when it comes to the
question of how stars work, embodied in the standard solar model, there is no question. Stars shine, so
obviously something must be burning within the star.

But electric lights shine without consuming themselves.

In the above report, two ad hoc solutions are offered to complicate things. But this is merely tinkering with a
model that is already in deep trouble according to other fundamental observations. Unfortunately it seems
scientists are encouraged by their training to indulge in confirmatory bias. That is, the tendency for humans to
seek out, attend to, and sometimes embellish experiences that support or confirm their beliefs.

One study found that the vast majority of scientists drawn from a national sample showed a
strong preference for confirmatory experiments. Over half of these scientists did not even
recognize disconfirmation (modus tollens) as a valid reasoning form! In another study the logical
reasoning skills of 30 scientists were compared to those of 15 relatively uneducated Protestant
ministers. Where there were performance differences, they tended to favor the ministers.
Confirmatory bias was prevalent in both groups, but the ministers used disconfirmatory logic
almost twice as often as the scientists did.
Michael J. Mahoney, Publication Prejudices: An Experimental Study of Confirmatory Bias in the
Peer Review System Cognitive Therapy and Research, Vol. 1, No. 2, 1977, pp. 161-175.

Two fundamental observations about the Sun do not support the standard solar model but they have
been minimised or ignored.

The first is the celebrated neutrino problem where the neutrinos arriving from the Sun are far too few to account
for the Suns presumed thermonuclear energy output. No scientist could contemplate trashing the standard solar
model so the problem had to be with the neutrinos. After decades of expensive research it was shown by the
KamLAND experiment [see below] that neutrinos can oscillate between different forms, known whimsically as
flavors. Following the habit of confirmatory bias, this notion was seized upon as proof that the standard solar
model was correct. A report in Physics Today, March 2003, put it this way: After 36 years of solar neutrino
experiments, the inescapable conclusion is that a large fraction of the electron neutrinos produced by nuclear
processes in the Suns core are metamorphosing into other neutrino varieties somewhere en route to the
detectors on Earth. The report came to the conclusion that neutrinos were not undergoing any significant
change of flavor in the vacuum of space between the Sun and Earth. Instead they were performing an
irreversible flavor change that takes place in high-density regions of the Sun. So not only does the Sun need a
hypothetical hot, high-density core to have any hope of generating thermonuclear energy, it now needs a
hypothetical critical-electron-density region as well, to fudge the neutrino results. No doubt this will give rise to
a flurry of theoretical activity using neutrinos to probe the imagined interior of the Sun.

A widely viewed site on the Internet reported the KamLAND experiment in triumphal terms:

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A large sphere beneath Japan has helped verify humanity's understanding of the inner workings of the Sun.
..leading astrophysicists now consider the long standing solar neutrino deficit problem as finally solved.

But neutrino metamorphosis is not an inescapable conclusion. It is confirmatory bias with bells on! Conflicting
evidence about the source region of the neutrinos is being ignored. There have been several reports of a
correlation between the neutrino count, the sunspot number and solar wind strength. These are solar surface
effects that should have no connection with what is going on in the Suns core, where the hidden energy of the
nuclear furnace is supposed to take hundreds of thousands of years to leak out to the surface.

The electric star model suggests a simpler explanation of solar neutrino observations. The Sun produces all of
the neutrino flavors on the surface in more complex nuclear reactions than mere heat and pressure allows. The
nuclear reactions are ignited by the plasma pinch effect in the gigantic electrical discharges that cover the star
and produce starlight. Ironically, it is the same phenomenon as that employed in some laboratories attempting to
mimic the Suns energy production! In this model, the connection between neutrino count, sunspot number and
solar wind is expected, because the driver for them all is the same galactic electrical power.

The second serious challenge to the standard solar model comes from solar oscillations. In the 1970s, the Sun
was unexpectedly found to ring like a bell. In 1976 Severny, Kotov & Tsap discovered a dominant 160-minute
ringing mode of the Sun. They wrote, The simplest interpretation is that we observed purely radial pulsations.
The most striking fact is that the observed period is almost precisely the value if the Sun were to be an
homogeneous sphere. We have investigated two possible solutions to this dilemma. The first alternative is
that nuclear reactions are not responsible for energy generation in the Sun. Such a conclusion, although
rather extravagant, is quite consistent with the observed absence of appreciable neutrino flux from the Sun, and
with the observed abundance of Li and Be in the solar atmosphere.

The second alternative involved force fitting the data to the standard solar model by assuming that the
oscillations were not simply radial but of a more complicated form. However, the implications were so disturbing
for theorists that the work was repeated in various locations and all sources of error considered. The result in
1981 was that the original oscillation was found to be the highest peak in the power spectrum, and one may
conclude that 160-min oscillation shows mostly radial motion. In reporting the status of solar oscillation
observations in 1991 in Solar Interior and Atmosphere, F. Hill et al mention the 160-minute oscillation without
any reference to the implied homogeneous Sun. Rather, they spend half a page casting suspicion on the
extensive observations and attempting to minimize its significance. The reason is only thinly veiled; Additional
doubt comes from the difficulty of theoretically describing the nature of the oscillation. . The authors were
merely behaving with the usual confirmatory bias.
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The question of what is ringing the stellar bell has not been satisfactorily answered. It should be noted that the
size of an electric star is determined by the degree of electric stress it suffers. And since the electric Sun forms
part of a galactic circuit, it will exhibit resonant effects. The Sun is an electric bell as well as an electric light! It
seems particularly significant that the 160-minute oscillation also appears with high statistical significance in the
solar intensity, infra-red, radio and radio polarization (connected with the solar magnetic field). All of these effects
are to be expected in an electric star model because they are driven by the same resonant electrical power
circuit.

Kotov went on to publish a paper in 1985 that detailed a number of other significant astrophysical manifestations
of this basic 160-minute resonance in the solar system, binary stars and RR-Lyrae variable stars in globular
clusters. He concluded, beyond doubt, ..the nature of the 160-min oscillation, firstly found in the Sun and then in
the solar system as a whole and then among the stars, does present a new challenging problem for
astrophysics. ..the next thing to suggest is that a fundamental aspect of the physics of gravitation is not yet
understood(?). I suggest that the problem has nothing to do with gravity. Instead, problems arise because
incorrect gravitational models are used in astrophysics. The correct electrical models are much simpler and can
be verified by direct observations instead of inferences about the hidden interiors of stars.

As outlined in an earlier news item, an electric star is expected to be much the same density throughout.
So the peculiar flattening of fast-spinning Achernar is easily understood.

In the not-too-distant future we will look back on attempts to explain the Sun in terms of a central fire with the
same dismissive humor that we use for earlier notions of the Sun as some sort of fire in the sky, steadily
consuming itself. What appears at first glance a perfectly natural and simple explanation fails to explain almost
all of the strange solar phenomena we see. Our old fiery model of the Sun, and consequently of all stars, has
become a complicated theoretical nightmare.

It seems that the leap from an old worldview to a new one is difficult for the human mind. But once achieved we
can teach young children ideas that defeated the greatest minds for centuries. Our grandchildren will view it as
perfectly obvious that Nature should provide us with an electric light, the Sun, powered over galactic distances
by a vast network of invisible transmission lines, humming at an ultra-low frequency. Plasma physicists already
know those transmission lines as Birkeland currents.

Wal Thornhill

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