Pulsars and Problems
The following was received by email and presents a subject that several have asked about:
Setterfield: The matter of pulsars has been discussed several times on our website in the astronomical discussion section among other places. It has also been updated considerably in Appendix D on pulsars in our Monograph "Cosmology and the Zero Point Energy" published in 2013. Some of the more recent answers to questions on pulsars can be found in the Discussion section.
The particular example that is given in your question suffers from the problems common to all pulsar data interpretation; it depends entirely on the model that you accept for the generation of the pulses. If that is different from the standard model being considered, then the conclusions are invalid. In response, you might ask what is wrong with the standard model, and what would suggest a different model for pulse generation?
The first point I would ask you to note is that the object in question is a binary pulsar. This in itself points to a possible different model for pulsar pulse generation. But, I will come to that in a moment. Let us go back to; some basic concepts.On the standard model we have a rapidly rotating, small and extremely dense neutron star which sends out a flash like a lighthouse every time it rotates. Rotation times are extremely fast on this model. In fact, the star is only dense enough to hold together under the rapid rotation if it is made up of neutrons. Those two facts alone present some of the many difficulties for astronomers holding to the standard model. Yet despite these difficulties, the model is persisted with and patched up as new data comes in. Let me explain.
First a number of university professionals have difficulty with the concept of a star made entirely of neutrons, or neutronium. In the lab, neutrons decay into a proton and electron in something under 14 minutes. Atom-like collections of two or more neutrons disrupt almost instantaneously. Thus the statement has been made that "there can be no such entity as a neutron star. It is a fiction that flies in the face of all we know about elements and their atomic nuclei." [D.E. Scott, Professor & Director of Undergraduate Program & Assistant Dept. Head & Director of Instructional Program, University of Massachusetts/Amherst]. He, and a number of other physicists and engineers remain unconvinced by the quantum/relativistic approach that theoretically proposed the existence of neutronium.They point out that it is incorrect procedure to state that neutronium must exist because of the pulsars behavior; that is circular reasoning. So the existence of neutronium itself is the first problem for the model.
Second, there is the rapid rate of rotation. For example, X-ray pulsar SAX J1808.4-3658 flashes every 2.5 thousanths of a second or about 24,000 revs per minute. But that is exceeded by pulsar PSR J1748-224ad which sends out 42,960 pulses per minute. These pulsars have caused problems as they go way beyond what is possible even for a neutron star. As a point of interest, the fastest pulsar here also has a companion star like the one mentioned in the question.
In order for the model to hold, this star must have matter even more densly packed than neutrons, so "strange matter" was proposed. Like neutronium, strange matter has never been actually observed, so at this stage it is a non-falsifiable proposition. So the evidence from the data itself suggests that we have the model wrong. If the model is changed, we do not need to introduce either the improbability of neutronium or the even worse scenario of strange matter.
Third, on 27th October, 2010, in "Astronomy News," a report from NRAO in Socorro, New Mexico was entitled "Astronomers discover most massive neutron star yet known." This object is pulsar PSR J1614-2230. It "spins" some 317 times per second and, like many pulsars, has a proven companion object, in this case, a white dwarf. This white dwarf orbits in just under 9 days. The orbital characteristics and data associated with this companion shows that the neutron star is twice as massive as our sun. And therein lies the next problem.
Paul Demorest from NRAO in Tucson stated: "This neutron star is twice as massive as our Sun. This is surprising, and that much mass means that several theoretical models for the internal composition of neutron stars are now ruled out. This mass measurement also has implications for our understanding of all matter at extremely high densities and many details of nuclear physics." In other words, here is further proof that the model is not in accord with reality. Rather than rethink all of nuclear physics and retain the pulsar model, it would be far better to retain nuclear physics and rethink what is happening with pulsars.
In rethinking the model, the proponents of one alternative that has gained some attention point out some facts about the pulse characteristics that we observe in these pulsars. (1) The duty cycle is typically 5% so that the pulsar flashes like a strobe light. The duration of each pulse is only 5% of the length of time between pulses. (2) Some individual pulses vary considerably in intensity. In other words, there is not a consistent signal strength. (3) The pulse polarization indicates that it has come from a strong magnetic field. Importantly, all magnetic fields require electric currents to generate them.
These are some important facts. Item (2) alone indicates that the pulsar model likened to a lighthouse flashing is unrealistic. If it was a neutron star with a fixed magnetic field, the signal intensity should be constant. So other options should be considered. Taken together, all these characteristics are typical of an electric arc (lightning) discharge between two closely spaced objects. In fact electrical engineers have known for many years that all these characteristics are typical of relaxation oscillators. In other words, in the lab we can produce these precise characteristics in an entirely different way. This way suggests a different, and probably more viable model. Here is how D.E. Scott describes it:
The paper outlining these proposals was entitled "Radiation Properties of Pulsar Magnetospheres: Observation, Theory and Experiment" and appeared in Astrophysics and Space Science 227(1995):229-253. Another paper outlining a similar proposal using a white dwarf star and a nearby planet instead of a double star system was published by Li, Ferrario and Wickramasinghe. It was entitled "Planets Around White Dwarfs" and appeared in the Astrophysical Journal 503:L151-L154 (20 August 1998). Figure 1 is pertinent in this case. Another paper by Bhardwaj and Michael, entitled the "Io-Jupiter System: A Unique Case of Moon-Planet Interaction" has a section devoted to exploring this effect in the case of Binary stars and Extra-Solar Systems. An additional study by Bhardwaj et al also appeared in Advances in Space Research vol 27:11 (2001) pp. 1915-1922. The whole community of plasma physicists and electrical engineers in the IEEE accept these models or something similar for pulsars rather than the standard neutron star explanation.
Well, where is this heading? The question involved the slow-down in the speed of light in the context of pulsars and their "rotation rate." If pulsars are not rotating neutron stars at all, but rather involve a systematic electrical discharge in a double star or star and planet system with electric currents in a plasma or dusty disk, then the whole argument against variable light-speed breaks down. In fact if the electric duscharge model is followed, then my 2011 paper "A Plasma Universe with Changing Zero Point Energy" is extremely relevant.
The reason for this relevance is that an increasing ZPE not only slows the speed of light, but also reduces voltages and electric current strengths. When that is factored into the plasma model for pulsars, the rate of discharge seen from earth will remain constant, as the slow-down of light cancels out the initial faster rate of discharge in the pulsar system when currents were higher.