The question is, on the face of it, almost insane. No-one could possibly doubt that the sun is the only source of external heat on earth. And, certainly, the part that we see, the sun's photosphere, is some 5,800 degrees Kelvin. The solar corona, which extends into space, may be as hot as one million degrees Kelvin. But what exactly is underneath this hot atmosphere? The explanation universally accepted without question is that it must be an even hotter mass of hydrogen gas, fusing into helium and other elements at temperatures of 15 million degrees Kelvin in a continuous thermonuclear explosion -- a giant H bomb.
This universal view is based on the mathematical work of Arthur Eddington in the 1930s and Hans Bethe's theoretical confirmation in the 1950s (for which he won the Nobel prize in 1967). Above all else, we have the overwhelmingly awesome experimental confirmation of the nature of nuclear fusion by the test detonations of H bombs in the Pacific.
However, physicists have always been aware of nagging problems with the conventional view of how stars form and how they burn. And now, Italian physicist Renzo Boscoli, has published details of a theory that is staggering: the theory that far from being hot underneath its atmosphere, the sun may, at its core, be a ball of ice in which not hot, but cold fusion reactions are taking place.
The conventional view of how stars form is that a cloud of interstellar hydrogen collapses under gravity until, under enormous pressure, the atoms of hydrogen become so hot they fuse to form helium. Once ignited, the core of the newly formed star burns continuously, transmuting hydrogen to helium, helium to carbon and so on, until the fuel is exhausted and the star's life is over.
There are some problems with this view. For instance, when gases are compressed, as under gravity, they also heat up, and this makes them expand. As temperature increases, the outward force due to expansion will become greater than the force of gravity compressing the gas and the gas will simply dissipate in space again. How then could the condensing hydrogen cloud ever ignite spontaneously?
There are many other puzzling features of the sun: how can a surface at 'only' 5,800 degrees Kelvin give rise to a corona of 1 million degrees Kelvin? Why does the surface rotate faster at the equator than at higher latitudes? Why does the planet Mercury have a strangely perturbed motion?
In two ground-breaking papers published in Infinite Energy magazine, Renzo Boscoli offers some astounding answers to these puzzles.
Boscoli points out a phenomenon discovered in the 1930s but -- like many such anomalies -- virtually ignored since. French physicist Georges Ranque discovered that if you make a body of gas rotate, as in a turbine, the hottest (most energetic) molecules are somehow separated to the outside of the mass, while the gas at the centre gets colder. It is relatively easily experimentally to make a 'Ranque tube' where the difference in temperature between air in the middle and air at the outside is more than 100 degrees C, simply by causing the air to rotate.
This experimental result appears to contradict the laws of thermodynamics and at present remains unexplained. But Boscoli points out that its implications for the formation of stars may be immense.
While a cloud of hydrogen condensing under gravity is an unlikely candidate for a new star because heat would make it expand and dissipate again, a rotating cloud of hydrogen would give rise to a remarkable object -- one where the temperature at its exterior would continue to rise while the temperature at its core would continue to fall. At first the hydrogen core would become so cold it would liquify and finally solidify.
Says Boscoli, 'If this mass of gas . . . would begin to rotate upon itself, it would necessarily assume a progressively flatter ellipsoidal form as its rotational velocity increased. And . . the Ranque effect would begin to be exerted, therefore producing a cooling at the centre and a heating of the periphery of the ellipsoid.'
He adds, 'Due to a constant Ranque effect I see no reason why the centre would not continue to cool towards absolute zero.'
Boscoli first conceived his ideas some thirty years ago. He has published them for the first time because the Arecibo radiotelescope has reported finding an enormous hydrogen cloud that is very cold (around minus 200 degrees C) and that is rotating on its own axis.
Boscoli goes onto add that nuclear reactions such as that of the H bomb are impossible at absolute zero. But he believes that 'cold' nuclear fusion reactions may be possible due to the immense gravitational pressures. The reaction he envisages is that of the gravitational collapse of a proton and electron, producing a neutron.
Boscoli's theory solves the problem of Mercury's strange orbit and the sun's differential rotation. It also explains sunspots as simply holes in the atmosphere. If Boscoli is right, there may after all, be 'something new under the sun.'