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In The Beginning There Was No Magnetism, Where Did The Universe's Magnetism Come From?

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Image credit: NASA/ESA/ESO/Wolfram Freudling et al. (STECF)

In the beginning, there was no magnetism.

Immediately after the Big Bang, the universe contained an awesomely hot cloud of electrically charged protons, electrons, helium and lithium nuclei. Each could produce magnetic fields in every direction, but these fields completely cancelled out each other in the smooth, uniform gas of the early cosmos.

How the mighty, universe-shaping forces of primordial magnetism emerged always has been something of a mystery, but physicist Reinhard Schlickeiser from the Institute of Theoretical Physics at the Ruhr-Universitat Bochum in Germany thinks he may know the answer.

Out of that hot gas — which was cooling by expansion — came atoms. What it did not produce were objects with permanent magnetic fields. They would come later, but Schlickeiser thinks there was an extremely weak form of magnetism, created randomly even before the first stars appeared. These weak fields were later strengthened and stretched by the first stellar winds and exploding stars.

Schlickeiser said that magnetism can be produced naturally by the spin of atoms and subatomic particles. However, strong magnetism would not have happened in the infant universe because it requires heavy elements like nickel or iron that were produced only later inside stars. Producing even heavier magnetic elements, in turn, requires supernovas, the violent destructions of huge stars at the end of their lives.

“You get magnetism any time a charge or current flows; just put a compass near a wire carrying direct current and watch the needle tremble,” said Michael Riordan of the University of California, Santa Cruz. “But if you have a lot of charges going every which way, as occurred in the early universe before the plasma [electrically charged gas] cooled out into atoms, the average current flow is zero everywhere, so no net magnetism on any macroscopic scale.”

What might have occurred is that as the extraordinary high temperatures of the cloud cooled when the universe was around 380,000 years old, random islands of magnetism formed, produced by variations in density and pressure. Schlickeiser said those weak magnetic fields would be measured at around ten-sixtillionths of a tesla, a unit of magnetism. The average MRI machine in a doctor’s office is three teslas.

The magnetism is so small it has no effect on the gas surrounding it, Schlickeiser said. To the contrary, the gas pushed around the weak magnetic fields.

Eventually, the matter in the universe accreted into stars and galaxies. The stars did not need the heavier elements to form, but began producing them as they cooled and collapsed.

If stars are massive enough, they explode at the end of their lifetimes. The outflowing ejecta from the exploding stars compress the surrounding medium, while simultaneously enriching it with the heavier elements. According to Schlickeiser, the combination of stellar wind and the blasts began to push the little magnetic fields round, compressing them, strengthening them, and aligning them in the direction of the wind.

“There is a stream of gas going out, ramming through the medium of the magnetic fields, and supersonic wind flow compresses and orders the field as it flows,” Schlickeiser said.

Finally, the magnetic field became strong enough to push the plasma around.

The stars, meanwhile, began creating the heavier elements that produced much stronger magnetism through atomic spin. It is that magnetism that formed the magnetic fields of the Earth– and it is that field you see in the aurora borealis, better known as the Northern Lights.

The original theory behind this form of random magnetism was worked out by Schlickeiser and Peter Yoon of the Institute of Physical Science and Technology at the University of Maryland. Yoon said that Schlickeiser adapted it to cosmology with this work.

“[Schlickeiser] is proposing this new idea of random magnification through a plasma process,” Yoon said, a “seed magnetic field” much stronger than anyone proposed before.

This seed magnification would be amplified and made more coherent by this process.

“You have to have something to start from,” Yoon said. “[Schlickeiser] is proposing a mechanism.”

The research was recently published in the journal Physical Review Letters.


Contacts and sources:
By Joel N. Shurkin, 

ISNS ContributorInside Science News Service

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    Total 3 comments
    • Bgood

      Anything about the Electricity Universe?

      Matter in the whole universe is lines of energy spinning clockwise around a nucleus, or a pole. In other words, matter itself is formed of gyroscopes; even the earth is a great big gyroscope turning on it’s axis once every twenty four hours. All if the stars and planets spin like a gyroscope – even the sun spins on it’s axis. The sun, being composed of gases, does not spin evenly – part of it lags behind – and every eleven years when the faster part passes the slower part, it causes the sun to give off tremendous bursts of energy.

      Perhaps I should go back to how the universe was, as you would say, put together. It was created by the head on collision of two great bursts of energy. This energy was composed of straight lines. In the collision these lines became permanently coiled around captured straight lines, forming gyroscopes. The universe, itself, is the mother and the largest of the gyroscopes formed by the collision. Everything – from the smallest particle in this universe, to the whole universe itself – is energy in circular motion around a trapped piece of energy in it’s original straight form, like a bird in a cage. This straight piece of energy corresponds to the axis of the gyroscope. Matter can be formed by curling these straight lines around a shorter straight line. This straight line does not extend through the circling bodies. For instance, a compass on the earth as you near the north or south pole tends to point inward until – at the pole – it points straight down.

      When matter is broken up or changed – as in a fire or chemical action – part of this energy goes back, temporarily, into its former almost straight lines; giving off light. When some of the lines hit an object, it causes the gyroscopes in the object to speed up and give off part of its energy.

      I might say that not all of these lines were curled in the explosion; they are still trapped in the universe. Some of them are bent into magnetic lines with the power to either push or pull, depending upon the direction they are pointed. These lines are what is known as gravity, or magnetism; sometimes they are long and sometimes they are short, sometimes weak and sometimes strong. For an example, in an iron magnet, they are short and weak. Others are long and concentrated and have enormous strength, and – according to the laws of the gyroscope action in which they are trapped – hold every star and planet in its orbit. Once in a great while a star will explode with enough force to temporarily alter its surrounding lines, but they will resume their original forms in a short time.

      This gives some of your astronomers the idea that the universe is expanding, but we have charted it and can tell them that it is not. As you can imagine, when the universe was first formed there was a time when everything was in confusion, but for the last four billion years it has been stable and should continue as it is now, indefinitely – unless it strikes another universe, or something we cannot imagine at this time.


        “…some of YOUR astronomers…”

        “…something WE cannot imagine…”

        Someone better call the men in white coats. And just in case, you better call the Men In Black as well.

        • BEEF SUPREME

          …emphasis on the Men In Black at this time.

          There are hardly any humans left alive on the planet at the moment who can compose a single sentence without defect, much less five paragraphs.

          I’m betting he’s one of those slimy cephalopod-types with the regenerating heads.

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