2008 was a shitburger sandwich with a side of fries in many respects. Financially, it was a wash, and my work in the bowels of Customs and Border Protection was quite simply the worst work environment I have ever experienced. And I worked at a place where someone tried to kill me. Long hours of boredom and sociopathic coworkers were bookended by two hour commutes.
In a word, it completely fucking sucked.
But before our three remaining readers start dialing the suicide hotlines on my behalf, not all was crap on rye. For instance, there was the birth of my daughter Claire, which alone more than outweighed working for one of the tentacles of the Department of Homeland Security.
And all that free time at work gave me a lot of time to read. And my interminable commutes gave me a lot of time to ponder.
I wasn’t really able to convert much of that to prolific blogging thanks to time constraints and the prejudices of the internet filters at DHS facilities. Which I hope to rectify, somewhat, in the near future.
Some of the fruits of my year of suffering are these:
I no longer believe that the entire community of astronomers, astrophysicists and cosmologists have the least fucking clue what is going on in the universe past where the air gets kinda thin.
I no longer have unlimited faith that democracy is the best system of government.
I think Velikovsky may have been right. Or at least on to something.
I drifted into these things sideways, really. While I am naturally a bit of a contrarian, (Okay, a really big contrarian. Shut up.) I have not made a habit of seeking out outre heretical thoughts just to make a spectacle of myself.
Since I was a kid, I have always read with amazement and delight all the breathless stories, describing all the remarkable, implausible theories modern science has come up with. Black holes, quasars, quantum strangeness. I ate it up and went back for seconds. And if it wasn’t for beer, I might have actually been a physicist myself.
But in the nineties, I started getting a little dubious. Once, a friend of mine and I were attempting to explain the concept of Ockham’s razor to a particularly dim and more than slightly drunk sorority chick. Why we thought that it was important that we should do so, and whether we thought it would do any good is beside the point. But in trying to find an example, we settled on gravity. We explained that mass attracts other bits of mass. You’re sitting on a particularly large bit of mass. So it pulls you down. See? Simple. Can be explained by a few lines of equations, utterly predictable and nice.
But why is this explanation better than any others, she asked. Well, shit. Uh, imagine that there isn’t any mystical force of gravity. Imagine that the only thing that is holding you in that chair is gravity trolls. Their job is to hold stuff down. There’s trillions of them, and they, with infinite care, go around holding shit down. That’s there job.
But I don’t see them! Oh, we forgot to mention, they’re invisible gravity trolls. You can’t see or feel them. But trust us, they’re holding you down right now.
Oh. But what about airplanes? she asked. Well, while the invisible gravity trolls are diligent, the curvy shapes of wings confuse them. They forget to hold them down. Helicopters work the same way. And, before you ask, hydrogen, helium and hot air make them drunk.
Why is there no gravity in space? Well, what do you think, invisible gravity trolls can breathe vacuum? How do satellites stay in orbit, then? Well, there’s a long line of IGT’s holding hands, and the last one is grabbing the satellite.
And so on. We spun out a massively baroque and ridiculous IGT theory of gravity. And then, we said that given the two theories that both explain the curious phenomenon of stuff not floating away, it’s probably best to take the simpler one.
Anywho. Later on in that decade, we started hearing a lot about dark matter. And then more about dark energy. The universe, it seems, wasn’t behaving right. The invisible gravity trolls were acting up – and a central bit was that galaxies were spinning as if there were much more mass than could be seen. So, invisible mass was proposed. Other problems arose, and dark energy explained these discrepancies.
It got to the point where cosmologists now insist, with their faces hanging out, that 96% of the universe is undetectable by pretty much any imaginable means. I started thinking, that smells like fudge, as in fudge factor. I started suspecting IGT’s. But, not being a physicist, and not having anything better to put in in its place, I let it go.
Then I ran across Plasma Cosmology. The basic thought is that electromagnetism – a force which is 41 orders of magnitude stronger than gravity (that’s 41 zeros) might just have something to do with how the universe fits together. For the same reason that a child’s magnet can counteract the force of the inconceivably larger earth below it when it picks up a paper clip, electric and magnetic fields in space could have an effect on how stars, nebulas, and whatnot all behave.
They say, and I have come to believe, that substituting a gravity plus electromagnetic universe explains things better than a gravity only universe, and without resort to dark matter and dark energy – which had already seemed to me to be fudge factors more concerned with preserving theory than explaining what we actually see.
And that led in to a lot more stuff, which I plan on writing more about later.
But first, to get you started, read this introduction to plasma cosmology. It explains the basic idea in a readable way, and makes a good starting point.