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Cosmic plasma physics and our concept of the universe is in a state of rapid revision. This change started with in-situ measurements of plasmas in Earth's ionosphere, cometary atmospheres, and planetary magnetospheres; the translation of knowledge from laboratory experiments to astrophysical phenomena; discoveries of helical and filamentary plasma structures in the Galaxy and double radio sources; and the particle simulation of plasmas not accessible to in-situ measurement. Because of these, Birkeland (field-aligned) currents, double layers, and magnetic-field-aligned electric fields are now known to be far more important to the evolution of space plasma, including the acceleration of charged particles to high energies, than previously thought. This paper and its sequel investigate the observational evidence for a plasma universe threaded by Birkeland currents or filaments. This model of the universe was inspired by the advent of three-dimensional fully electromagnetic particle simulations and their application to the study of laboratory z pinches. This study resulted in totally unexpected phenomena in the data post-processed from the simulation particle, field, and history dumps. In particular, when the simulation parameters were scaled to galactic dimensions, the interaction between pinched filaments led to synchrotron radiation whose emission properties were found to share the following characteristics with double radio galaxies and quasars: power magnitude, isophotal morphology, spectra, brightness along source, polarization, and jets. The evolution of these pinched synchrotron emitting plasmas to elliptical, peculiar, and spiral galaxies by continuing the simulation run is addressed in a sequel paper.