Plasma cosmology is a non-standard cosmology whose central postulate is that the dynamics of ionized gases and plasmas play important, if not dominant, roles in the physics of the universe beyond the Solar System. In contrast, the current observations and models of cosmologists and astrophysicists explain the formation, development, and evolution of astronomical bodies and large-scale structures in the universe as influenced by gravity (including its formulation in Einstein's theory of general relativity) and baryonic physics.
Some theoretical concepts about plasma cosmology originated with Hannes Alfvén, who tentatively proposed the use of plasma scaling to extrapolate the results of laboratory experiments and plasma physics observations and scale them over many orders-of-magnitude up to the largest observable objects in the universe (see box.)
Cosmologists and astrophysicists who have evaluated plasma cosmology have rejected it because it does not match the observations of astrophysical phenomena as well as current cosmological theory. Very few papers supporting plasma cosmology have appeared in the literature since the mid-1990s.
In the 1960s, the theory behind plasma cosmology was introduced by Alfvén, a plasma expert who won the 1970 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on magnetohydrodynamics (MHD). In 1971, Oskar Klein, a Swedish theoretical physicist, extended the earlier proposals and developed the Alfvén–Klein model of the universe, or "metagalaxy", an earlier term used to refer to the empirically accessible part of the universe, rather than the entire universe including parts beyond our particle horizon. In this Alfvén–Klein cosmology, sometimes called Klein–Alfvén cosmology, the universe is made up of equal amounts of matter and antimatter with the boundaries between the regions of matter and antimatter being delineated by cosmic electromagnetic fields formed by double layers, thin regions comprising two parallel layers with opposite electrical charge. Interaction between these boundary regions would generate radiation, and this would form the plasma. Alfvén introduced the term ambiplasma for a plasma made up of matter and antimatter and the double layers are thus formed of ambiplasma. According to Alfvén, such an ambiplasma would be relatively long-lived as the component particles and antiparticles would be too hot and too low-density to annihilate each other rapidly. The double layers will act to repel clouds of opposite type, but combine clouds of the same type, creating ever-larger regions of matter and antimatter. The idea of ambiplasma was developed further into the forms of heavy ambiplasma (protons-antiprotons) and light ambiplasma (electrons-positrons).
Alfvén–Klein cosmology was proposed in part to explain the observed baryon asymmetry in the universe, starting from an initial condition of exact symmetry between matter and antimatter. According to Alfvén and Klein, ambiplasma would naturally form pockets of matter and pockets of antimatter that would expand outwards as annihilation between matter and antimatter occurred in the double layer at the boundaries. They concluded that we must just happen to live in one of the pockets that was mostly baryons rather than antibaryons, explaining the baryon asymmetry. The pockets, or bubbles, of matter or antimatter would expand because of annihilations at the boundaries, which Alfvén considered as a possible explanation for the observed expansion of the universe, which would be merely a local phase of a much larger history. Alfvén postulated that the universe has always existed  due to causality arguments and the rejection of ex nihilo models, such as the Big Bang, as a stealth form of creationism. The exploding double layer was also suggested by Alfvén as a possible mechanism for the generation of cosmic rays,  X-ray bursts and gamma-ray bursts.
In 1993, theoretical cosmologist Jim Peebles criticized Alfvén–Klein cosmology, writing that "there is no way that the results can be consistent with the isotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation and X-ray backgrounds". In his book he also showed that Alfvén's models do not predict Hubble's law, the abundance of light elements, or the existence of the cosmic microwave background. A further difficulty with the ambiplasma model is that matter–antimatter annihilation results in the production of high energy photons, which are not observed in the amounts predicted. While it is possible that the local "matter-dominated" cell is simply larger than the observable universe, this proposition does not lend itself to observational tests.
Plasma cosmology and the study of galaxies
Hannes Alfvén from the 1960s to 1980s argued that plasma played an important if not dominant role in the universe because electromagnetic forces are far more important than gravity when acting on interplanetary and interstellar charged particles. He further hypothesized that they might promote the contraction of interstellar clouds and may even constitute the main mechanism for contraction, initiating star formation. The current standard view is that magnetic fields can hinder collapse, that large-scale Birkeland currents have not been observed, and that the length scale for charge neutrality is predicted to be far smaller than the relevant cosmological scales.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Alfvén and Anthony Peratt, a plasma physicist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, outlined a program they called the "plasma universe". In plasma universe proposals, various plasma physics phenomena were associated with astrophysical observations and were used to explain extant mysteries and problems outstanding in astrophysics in the 1980s and 1990s. In various venues, Peratt profiled what he characterized as an alternative viewpoint to the mainstream models applied in astrophysics and cosmology.
For example, Peratt proposed that the mainstream approach to galactic dynamics which relied on gravitational modeling of stars and gas in galaxies with the addition of dark matter was overlooking a possibly major contribution from plasma physics. He mentions laboratory experiments of Winston H. Bostick in the 1950s that created plasma discharges that looked like galaxies. Perrat conducted computer simulations of colliding plasma clouds that he reported also mimicked the shape of galaxies. Peratt proposed that galaxies formed due to plasma filaments joining in a z-pinch, the filaments starting 300,000 light years apart and carrying Birkeland currents of 1018 amperes. Peratt also reported simulations he did showing emerging jets of material from the central buffer region that he compared to quasars and active galactic nuclei occurring without supermassive black holes. Peratt proposed a sequence for galaxy evolution: "the transition of double radio galaxies to radioquasars to radioquiet QSO's to peculiar and Seyfert galaxies, finally ending in spiral galaxies". He also reported that flat galaxy rotation curves were simulated without dark matter.[dubious ] At the same time Eric Lerner, an independent plasma researcher and supporter of Peratt's ideas, proposed a plasma model for quasars based on a dense plasma focus.
Comparison to mainstream astrophysics
Standard astronomical modeling and theories attempt to incorporate all known physics into descriptions and explanations of observed phenomena, with gravity playing a dominant role on the largest scales as well as in celestial mechanics and dynamics. To that end, both Keplerian orbits and Einstein's general theory of relativity are generally used as the underlying frameworks for modeling astrophysical systems and structure formation, while high-energy astronomy and particle physics in cosmology additionally appeal to electromagnetic processes including plasma physics and radiative transfer to explain relatively small scale energetic processes observed in the x-rays and gamma rays. In conventional cosmology, plasma physics is not considered to be the dominant force on most large-scale phenomena, although much of the matter in the universe is thought to be ionised or exist as plasma. (See astrophysical plasma for more.)
Proponents of plasma cosmology claim electrodynamics is as important as gravity in explaining the structure of the universe, and speculate that it provides an alternative explanation for the evolution of galaxies and the initial collapse of interstellar clouds. In particular plasma cosmology is claimed to provide an alternative explanation for the flat rotation curves of spiral galaxies and to do away with the need for dark matter in galaxies and with the need for supermassive black holes in galaxy centres to power quasars and active galactic nuclei. However, theoretical analysis shows that "many scenarios for the generation of seed magnetic fields, which rely on the survival and sustainability of currents at early times [of the universe are disfavored]", i.e. Birkeland currents of the magnitude needed (1018 amps over scales of megaparsecs) for galaxy formation do not exist. Additionally, many of the issues that were mysterious in the 1980s and 1990s, including discrepancies relating to the cosmic microwave background and the nature of quasars, have been solved with more evidence that, in detail, provides a distance and time scale for the universe.
Some of the places where plasma cosmology supporters are most at odds with standard explanations include the need for their models to have light element production without Big Bang nucleosynthesis, which, in the context of Alfvén–Klein cosmology, has been shown to produce excessive x-rays and gamma rays beyond that observed. Plasma cosmology proponents have made further proposals to explain light element abundances, but the attendant issues have not been fully addressed. In 1995 Eric Lerner published his alternative explanation for the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMB). He argued that his model explained the fidelity of the CMB spectrum to that of a black body and the low level of anisotropies found, even while the level of isotropy at 1:105 is not accounted for to that precision by any alternative models. Additionally, the sensitivity and resolution of the measurement of the CMB anisotropies was greatly advanced by WMAP and the Planck satellite and the statistics of the signal were so in line with the predictions of the Big Bang model, that the CMB has been heralded as a major confirmation of the Big Bang model to the detriment of alternatives. The acoustic peaks in the early universe are fit with high accuracy by the predictions of the Big Bang model, and, to date, there has never been an attempt to explain the detailed spectrum of the anisotropies within the framework of plasma cosmology or any other alternative cosmological model.
References and notes
- Alfvén, Hannes (1983). "On hierarchical cosmology". Astrophysics and Space Science. 89 (2): 313–324. Bibcode:1983Ap&SS..89..313A. doi:10.1007/bf00655984.
- Anthony, L.P. (February 1992). "Plasma Cosmology" (PDF). Sky & Telescope. Retrieved 26 May 2012. recount: It was described as this in the February 1992 issue of Sky & Telescope ("Plasma Cosmology"), and by Anthony Peratt in the 1980s, who describes it as a "nonstandard picture". The ΛCDM model big bang picture is typically described as the "concordance model", "standard model" or "standard paradigm" of cosmology here[permanent dead link], and here.[unreliable source?]
- Alfven, H.O.G. (1990). "Cosmology in the plasma universe - an introductory exposition". IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science. 18: 5–10. Bibcode:1990ITPS...18....5A. doi:10.1109/27.45495.
- Chan, T. K.; Keres, D.; Oñorbe, J.; Hopkins, P. F.; Muratov, A. L.; Faucher-Giguère, C.-A.; Quataert, E. (2015-12-01). "The impact of baryonic physics on the structure of dark matter haloes: the view from the FIRE cosmological simulations". Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 454: 2981–3001. arXiv:1507.02282. Bibcode:2015MNRAS.454.2981C. doi:10.1093/mnras/stv2165. ISSN 0035-8711.
- Alfven, H.O G (1987). "Plasma universe" (PDF). Physica Scripta. T18: 20–28. Bibcode:1987PhST...18...20A. doi:10.1088/0031-8949/1987/t18/002.
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- Peratt, A.L. (1995). "Introduction to Plasma Astrophysics and Cosmology". Astrophysics and Space Science. 227: 3–11. Bibcode:1995Ap&SS.227....3P. doi:10.1007/978-94-011-0405-0_1.
- Alfvén, H. (1992). "Cosmology: Myth or Science?". IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science. 20 (6): 590–600. Bibcode:1992ITPS...20..590A. doi:10.1109/27.199498.
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- Alfvén, H. (1986). "Double layers and circuits in astrophysics". IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science'. PS-14: 779–793. Bibcode:1986ITPS...14..779A. doi:10.1109/TPS.1986.4316626.
- Pebbles, P.J.E. (1993). Principles of Physical Cosmology. Princeton University Press. p. 207. ISBN 978-0-691-07428-3.
- H. Alfvén and C.-G. Falthammar, Cosmic electrodynamics(2nd edition, Clarendon press, Oxford, 1963). "The basic reason why electromagnetic phenomena are so important in cosmical physics is that there exist celestial magnetic fields which affect the motion of charged particles in space ... The strength of the interplanetary magnetic field is of the order of 10−4 gauss (10 nanoteslas), which gives the [ratio of the magnetic force to the force of gravity] ≈ 107. This illustrates the enormous importance of interplanetary and interstellar magnetic fields, compared to gravitation, as long as the matter is ionized." (p.2-3)
- Alfvén, H.; Carlqvist, P. (1978). "Interstellar clouds and the formation of stars". Astrophysics and Space Science. 55 (2): 487–509. Bibcode:1978Ap&SS..55..487A. doi:10.1007/BF00642272.
- Siegel, E. R.; Fry, J. N. (Sep 2006). "Can Electric Charges and Currents Survive in an Inhomogeneous Universe?". arXiv:astro-ph/0609031. Bibcode:2006astro.ph..9031S.
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- A. L. Peratt, Plasma Cosmology: Part I, Interpretations of a Visible Universe, World & I, vol. 8, pp. 294-301, August 1989. 
- A. L. Peratt, Plasma Cosmology:Part II, The Universe is a Sea of Electrically Charged Particles, World & I, vol. 9, pp. 306-317, September 1989 .
- A.L. Peratt, Plasma Cosmology, Sky & Tel. Feb. 1992
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- E. J. Lerner (1991). The Big Bang Never Happened. New York and Toronto: Random House. ISBN 0-8129-1853-3.
- AL Peratt and J Green (1983). "On the Evolution of Interacting, Magnetized, Galactic Plasmas". Astrophysics and Space Science. 91: 19–33. Bibcode:1983Ap&SS..91...19P. doi:10.1007/BF00650210.
- A. Peratt (1986). "Evolution of the Plasma Universe: II. The Formation of Systems of Galaxies" (PDF). IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science. PS-14: 763–778. Bibcode:1986ITPS...14..763P. doi:10.1109/TPS.1986.4316625. ISSN 0093-3813.
- E.J. Lerner (1986). "Magnetic Self‑Compression in Laboratory Plasma, Quasars and Radio Galaxies". Laser and Particle Beams. 4 part 2: 193‑222. Bibcode:1986LPB.....4..193L. doi:10.1017/S0263034600001750.
- Colafrancesco, S.; Giordano, F. (2006). "The impact of magnetic field on the cluster M - T relation". Astronomy and Astrophysics. 454 (3): L131–134. arXiv:astro-ph/0701852. Bibcode:2006A&A...454L.131C. doi:10.1051/0004-6361:20065404. recount: "Numerical simulations have shown that the wide-scale magnetic fields in massive clusters produce variations of the cluster mass at the level of ~ 5 − 10% of their unmagnetized value ... Such variations are not expected to produce strong variations in the relative [mass-temperature] relation for massive clusters."
- "Big Bang Photosynthesis and Pregalactic Nucleosynthesis of Light Elements". Astrophysical Journal. 293: L53–L57. 1985. Bibcode:1985ApJ...293L..53A. doi:10.1086/184490.
- Epstein; et al. (1976). "The origin of deuterium". Nature. 263: 198–202. Bibcode:1976Natur.263..198E. doi:10.1038/263198a0. point out that if proton fluxes with energies greater than 500 MeV were intense enough to produce the observed levels of deuterium, they would also produce about 1000 times more gamma rays than are observed.
- Ref. 10 in "Galactic Model of Element Formation" (Lerner, IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science Vol. 17, No. 2, April 1989  Archived 2006-12-29 at the Wayback Machine.) is J.Audouze and J.Silk, "Pregalactic Synthesis of Deuterium" in Proc. ESO Workshop on "Primordial Helium", 1983, pp. 71-75  Lerner includes a paragraph on "Gamma Rays from D Production" in which he claims that the expected gamma ray level is consistent with the observations. He cites neither Audouze nor Epstein in this context, and does not explain why his result contradicts theirs.
- Lerner, Eric (1995). "Intergalactic Radio Absorption and the COBE Data" (PDF). Astrophysics and Space Science. 227: 61–81. Bibcode:1995Ap&SS.227...61L. doi:10.1007/bf00678067. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-07-15. Retrieved 2012-05-30.
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- "Physics of the Plasma Universe", (Springer, 1992) ISBN 0-387-97575-6
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- "Are Black Holes Necessary?", Sky and Telescope (ISSN 0037-6604), vol. 66, July 1983, pp. 19-22
- "Evolution of the plasma universe. I - Double radio galaxies, quasars, and extragalactic jets", IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science (ISSN 0093-3813), vol. PS-14, December 1986, pp. 639-660 Full text (PDF)
- "Evolution of the plasma universe. II - The formation of systems of galaxies", IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science (ISSN 0093-3813), vol. PS-14, December 1986, pp. 763-778 Full text (PDF)
- "The role of particle beams and electrical currents in the plasma universe", Laser and Particle Beams (ISSN 0263-0346), vol. 6, August 1988, pp. 471-491 Full text (PDF)
- IEEE journal Transactions on Plasma Science: special issues on Space and Cosmic Plasma 1986, 1989, 1990, 1992, 2000, 2003, and 2007
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- Various authors: "Introduction to Plasma Astrophysics and Cosmology", Astrophysics and Space Science, v. 227 (1995) p. 3-11. Proceedings of the Second IEEE International Workshop on Plasma Astrophysics and Cosmology, held from 10 to 12 May 1993 in Princeton, New Jersey