plasma pic

The pinnacle of pseudoscience in astronomy and astrophysics

Observation of an actual black hole, or more precisely its event horizon, was inevitable with a global collaboration called the Event Horizon Telescope.  I think it is safe to say that failure was not an option with hundreds of millions of dollars, thousands of research hours, and petabytes of data on the line.  So earlier this month the EHT collaboration finally delivered with its observations of M87* (Powehi). within Messier 87 (NGC 4486).

Unfortunately for science, and humanity’s knowledge in general, their observations are misinterpretations due to the extreme bias of the EHT collaboration.  As is the case with the vast majority of mainstream astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology, the observations were analyzed under the premise that gravity is the strongest and most dominant force in the Universe.  In reality, gravity is the weakest and least effectual of the four fundamental forces of the Universe.

Because gravity is so extremely weak, groups like the EHT collaboration have to imagine enormous and exotic objects such as a supermassive black hole several times the diameter of our solar system and with a mass 6.5 billion times that of the Sun sitting in the center of the M87 galaxy.  How else can they possibly explain what essentially appears to be a big blurry ring of glowing material?  And that is all it really is – an explanation based on a very biased interpretation of the observations. 

And of course the collaboration realizes that a single big blurry image does not really justify all the time and expense that was put into their project.  So they embellished and enhanced their “discovery” in several different ways including:

  • Gathering together hundreds of researchers who all back each other’s work without any external criticism, question or oversight.  That is the very definition of collaboration, so at least there is truth in the naming of the group.  This mass gathering of collaborators is also the case for other giant pseudoscience projects such as LIGO and the LHC.  The idea being that the more researchers involved the more legitimate a project will appear to be.

  • Spotlighting a young female collaborator and falsely claiming her algorithm is what led to the discovery.  In reality there were several teams involved that included other women and a variety of different algorithms were used.  The idea here was that questioning their discovery would make a skeptic not only appear to be against “science” but also appear to be a misogynist.

  • Having a Hawaiian professor give the object a nickname that comes from a Hawaiian creation chant. This was a pure feel-good PR move just like the female collaborator spotlight.  So now if you question their discovery not only are you against “science” and women in science you also have a problem with Hawaiian culture.

  • Hype, hype, hype.  Nothing works better than a good dose of propaganda. Whether it is the media or the collaborators themselves blowing their own horn, it’s hard not to join in on the celebration in what is being declared as the greatest observation ever made in cosmology and astrophysics and the turning point in the history of astronomy.  It is essentially a mob mentality: either join us or be treated as an outcast.  And many scientists over the years have suffered this very fate. These were true scientists such as Galileo, Birkeland and Arp.
M87 Chandra X-ray image

When interpreting the EHT observations under the reality of our plasma-based universe no embellishments or enhancements are necessary.  Neither are any esoteric or exotic objects such as black holes, neutron stars or pulsars.  In fact, the source of the observations is very apparent in the original Chandra X-ray image.  Long, intertwined filaments of plasma can be seen forming a long arch across the center this image.  At the point along the arch where the filaments twist closely together a plasma pinch is formed.  The highly energetic ring of plasma along the edge of this pinch can be seen as a bright circular shape surrounding a darker area in both the Chandra and EHT images.  This dark area is not a black hole but more of a torus surrounding less energetic plasma.  This plasma is accelerated away from the torus at tremendous speeds by powerful magnetic fields until it is ejected in opposite directions as high energy jets, one of which is obscured by dust and plasma in the Chandra image.

Formation of a plasma pinch

The torus appears slightly oval and brighter on one side because the brighter side is tilted toward us at a slightly upward angle, not because of relativistic effects.  If there were truly a supermassive black hole in the center of M87 the spectral shift and gravitational lensing effects would be much more prominent, as demonstrated in these simulation videos.  The tilted torus also explains why the one visible jet is ejected at its particular angle.  Gravity’s influence in this object’s formation and in its activity is very slight, but the influence of the electromagnetic force is very apparent.  Magnetic field lines and electrical flow are visible not only in the torus and ejected jet of material but also in the large concentric disks of material surrounding the torus in the Chandra image.

Because the electromagnetic force is so scalable all of these plasma-based observations can be reproduced and tested in a laboratory environment with the right equipment.  This is how real science and the scientific method works.  Form a hypothesis and test that hypothesis with experiments, reproduce the results, then publish the results.  Black hole theory does not allow for testing or experiments.  Multiple hypotheses are formed, observations are made, then one or more of the hypotheses are adjusted to more closely match the observations, then a “discovery” is announced. This is not science but how theoretical models are presented to the public as fact, wasting public funds and setting back real science for years, if not decades.

The EHT collaboration may present an interesting and compelling model for their M87* observations but it is based on nothing more than theory and speculation.  Their model cannot be tested and is patently unfalsifiable therefore it is not based on science but on pseudoscience and needs to be recognized as such.


The pinnacle of pseudoscience in astronomy and astrophysicsShannon Sims

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