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When I was younger and we had our first computer I can remember seeing a program which would draw fractal images.  These fascinated me as no matter how far you zoomed in the same pattern kept repeating.  This fractal design can clearly be seen in nature from the structure of leaves to the shape of coastlines.  The true ornateness of Mother Nature is breathtaking.  We are taught at school that we live on the only Planet where life exists and that it is this life which is able to create these shapes – order out of chaos.  The rules of Chemistry and Physics tell us that indeed our Universe must turn to Chaos, we are governed by the random.  The laws of Entropy tell us that as time progresses, systems which were in an ordered state will turn more chaotic.  The only way to overcome this is by supply additional energy into the system to maintain the order.  Life can overcome this trick by consuming energy, starve it of the energy and the system will return to chaos.  This is an oversimplification, but below I will present some evidence to show that the Universe is actively organising itself.

The Cosmic Web

Credit: S. Cantalupo (UCSC); Joel Primack (UCSC); Anatoly Klypin (NMSU)

We are also taught that the Universe is a mainly empty place, cold dark and dead.  When you look up at the night sky you see mainly black, interspersed with stars.  We are told that Galaxies formed a long time after the first stars formed and that gravity shaped them together (for now I am going to ignore the impossibly early galaxy problem but we will come back to this in the future).  This process was random and therefore the galaxies should be distributed in a very random fashion across our Universe.  When you first glance at the charts we have for galaxy positions it does indeed look quite random.  As our telescopes have improves we have started to realise that there is actually a cosmic web which joins together all the galaxies and stars (above is an actual image of one of these cosmic filaments).  The gravity model could not explain these filaments without the assistance of dark matter clumping the matter together.  The problem is no one has detected any dark matter or explained how the dark matter clumped in the first place.  What we are learning about our Universe is that it is truly not empty but filled with dust and plasma.  The problem is that it is extremely hard to detect and a recent paper on the detection of a vast dust belt discovered around one of the most studied dust ring (Schneider et al 2017) and the recent discovery of the missing ions around Enceladus may be due to dust hiding these ions from our detectors (Farrell et al. 2016) show how hard it is to detect them. So in the hunt for this missing dark matter, it was assumed that they would be able to detect them in and around these cosmic filaments but instead we have detected hot and warm baryons (plasma) (de Graaf et al. 2017) with no sign of any dark matter.  More interesting is that these filaments trace and connect to every galaxy and they form like pearls on a necklace (Tempel et al. 2014).  The galaxies and galaxy clusters seem to position themselves at regular intervals along the filaments, it does not seem to be a random distribution

Strange Matter

We understand how matter and more specifically plasma behaves here on Earth but very little research has been done on how plasma behaves in microgravity.  In a recent study researchers (Jaiswal et al. 2018) conducted experiments on the International Space Station.  They trapped a microparticle cloud in an inductively coupled plasma and exposed it to varying electric fields.  They observed dust density waves (visible sound waves) moving through the plasma and the plasma behaving in a non-uniform way leading to a liquid or even crystalline behaviour.  In an unrelated experiment researchers at RICE university exposed nanotubes to the electric fields from Telsa Coils and observed self-assembly at a distance (they term this Teslaphoresis).

Evidence for a cosmic battery

So is there any evidence that these fast cosmic structures might be formed through the flow of electric currents driven by a sort of cosmic battery?  In their 2015 paper, Christodoulou et al looked at extragalactic jets formed from active galactic nuclei (AGN).  They looked at data across a number of AGN and found good support that there was a strong current flowing in through the jets and a weaker out along the outer sheath of the jet.  Now, this is only at the galactic scale and not at the cosmic filament scale but remember we already have evidence that plasma exists along the filaments and we see galaxies forming along these filaments.  Could it be that there is current flowing (or flowed) along these filaments, drawing in the matter and forming the structures we see today?  In future articles, I want to explore more on the plasma physics and how these flowing currents can lead to many of the structures we see in our Universe.  For now, I want to leave you with one final thought on what is driving the structure we see in our Universe.  Recently the most detailed map was created of our local neighbourhood and shows our position as part of a massive structure called Laniakea, in particular, it’s the movement of everything towards what is called the great attractor.  The matter is not simply moving towards each other but is moving an intricate dance either away to toward other matter.  I can’t help but see the parallels in this image to a huger electric field created by, for example, a Tesla coil and that it is this electric force which drives not only the motion but the creation of the structure and beauty we see in our Universe.

Final final thought

If we see so much structure at all scales that match up like the fractals I mentioned at the beginning, and if we see vast electric currents flowing across the cosmic filaments (much like the synapses in our brain) why should we for one second think that this is a dead universe.  Why should we have the ignorance to think that only we have the right to assume consciousness?  Are we in fact part of one gigantic living Universe?  Follow the evidence, be brave, be curious, the truth is waiting for us. Until next time…

Further reading

Hidden dust belt discovered around iconic dust ring

Galaxy formation like pearls on a necklace

Ion trapping dust at Enceladus

Baryon presence in cosmic filaments

molecular outflows within the filamentary infrared dark cloud

magnetic fields from filaments to core

Aboard the International Space Station, Researchers Investigate Complex Dust Behavior in Plasmas

Dominance of outflowing electric currents on decaparsec to kiloparsec scales in extragalactic jets