Plasma cosmology

Plasma cosmology is a model of the origins of the Universe in which plasma and electromagnetic forces play a significant role, and in which an actualistic approach is preferred: i.e. starting from the observed present-state and trying to extrapolate backwards in time to even more ancient states.[2]

Hannes Alfvén also investigated the merits of a cosmology in which the universe might be matter-antimatter symmetric. Based on the work of Oskar Klein, it is known as Klein-Alfvén Cosmology.


At the first IEEE International Workshop on Plasma Cosmology held in La Jolla, California, in 1989, Hannes Alfvén reported:[2]

..the Plasma Universe model is now leading to drastically new views of the structure of the universe. Their main characteristics are given by Fälthammar.[3] Most important are the following:

  • The same basic laws of plasma physics hold from laboratory and magnetospheric heliospheric plasmas out to interstellar and intergalactic plasmas.
  • In order to understand the phenomena in a certain plasma region, it is necessary to map not only the magnetic but also the electric field and the electric currents.
  • Space is filled with a network of currents which transfer energy and momentum over large or very large distances. The currents often pinch to filamentary or surface currents. The latter are likely to give space, as also interstellar and intergalactic space, a cellular structure.
  • A number of plasma phenomena, like double layers, critical velocity, pinch effect, and the properties of electric circuits, are of decisive importance. The phenomena mentioned have been known for decades (or even more than a century), but up to now they have almost systematically been ignored in cosmic physics. If they are taken into account, not only interplanetary space but also interstellar and intergalactic space must have a cellular structure.


Plasma cosmology describes:

“.. two different ways of approaching the prehistory of the present state of the plasma universe, or part of it.

  • A. The Prophetic Approach
A guess is made about the state very long ago, and this is made credible by prophetic authority. This approach often assumes that there was a “creation” at a certain time, and it is often claimed that we know more about this event than about more recent times.
  • B. The Actualistic Approach
We start from the observed present-state and try to extrapolate backwards in time to even more ancient states. From this follows that the further backwards we go, the larger is the uncertainty about the state. This approach does not necessarily lead to a “creation” at a certain time, nor does it exclude this possibility. In principle, it is also reconcilable with a universe which is “ungenerated and indestructible,” as Aristotle expressed it.[2]


1996 marked the Centennial Celebration of the founding of Plasma Astrophysics and Cosmology, whose origins may be traced to the
research of Kristian Birkeland and his 1896 paper on cathodic rays and corpuscles and their analogies to astrophysical and cosmological phenomena.[4] [5] Nearly a decade later, Birkeland’s research led him to a new theory, in which he states:

“From the conceptions to which our experimental analogies lead us, it is possible to form, in a natural manner an interesting theory of the origin of the worlds. This theory differs from all earlier theories in that it assumes the existence of a universal directing force of electro–magnetic origin in addition to the force of gravitation, in order to explain the formation round the sun of planets — which have almost circular orbits and are almost in the same plane —- of moons and rings about the planets, and of spiral and annular nebulae.”[6]

Jeff Kanipe writes in Astrophysics and Space Science, that:

“Plasma cosmology sprang from the pioneering work of Hannes Alfven. Stemming from his studies in the 1950s of synchrotron radiation—emission caused by electrons spiraling at nearly the speed of light in a magnetic field (Alfven and Herlofson, 1950b)[7], Alfven proposed that sheets of electric currents must crisscross the universe (Alfven, 1950a;[8] Alfven and Carl-Gunne_Fälthammar, 1962,[9]). Interaction with these electromagnetic fields would enable plasmas to exhibit complex structure and motion. Thus, at the grandest scales, the universe would have a cellular and filamentary structure.”[10]

Peratt notes that there have been many who have helped pioneer plasma cosmology,[11] including some cited in the first special issue in 1986, namely Kristian Birkeland, Irving Langmuir, P. A. M. Dirac, Karl G. Jansky, Grote Reber, Edward. V. Appleton, and Hannes Alfvén. Peratt further reiterates that “Plasma cosmology, or cosmology in the plasma universe [6][12], derived by K. Birkeland, H. Alfvén, C.-G. Fälthammar, N. Herlofson, B. Lehnert, L. P. Block, P. Carlqvist, and a host of others”.[13]

The first International Conference on Plasma Cosmology was held in La Jolla, California between 20-22 February 1989,[14]. Those contributing papers included Hannes Alfvén, Carl-Gunne Fälthammar, Timothy E. Eastman, Anthony L. Peratt, Rainer Beck, Mauri J. Valtonen and Gene G. Byrd, Eric J. Lerner, William Peter, Paul Marmet, John Kierein, Jean-Pierre Vigier, Daniel R. Wells, and Halton Arp.


“One school of thought known as plasma cosmology (Lerner 1992; Peratt 1992) might fit well into the static cosmology paradigm. The plasma cosmologists argue that the Big-Bang never happened; and that the universe always existed in such a way that it is always changing and evolving without beginning or end. The plasma cosmologists base their ideas on empirical science of terrestrial laboratory plasmas. The universe is filled with plasma as a hot ionized gas shaped by electricity and magnetism as much as by Newton’s gravitation.” — Sorrell, Wilfred H., Astrophysics and Space Science, Volume 317, Issue 1-2, page 56 FULL TEXT PDF


  1. Peratt, A. L. “Introduction to Plasma Astrophysics and CosmologyFULL TEXT (1995) Astrophysics and Space Science, v. 227, p. 3-11 PEER REVIEWED
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Alfven, Hannes O. G, “Cosmology in the plasma universe – an introductory exposition” (1990) IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science (ISSN 0093-3813), vol. 18, Feb. 1990, p. 5-10. PEER REVIEWED
  3. Falthammar, C.-G., “Electrodynamics of cosmical plasmas — Some basic aspects of cosmological importance (1990) IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science (ISSN 0093-3813), vol. 18, Feb. 1990, p. 11-17. PEER REVIEWED
  4. Kristian Birkeland, “Sur un spectre des rayons catodiquesFULL TEXT (1896) Comptes Rendus 28 September 1896; and a paper in Archives des Sciences Physiques et
    Naturelles, Geneva, 4th period, vol. I, 1896″ PEER REVIEWED
  5. Anthony L. Peratt, “Introduction to Plasma Astrophysics and CosmologyFULL TEXT (1995) Astrophysics and Space Science, v. 227, p. 3-11. PEER REVIEWED
  6. Kristian Birkeland, “The Norwegian Aurora Polaris Expedition 1902-1903“, Volume 1: On the Cause of Magnetic Storms and The Origin of Terrestrial Magnetism” Section 1 published 1908; Section 3 publ. 1913
  7. Alfvén, H.; Herlofson, N. “Cosmic Radiation and Radio StarsPhysical Review (1950), vol. 78, Issue 5, pp. 616-616 PEER REVIEWED
  8. Hannes Alfvén, Cosmical electrodynamics (1950) International Series of Monographs on Physics, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1950 ACADEMIC BOOK
  9. Ibid. 2nd Ed.
  10. Kanipe, J., “The Pillars of Cosmology: A Short History and AssessmentFULL TEXT (1995) Astrophysics and Space Science, v. 227, p. 109-118. PEER REVIEWED
  11. Anthony L. Peratt, “Guest editorial sixth special issue on space and cosmic plasma” (2003) IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science, Dec. 2003, Volume: 31, Issue: 6, Part 1, pages 1109-1111 PEER REVIEWED
  12. H. Alfvén, “Cosmology in the plasma universe: An introductory exposition” IEEE Trans. Plasma Sci., vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 5–10, Feb. 1990. PEER REVIEWED
  13. Anthony L. Peratt, and Timothy E. Eastman, “Special Issue on Space and Cosmic Plasma“, IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science, Aug. 2007, Volume: 35, Issue: 4, Part 1 pages: 741-744
  14. IEEE Transactions on Plasma Science, Special Issue on Plasma Cosmology, Vol 18 No 1 (Feb 1990), Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Plasma Cosmology, La Jolla, California, USA, 20-22 February 1989. Contents PEER REVIEWED


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