The Magnetic Effect of Light

At the right intensity, when light is traveling through a material that does not conduct electricity, the light field can generate magnetic effects that are 100 million times stronger than previously expected. This is the remarkable conclusion from work in applied physics at the University of Michigan. Quoting from their website:

“A dramatic and surprising magnetic effect of light discovered by University of Michigan researchers could lead to solar power without traditional semiconductor-based solar cells.

William Fisher, a doctoral student in applied physics, performing research on laser-induced magnetism.

The researchers found a way to make an “optical battery,” said Stephen Rand, a professor in the departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Physics and Applied Physics.

In the process, they overturned a century-old tenet of physics.

“You could stare at the equations of motion all day and you will not see this possibility. We’ve all been taught that this doesn’t happen,” said Rand, an author of a paper on the work published in the Journal of Applied Physics. “It’s a very odd interaction. That’s why it’s been overlooked for more than 100 years.”

Light has electric and magnetic components. Until now, scientists thought the effects of the magnetic field were so weak that they could be ignored.

by Nicole Casal Moore

[Via Alan Siddons]


More information here:

Louis Hissink is one reader of this blog who will perhaps not been surprised by this finding.

And it reminds me of that great quote from Albert Einstein, “All our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike-and yet it is the most precious thing we have.”

13 Responses to The Magnetic Effect of Light

  1. Louis Hissink April 17, 2011 at 4:49 pm #


    Indeed I am not surprised – this discovery builds on the fact that solar radiation, “light”, is essentially produced as the transfer of energy within an electric field, making it itself a variant of electric current.

    Even more important is its ability to create charge separation in dielectrics – this has huge implications for understanding astrophysics.

    In terms of climate it means that the energy coming into the earth-system is not only the solar radiation that “everyone” quotes, but also via light itself in the magnetic field, as well as via the polar Birkeland currents, and much like the stellar circuit proposed by Alven as reported in Parker, E. N., 2000, Physics Today, June issue p.28, where the earth replaces the stellar object and the currents dropped down in density to dark current mode.

    But early days of course. I might add that Michigan University are also doing research on Dust Devils and discovered that these phenomena are associated with electric fields of strength up to 10,000 volts per metre, but a low amperages – this the home page of the url in the post.

    Get a full charged car battery, short circuit it and you get an electrical discharge of the arc-mode type – intense emission of light and no different to the light being emitted by the sun from its photosphere.

    Add the physics of plasma double layers and you have laboratory tested and validated physical processes which can explain the earth’s weather phenomena better than the existing theories.

  2. John Sayers April 17, 2011 at 5:51 pm #

    Thanks Louis.

  3. Schiller Thurkettle April 17, 2011 at 10:44 pm #

    Nearly any theory at all is better than the IPCC’s claim that ‘we don’t know what’s causing it, therefore it must be humans’.

  4. gavin April 18, 2011 at 9:10 am #

    From the item above it seemed the key words “optical rectification” in association with “magnetism” could produce a better background than Louis’s comment so I googled and found the idea is not so fresh however that searched revealed a much tighter view of the physics including this most recent abstract –

    “Optically-induced charge separation and terahertz emission in unbiased dielectrics” by Fischer & Rand 2011

  5. wes george April 18, 2011 at 5:26 pm #

    Interesting stuff, indeed.

    But all this post demonstrates for me is that Climate Skepticism is approximate but not synonymous with Scientific Skepticism as a method of rational inquiry.

  6. Nasif Nahle April 18, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

    Thank you, Alan! It seems that the old Tesla’s legend is becoming into a reality. 🙂

    Great post!


  7. Louis Hissink April 18, 2011 at 7:40 pm #


    Your link to the abstract is to the researchers who were the subject of the news release by Michigan University – so the purpose of your post is what?

  8. Louis Hissink April 18, 2011 at 8:12 pm #

    The following is equally interesting – could the overall decrease in downwelling IR be influenced by the waning solar factor that is pumping less electrical current into the earth-system? But then correlation isn’t causation, so one should be cautious but one does seem clear – it isn’t due to CO2, and if not what else could be causing it since there is nothing left in the AGW forcing factory.

    The anthropogenic global warming theory is based upon the notion that increasing ‘greenhouse gases’ will increase infrared ‘back-radiation’ to the earth to [supposedly] warm the planet. The theory also claims that increases in the minor ‘greenhouse gas’ carbon dioxide will cause increases in the major ‘greenhouse gas’ water vapor to amplify the infrared ‘back-radiation’ and global warming. A study published online yesterday in The Journal of Climate, however, finds that contrary to the global warming theory, infrared ‘back-radiation’ from greenhouse gases has declined over the past 14 years in the US Southern Great Plains in winter, summer, and autumn. If the anthropogenic global warming theory was correct, the infrared ‘back-radiation’ should have instead increased year-round over the past 14 years along with the steady rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide.

    Journal of Climate 2011 ; e-View doi: 10.1175/2011JCLI4210.1

    Long-Term Trends in Downwelling Spectral Infrared Radiance over the U.S. Southern Great Plains

  9. kuhnkat April 20, 2011 at 2:09 pm #


    the warmers immediately grabbed onto the suggestion that more cloud caused the decrease in IR. I wonder how they are going to get their warming if more clouds block the insolation??

    Of course they have no data that actually shows less insolation. If they did it would blow their whole house of cards into the shrinking oceans!!!

    (oh Trenberth, that missing heat?? It never got here in the first place!!)

    Sure is fun watching scams come apart under the bright lights!!


  10. cementafriend April 20, 2011 at 5:00 pm #

    Kuhnkat -if you are around still
    Trenberth’s missing heat is more than 26 W/m2. See slide 26 of the following Dr Van Andel says his has written information from Trenberth that he knows the window for IR through the atmosphere to space is 66W/m2 instead of the 40W/m2 in his paper. What does that say about Trenberth’s paper and his ethics in not making a correction!!

    Keep well

  11. Louis Hissink April 20, 2011 at 8:55 pm #


    Trenberth’s missing heat calculation – I vaguely recall Tom Segalstadt writing that the global missing heat was based on some fallacy related to CO2 residency time in the atmosphere, but I would probably be wrong in specifics.

    As for the SGW brigade seizing on the increased cloud cover explaining the diminished downwelling IR, that was my initial conclusion from the summary – so the data don’t help at all in determining whether its from CO2 or some other source. However if my guess is right, that water precipitates at plasma double layer boundaries, then the presence of clouds is extremely pertinent.

    The interesting thing about the physics of plasma double layers is that they are regions defined by charge separation that enshroud matter immersed in a cell of plasma, and the electric potential drop occurs within the double layer itself, so if we have a solar source that is positively charged, for example, and an earth that is negatively charged, then the electric potential drop is not between the anodic sun and the cathodic earth themselves, but within the plasma double layer shrouding the earth from its plasma environment. This leads to the immediate understanding why mainstream physics discounts any electrical connection between the sun and earth, since most physicists aren’t familiar with plasma double layers.

    Playing around with Geissler tubes shows, depending on what gas is used, multiple or, as I might describe it as, cascading double layers.

    But most importantly, plasma double layers only appear when there is an electric current flow between objects – electrically inert objects don’t seem to develop plasma double layers, so this means that when a plasma DL is observed, then its a effect of an electric current between two objects. So what about clouds?

    Clouds are positively charged on their upper surfaces and negatively on their lower surfaces. A cloud could, therefore, be described as a plasma double layer in which there is a potential difference between the top and bottom of a cloud, but no potential difference between the bottom of the cloud and the land’s surface, since the earth’s surface, in general, is negatively charged.

    So how do clouds form? By an increase in electric current towards the earth from its space plasma. What is this space plasma modulated by? The solar output, as described in the literature, so when solar output, as measured by the solar magnetic field decreases, (low sunspot counts etc) cosmic rays start to become dominant, and its these that seem to cause cloud formation.

    Svensmark’s ideas are on the right track on this, so a reduction in solar input means an increase in electrical potential between the earth and its space environment, which results in the development of more plasma double layers in the earth’s atmosphere and formation of clouds as a consequence.

    The point I want to emphasize is that its the spontaneous formation of plasma double layers in the earth’s atmosphere with their charge separation forms the clouds – not that the formation of clouds creates the observed charge separation.

    I’ll be in the field shortly so anything internet and blogs is totally off the schedule for a couple of months.

  12. kuhnkat April 21, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

    Thank you again for the education Louis.

  13. Louis Hissink April 21, 2011 at 8:45 pm #

    Thanks kuhnkat – appreciated – and if Luke is reading, yes I will be publishing a scientific paper on this topic this year. I occasionally bounce my ideas off Peratt in the US, but his domain of expertise is 1000k and out from the earth, while mine is the earth, and inside it. The space between 0 and 1000km is a sort of no mans land scientifically – heck there is a zone above the stratosphere where we can’t send balloons to, deploy satellites, or other vehicles to measure its properties. And the climate clowns here believe their science is settled!

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