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My father is a generally intelligent person, however he has latched onto a theory which I believe to be completely incorrect.

He doesn't believe in gravity, but rather subscribes to an 'Electrical Theory of the Universe', see the website The Electric Universe.

I've looked into it enough to realize that it flies completely in the face of current physics models, but I'm not qualified to debunk it. I know it's almost certainly incorrect - extraordinary claims requiring extraordinary evidence and all - but I can't demonstrate it.

So my question is this: Are there any observable behaviors which are inconsistent with the theory's predictions, or are there any demonstrable disproofs for this theory? What evidence can I present against it?

Edit: Sorry for the delay in this, but here's a link to a series of Youtube videos on the electrical theory of the universe (which seems to be the term used by it's proponents, alternatively called the plasma theory).

6-part Youtube video:

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Could you describe the electrical theory? –  Dan Dec 31 '11 at 21:32
Out of curiosity, how does the electrical theory of the universe explain the behaviour of 3 seperated bodies/point particles, which all attract each other? –  NikolajK Jan 1 '12 at 0:04
I found the question interesting because physicists extrapolate to the universe in general from their measurements of the behavior of electromagnetic beams. Maybe instead of "electrical theory of the universe" an "electromagnetic theory of the universe" will be more useful. –  Zeynel Jan 1 '12 at 17:05
You can look up the "electromagnetic worldview" and Max Abraham for some pointers. It is essentially discredited by relativity, which ruled out mechanical ethers. –  Ron Maimon Jan 1 '12 at 20:34
This question would definitely be much improved by linking to some resources describing the "electrical theory." –  David Z Jan 2 '12 at 3:04

1 Answer 1

From my cursory overview of the stuff these people have online, there are a few really glaring problems:

  1. First and foremost, it doesn't appear that the electric universe model makes any quantitative predictions. I don't see any models for how stars and galaxies are supposed to form and behave, just a bunch of words about how gravitational models make too many assumptions or rely on too much theory, whatever that means. Really, this theory is not even wrong.
  2. Also, it appears that these models don't really discuss the equivalence principle. If you're going to use electricity to explain gravity, you need to explain why the rate at which something falls is independent of that object's charge (minus electric self-force), and also independent of that object's mass. Why do all objects near the Earth fall with the same acceleration?
  3. While dark matter and dark energy are problems, they solve problems that arise within a quantitative model. In particular, the standard $\Lambda$CDM models very precisely predict the relative abundance of hydrogen and helium in our universe. If the 'electric' universe can't do that, then it has a bigger problem than dark matter/dark energy
  4. Also, these people seem to believe in an eternal static universe with an infinite extent. They need to explain how they resolve Olbers' paradox

This list is hardly exhaustive, but these are a few starting points.

EDIT: This theory appears to be describing this:


Plasma cosmology doesn't predict Hubble's Law, the relative abundances of the elements or the cosmic microwave background.

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a p.s. to this would be that all 20th century particle physics data is ignored by this proposed "theory", standard model and all. –  anna v Jan 29 '13 at 4:47
They wanted observable, testable, proof debunking EU. The only observable item you referenced was #2, which is irrelevant since EU doesn't discount or replace gravity, it just uses plasma physics to explain things gravity does not, like the need for dark matter (not enough gravity to form galaxies). EU DOES have explanations for galaxy formation, star formation, black holes, neutron stars, the CMB, Hubble's Law, etc. People should read the EU theories on these topics before criticizing baselessly. Einstein challenged Newton's theories too, after all, and his stuff sounded just as crazy. –  Giffyguy 3 hours ago
@Giffyguy: great. Point me to a calculation where the electric universe calculates the relative helium abundance correctly in the absence of dark matter. –  Jerry Schirmer 3 hours ago
@JerrySchirmer So you can observe the helium abundance, make that observed value the result of an equation, input your theories, then also insert an imaginary, arbitrary, unobservable, untestable, unprovable variable (dark matter) which value you can then tweak to produce the exact result fitting your initial observations of the abundance? a) That's not science, and b) it neither proves nor debunks anything, therefore you're not even answering the original question. EU is an evolving theory - if you expect all possible questions to be answered up front, you're looking at science the wrong way. –  Giffyguy 3 hours ago
@Giffyguy, um, that's not what $\Lambda$CDM does. And the existing cosmological models come at the relative abundance of dark matter using various methodologies, all of which predict the same result. –  Jerry Schirmer 2 hours ago

protected by Qmechanic Jan 28 '13 at 15:56

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