Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Dr. Alfvén, Today's Heresy, Tomorrow's Orthodoxy

Hannes Alfvén in 1970
Hannes Alfvén (1908-1995) won the 1970 Nobel Prize for Physics for his work on magnetohydrodynamics.

Alfvén’s work was disputed for many years by the senior scientist in space physics, the British-American geophysicist Sydney Chapman

Alfvén’s and Chapman were at odds with each other in large part over the peer review system in academia that qualifies a person's work as scientific and sound prior to publication. 

Hannes Alfvén rarely benefited from the acceptance generally afforded senior scientists in scientific journals. 

For example, he once submitted a paper on the theory of magnetic storms and auroras to the American journal Terrestrial Magnetism and Atmospheric Electricity. His paper was rejected on the ground that it did not agree with the theoretical calculations of conventional physics of the time

Hannes Alfvén was regarded as a person with unorthodox opinions in the field by many physicists. Stephen G. Brush notes that 
“..Alfvén remained an embittered outsider, winning little respect from other scientists even after he received the Nobel Prize..” (Stephen G. Brush, Book Reviews (2006) Physics in Perspective Volume 8, No 1, March 2006, pp.105).
Hannes Alfvén was often forced to publish his papers in obscure journals; Alfvén recalls in his autobiography:
“When I describe the plasma phenomena according to this formulism most referees do not understand what I say and turn down my papers. With the referee system which rules US science today, this means that my papers are rarely accepted by the leading US journals." (Hannes Alfvén, “Memoirs of a Dissident Scientist”, American Scientist, May-June 1988, pp.249-251).
Yet, Hannes Alfvén was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1970. In 1988, Alfvén was awarded the Bowie Medal by the American Geophysical Union for his work on comets and plasmas in the solar system.

Alfvén was only a handful of scientists permitted to be a foreign member of both the U.S. and Soviet Academies of Sciences.

Why am I interested in Hannes Alfvén?

In reading his autobiography and realizing that plasma physics in the year 2020 is confirming that Alfvén's theories of electromagnetic fields of currents throughout the plasma of space account for the formation, dimensions, and shapes of galaxies I am reminded that "the heresy today becomes the orthodoxy of tomorrow."


RB Kuter said...

I guess "magnetohydrodynamics" was like voodoo to most everyone in those early days.

Kind of like Pastor Andy Stanley's "hologram" presentations on Sundays at most of his satellite church locations. I kid you not, I visited one of his locations some years ago after hearing that he would be preaching in a "video" simulcast. They had an amazing time of worship in music and then, there was Andy on the stage! I thought, "I guess he is visiting this location today. Guess I'm lucky to catch him preaching in person."

As soon as he closed his message, he disappeared! I thought, "WOW! Was THAT a video?" only to be told later it was a hologram image of Andy! It was as real as life!

It must be cost prohibitive for other satellite churches, like J.D. Grear's, to use the hologram format or surely they would be.

Praise God for technology being used to His glory!

Bob Cleveland said...

In retrospect, Martin Luther might have written the title of this post.

Christiane said...

Wade, this is interesting:

"Physicists believe disturbances in the magnetic field happen when the solar wind blows past the Earth, which can, in turn create Alfvén waves. These waves, named after a Swedish scientist and Nobel Prize winner, also travel along the Earth’s magnetic field lines. When Alfvén waves hit electrons at just the right speed and position, researchers believe, they can accelerate the particles toward the Earth’s atmosphere, where their collisions with atoms like oxygen and nitrogen produce the northern lights.|

I found this quote at this link:

In the Southern Hemisphere, the 'aurora' has a different name, but in the North, this beautiful phenomenon is called the Aurora Borealis.

Apparently, the waves are drawn into the atmosphere at the Earth's poles, where there are variations in the Earth's magnetic field. The effect is brilliant and other-worldly in its beauty, and sometimes, it is said, that there is a soft faint humming sound.

I wonder if REX RAY ever saw the Northern Lights up in Alaska. :)

Christiane said...
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Rex Ray said...


Yes, in Alaska, I’ve seen the northern lights twice. What makes them more beautiful is they’re not lights that stand still, but move.

My grandparents had eight children. (Youngest was 2-years-old when he died.) He was a rancher, and wanted his sons to be ranchers, but just before he died, he told my grandmother, “Now, you can make all our boys’ preachers.” One was a missionary to China 30 years, and my father was a preacher/ chaplain.

Grandmother always called our grandfather, Papa. She was a widow 38 years. I never saw her since she died when I was 3-years-old, but it won’t be long before I see her.

“…No eye has seen…what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9 NLT)

My father and mother was by her bedside and heard her last words. She was smiling like a child, “It’s so beautiful; I see Papa.”

Anonymous said...

Regarding the old boy network in science see The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Kuhn. To see how heretics are treated read The Velikovsky Affair.

Ken F said...

Your "A Chilling Crisis of Power, Control, and Authority: An Open Letter to the Southern Baptist Convention" post now has a comment advertising "Natural Penis Enlargement Treatment."

I'll go out on a limb and conclude that none of the commentors on this site need such services. :-)

Rex Ray said...

Asking prayer for my twin brother, Hez Ray who will be 88 in 3 days. He’s in the hospital with pneumonia. On 11-16-06, I wrote this story on Wade’s blog.

Denton, Texas 1978: a young black man asked an older man (Hez Ray) if a house was for rent.

“No, it’s for sale. Where’re you from?
“No one has heard of my town, Yellow Knife, Canada.”
“I spent two weeks there. “How come you’re so far from home?
“I was on a high school hockey team that won a gold medal in the first Arctic Winter Games in 1968. They gave us a four-year scholarship and now I’m working on a PHD. I almost didn’t get to play as there was a fuss if I was eligible or not. They left it up to the man that organized the games. If it hadn’t been for him, I’d be working in the gold mines now.”
“You got to play even though a school ‘picked you up’ from an Indian village.”
“How’d you know that?”
“I’m the man that let you play.”

At the time, Hez was Parks and Recreation Director of Fairbanks, Alaska. He had been selected by the governor to explain to Canada why Alaska was not going to participate as they didn’t have the money.

Canada planned for adults only to compete. Hez told the authorities he wouldn’t walk across the street to see adults play, but he’d work hard to help kids play, and others would too.

They complained that’d cost too much money. Hez said Alaska was out if they didn’t include kids, and they finally agreed.

The Alaska governor threw a fit, but Hez organized a benefit drive and they had the games. Today, 27 countries are in the Arctic Winter Games.

A missionary that did not give his name worked with our missionary cousin, Mark Ray, in Australia. He replied to the story above.

Rex, I do not always agree with your ideas (especially on PPL) - I enjoy reading them.
Nevertheless - your post caught my attention - because apparently your twin brother Hez - he was my 9th grade PE teacher - he was a great guy and I loved him to death.

I was in a new place and a new school and I could not have had a better teacher than Hez Ray. I have often thought about him and knew somewhat about him through my good friend and colleague - and another relative of yours – Mark Ray. Anyway, when you see him tell him he made a difference not just in this young man's life but many of that time in Fairbanks. 11/18/2006

Christiane said...

Hey out there, REX RAY

what a great story . . . and yes I will pray for your twin brother as pneumonia at his age is a medical crisis, and I will also keep vigil prayer for his sake.

How strange that this is such a 'small world' and the connections we run into that are supposed to be 'coincidence' sometimes have such great meaning to our lives;
I am aware that 'coincidence' is an accepted concept but I tend to think there is much more of Providence (capital P) than coincidence in how people interact and then meet each other again at some future time.

Your story is fascinating. And it supports my 'theory', of which I also have examples that make me wonder how the Good Lord finds the time to look after us in the ways that are meaningful and sometimes so subtle, we might not notice . . . and then, something happens, and we 'see it' as it is . . . Providence, a grace, a blessing.

Don't worry, I'll keep this weekend for prayer for your brother's sake. You must be very worried. Go and rest for a while. I will help out, you bet.

Christiane said...
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Christiane said...
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Christiane said...

(Finally, I was able to get this link right!, thank God)

For Hez Ray and for his twin brother who dearly loves him, we pray to the Lord:

The Latin psalmody 'introits' translate to English, this:

""Unto You have I lifted up my soul. O my God, I trust in You, let me not be put to shame; do not allow my enemies to laugh at me; for none of those who are awaiting You will be disappointed.
Make Your ways known unto me, O Lord, and teach me your paths.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

People of Sion, behold the Lord shall come to save the nations: and the Lord shall make the glory of His voice to be heard, in the joy of your heart. Give ear, O Thou that rulest Israel: Thou that leadest Joseph like a sheep.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Skies, let the Just One come forth like the dew, let Him descend from the clouds like the rain. The earth will open up and give birth to our Saviour.
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament proclaims the work of His hands.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen."

Christiane said...

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” -2 Corinthians 1:3-4 "

PJ said...


This is a good blog to show the differences between the science of old versus today. A dramatic change was made early last century.

For many years, science was based on the scientific method. One of those cornerstones is that the data be presented so the results can be independently reproduced. That is a very secure method to deal with the visible and known. However, that has been replaced by the peer review system. It simply means your colleagues agree with you, so rarely are competing theories allowed to be published. The internet has helped reduce that stranglehold a bit, but not enough.

Thankfully some times scientists have reverted to the scientific method to verify something. Cold fusion in the 1980s is a good example some may recall - it was not verifiable.

As someone who writes, publishes, and also reviews published papers in my field, I'm acutely aware of these differences. It's why poor quality work is published today - it fits the normative view which often cannot be challenged. It is why, for the most part, our science today isn't revolutionary with better understand and breakthroughs, but more developmental/evolutionary. It is a most sad state of affairs.