Posts Tagged ‘solar – planetary theory’

In a Bishop Hill discussion about some very dodgy stats methods the mainstream cli-sci community is using, this nice little factoid popped up from commenter ‘dearieme':

The Jeffreys Prior: fine, but one must be careful not to follow Sir Harold in all his science.

From Wikipedia: Jeffreys was a strong opponent of continental drift. For him, continental drift was “out of the question” because no force even remotely strong enough to move the continents across the Earth’s surface was evident.

GPS measured global plate motion. Source: Wikipedia commons

GPS measured global plate motion. Source: Wikipedia commons

Which put me in mind of those solar scientists such as Leif Svalgaard who say that planetary effects on the Sun are “out of the question because no force from the planets even remotely strong enough to affect the Sun is evident”.

Which led me to wonder if consideration of the forces which move continents around might throw up any ideas about the planetary-solar connection. What I discovered on Wikipedia’s plate tectonics page is that the question of what the forces are, and how strong they are relative to each other is very much an open question and a hot subject of ongoing debate.

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My thanks to Ian Wilson for an update on his tidal-torquing model, which relates the motion of Venus, Earth and Jupiter to changes in sunspot numbers and the flows observed on the Solar surface. This elegant solution looks very promising in terms of forecasting solar variation, as well as offering a hypothesis explaining a mechanism underlying the strong correlations between solar variation and planetary motion. The following article is reposted from Ian’s excellent blog.

THE UPDATED V-E-J TIDAL TORQUING MODEL
Ian Wilson : November 2012

The problem with the collective blog postings about the
Spin-Orbit Coupling or Tidal-Torquing Model that are described
at the end of this post is that they only look at the tidal-torquing
(i.e. the pushing and pulling of Jupiter upon the Venus-Earth
tidal bulge in the Solar convective zone) when Venus and Earth
are inferior conjunction (i.e. when Venus and Earth are on the
same side of the Sun). However, a tidal bulge is also produced
when Venus and the Earth align on opposites sides of the Sun,
as well (i.e at superior conjunction).

This means that in the real world, tidal bulges are induced in
the convective layer of the Sun once every 0.8 years rather
than every 1.6 years, as assumed in the original basic model.
This is achieved by a sequence of alternating conjunctions
of Venus and the Earth:

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I came across this old paper, which may turn out to be very important. Balfour Stewart was head of solar research at Kew Observatory in the latter part of the C19th. This study demonstrates an effect of the planets on the size of sunspots, which may be connected with gravitationl, tidal and electro-magnetic forces interactions operating in the heliosphere.

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A lot of people might visit here, see some fairly technical conversation going on, and wonder, “What’s it all about?” So I thought I’d devote a thread to explaining what we mean when we refer to ‘solar – planetary theory’. This thread is a first attempt at clearly summarizing it, and I hope a stimulating discussion will follow so that we can refine the hastily written outline presented here.

In a nutshell, it is the hypothesis that the solar system is a system in the fullest sense of the word. That is: As well as the sun having a big effect on the planets (warming them with it’s radiation, keeping them in their orbits with it’s gravity, warding off a lot of the galactic cosmic rays from entering with it’s solar wind etc), the planets also have an effect on each other, and on the sun, causing it’s complicated motion around the centre of mass of the solar system, modulating solar magnetic activity and the production of sunspots.

Issac Newton in his famous book ‘Principia Mathematica’ described the motion of the sun around the centre of mass, but held the opinion that ‘the sun feels no forces’ because according to his theory of Gravitation, the sun would be ‘in free-fall’.

So why do proponents of solar-planetary theory think the planets can affect the sun?

Firstly, Newton, although he quantified the gravitational force, didn’t try to explain what gravity was, or how it has it’s affect on matter. “I frame no hypotheses” he famously said. He lived in an age when ‘Natural Philosophy’ was trying to escape ideas which involved ‘action at a distance’. But gravity seemed to be an ‘action at a distance’ force par exellence.

Secondly, Newtons laws of motion deal with idealized objects which are homogenous, rigid, and free of frictional and other forces. We don’t know much about the interior of the sun, but we do know it’s surface layers are much less dense than it’s deeper layers, and that the density gradient from surface to core may not be linear. We also know the surface layers are highly mobile and fluid, and are highly magnetized. This means the sun might get jiggled around internally as it moves in it’s complicated dance around the solar system barycenter.

Thirdly, there appear to be correlations between changes in solar activity (particularly sunspot number) and the inter-related motions of the planets over the course of time. Paul D. Jose in his 1965 paper showed a coincidence between the changes in the sun’s angular momentum as it jiggled around the solar sytem’s center of mass, and the number of sunspots appearing on it’s surface.

So what’s the problem? Why is this a controversial area of research?

If the planets affect the sun, and the sun affects Earth’s climate, discovering how it works might alter the way we view climate change. Small changes in the Earth’s motion coincide with changes in climate, and Paul Vaughan has been discovering some very good correlations between these climate factors and changes in Earth’s motion caused by the other planets and the sun. Petr ‘semi’  Semerad has discovered that changes in Venus and  Earth’s angular momentum coincide with the ~11 year sunspot cycles. Geoff Sharp has discovered the big outer planets move in a rhythm coinciding with drops in solar activity every ~178 years, the size of which depend on the phase of the sunspot cycle when the sudden changes in angular momentum of the sun occur.

Another problem is that just like Newton didn’t know how gravity worked (and we still don’t), we don’t yet know for sure what the mechanisms are by which the planetary motions affect the sun and individual planets, although we have a pretty good body of evidence to show they do.  Several possible mechanisms have been put forward, and investigations using the available data are ongoing. These include three main areas covered by posts on this blog:

Tidal forces, similar to the tidal effects of the Moon on the Earth.

Gravitational effects on the angular momentum of different parts of the sun as it revolves in it’s peculiar orbit around the centre of mass or ‘Barycenter’ of the solar system (SSB for short).

Electromagnetic effects due to interactions between the solar and interplanetary magnetic fields and the magnetospheres of several of the planets.

Some physicists dismiss these possibilities because they believe the forces involved would be too small to have any effect on the sun. Proponents of the solar- planetary theory disagree, and believe that the possibilities must be quantified, predictions made and tests performed before the hypothesis can be falsified.

What form could these tests take?
What resources are required?
Who’s going to fund a program of investigation?

Answers on a postcard, or just add your thoughts or questions below.