Some long forgotten support for the aether

Today, most students are taught that aether theory was an archaic theory that was only alive within the fringes of academia. This is wrong. Many of the physicists who were instrumental in developing special relativity, quantum mechanics and quantum field theory, (such fields often used to discredit aether theory today), were themselves either for an aether theory, or at least open to the idea.

From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aether_theories we have taken the following quotes about the aether, and will add a few comments to the quotes. 

 

James Clerk Maxwell said of the aether, "In several parts of this treatise, an attempt has been made to explain electromagnetic phenomena by means of mechanical action transmitted from one body to another by means of a medium occupying the space between them. The undulatory theory of light also assumes the existence of a medium. We have now to show that the properties of the electromagnetic medium are identical with those of the luminiferous medium." [4]

The luminiferous aether as defined at that time, was proven wrong by Michelson and Morley, so the search for the true properties of the aether must go deeper than that.

Hendrik Lorentz and George Francis FitzGerald offered within the framework of Lorentz aether theory a more elegant solution to how the motion of an absolute aether could be undetectable (length contraction), but if their equations were correct, Albert Einstein's 1905 special theory of relativity could generate the same mathematics without referring to an aether at all. This led most physicists to conclude that this early modern notion of a luminiferous aether was not a useful concept.

 

Considering the fact that the Lorentz aether theory gave results compatible with special relativity, we think it should have been more logical to view this as evidence of the viability of an aether theory, rather than the contrary. If Einstein had not discarded the aether, he might have been able to reconcile general relativity with quantum mechanics.

 

Einstein sometimes used the word aether for the gravitational field within general relativity, but this terminology never gained widespread support.[5]

We may say that according to the general theory of relativity space is endowed with physical qualities; in this sense, therefore, there exists an aether. According to the general theory of relativity space without aether is unthinkable; for in such space there not only would be no propagation of light, but also no possibility of existence for standards of space and time (measuring-rods and clocks), nor therefore any space-time intervals in the physical sense. But this aether may not be thought of as endowed with the quality characteristic of ponderable media, as consisting of parts which may be tracked through time. The idea of motion may not be applied to it.[6]

 

This is in our opinion when Einstein totally lost the chance to reconcile general relativity and quantum mechanics. The K-aether has in a special sense the properties he denies it, and it is easy to track the collective effect of the aether, like with time, quantum mechanical fluctuations, all the forces of nature etc. As soon as you know what to look for, the hard nature of the aether reveals itself all the time. It seems like Einstein was blinded by the success of his elegant space-time formalism, in which the joining of space and time is a kind of renormalization act, which serves as taking the focus away from the properties of the actual aether, and instead look at the minute differential pressure that exists within the aether because of gravity. Hence also the “vacuum catastrophe”.

 

Quantum mechanics can be used to describe space-time as being non-empty at extremely small scales, fluctuating and generating particle pairs that appear and disappear incredibly quickly. It has been suggested by some such as Paul Dirac[7] that this quantum vacuum may be the equivalent in modern physics of a particulate aether. However, Dirac's aether hypothesis was motivated by his dissatisfaction with quantum electrodynamics, and it never gained support by the mainstream scientific community.[8] 

 

Robert B. Laughlin, Nobel Laureate in Physics, endowed chair in physics, Stanford University, had this to say about ether in contemporary theoretical physics:

It is ironic that Einstein's most creative work, the general theory of relativity, should boil down to conceptualizing space as a medium when his original premise [in special relativity] was that no such medium existed [..] The word 'ether' has extremely negative connotations in theoretical physics because of its past association with opposition to relativity. This is unfortunate because, stripped of these connotations, it rather nicely captures the way most physicists actually think about the vacuum. . . . Relativity actually says nothing about the existence or nonexistence of matter pervading the universe, only that any such matter must have relativistic symmetry. [..] It turns out that such matter exists. About the time relativity was becoming accepted, studies of radioactivity began showing that the empty vacuum of space had spectroscopic structure similar to that of ordinary quantum solids and fluids. Subsequent studies with large particle accelerators have now led us to understand that space is more like a piece of window glass than ideal Newtonian emptiness. It is filled with 'stuff' that is normally transparent but can be made visible by hitting it sufficiently hard to knock out a part. The modern concept of the vacuum of space, confirmed every day by experiment, is a relativistic ether. But we do not call it this because it is taboo.[9]

 

One of the tests a modern aether must pass, is compatibility with relativity and quantum mechanics. The dynamics of the interaction between elementary particles and the aether particles is adapted in order to comply 100% with confirmed theories. But the notion of the aether as something you can see big pieces of, seems totally wrong. It is the smallness and the pervasiveness of the aether “vessels” together with its ability to transfer momentum, energy and spin, which are the main characteristics of the aether.

 

Pilot waves

The pilot wave theory is a non-mainstream attempt to interpret quantum mechanics as a deterministic theory (wikipedia). The first example of this theory was presented in 1927 by Louis de Broglie. Main articles: Pilot wave and more modern version of the theory: De Broglie–Bohm theory

Louis de Broglie stated, "Any particle, even isolated, has to be imagined as in continuous “energetic contact” with a hidden medium."[10][11]

Paul Dirac wrote in 1951:[7]

"Physical knowledge has advanced much since 1905, notably by the arrival of quantum mechanics, and the situation [about the scientific plausibility of Aether] has again changed. If one examines the question in the light of present-day knowledge, one finds that the Aether is no longer ruled out by relativity, and good reasons can now be advanced for postulating an Aether…… We have now the velocity at all points of space-time, playing a fundamental part in electrodynamics. It is natural to regard it as the velocity of some real physical thing. Thus with the new theory of electrodynamics [vacuum filled with virtual particles] we are rather forced to have an Aether".[7]

 

That was close to really grasping what the aether is. But this view did not prevail. Probably the renormalization done with space-time is what make the quest hopeless for those starting from a mathematical standpoint. Until you realize this, you run into contradictions everywhere. Contradictions that can be of the order of 10100.

 

John Bell in 1986, interviewed by Paul Davies in "The Ghost in the Atom". He suggests Lorentz contraction is perfectly coherent, not inconsistent with relativity, and could produce an aether theory perfectly consistent with the Michelson-Morley experiment. Bell suggests the aether was wrongly rejected on purely philosophical grounds: "what is unobservable does not exist" [p. 49]. Einstein found the non-aether theory simpler and more elegant, but Bell suggests that doesn't rule it out. Besides the arguments based on his interpretation of quantum mechanics, Bell also suggests resurrecting the aether because it is a useful pedagogical device. That is, many problems are solved more easily by imagining the existence of an aether.

 

The aether may solve most paradoxes in physics, for sure. Our the main point is that an immensely energetic aether is easily detectable as soon as you know what to look for. Its manifestations are everywhere, when you know the rules by which it works.

 

According to Albert Einstein, “God does not play dice with the Universe”. And those agreeing with him are looking for a classical, deterministic aether theory that would imply quantum-mechanical predictions as a statistical approximation, a hidden variable theory. In particular, Gerard 't Hooft[14] conjectured that: “We should not forget that quantum mechanics does not really describe what kind of dynamical phenomena are actually going on, but rather gives us probabilistic results. To me, it seems extremely plausible that any reasonable theory for the dynamics at the Planck scale would lead to processes that are so complicated to describe, that one should expect apparently stochastic fluctuations in any approximation theory describing the effects of all of this at much larger scales. It seems quite reasonable first to try a classical, deterministic theory for the Planck domain. One might speculate then that what we call quantum mechanics today, may be nothing else than an ingenious technique to handle this dynamics statistically.”

In their paper Blasone, Jizba and Kleinert:[15] “have attempted to substantiate the recent proposal of G. ’t Hooft in which quantum theory is viewed as not a complete field theory, but is in fact an emergent phenomenon arising from a deeper level of dynamics. The underlying dynamics are taken to be classical mechanics with singular Lagrangians supplied with an appropriate information loss condition. With plausible assumptions about the actual nature of the constraint dynamics, quantum theory is shown to emerge when the classical Dirac-Bergmann algorithm for constrained dynamics is applied to the classical path integral . . . ”.[14][15]

 

The approach described here seems quite interesting. But by starting out from the mathematical side, they will easily miss the simplicity of the working mechanism of the aether. The K-aether aims to be the most precise formulation of a Theory of Everything today. Forces by Proxy starts with gravity and ends up explaining why quantum mechanics is the underlying mechanism also for relativity, with its very distinct explanation of the exact nature of time and the processes underlying the uncertainty principle.

 

Louis de Broglie, "If a hidden sub-quantum medium is assumed, knowledge of its nature would seem desirable. It certainly is of quite complex character. It could not serve as a universal reference medium, as this would be contrary to relativity theory."[10]

 

Rather to the contrary, we would say that the K-aether has a quite simple character. The according necessary properties of elementary particles are somewhat more complicated, but not really difficult to grasp. However, it is true that we cannot fix any general reference frame, so nature must still be seen as relativistic in this sense. But seeing the K-aether as a fundamental part of nature offers a huge leap forwards in our understanding of the universe.

 

List of references for the selected quotes from Wikipedia

      1.  "Aether " , American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.

2. Born, Max (1964), Einstein's Theory of Relativity ,    Dover Publications, ISBN0-486-60769-0

3. Isaac Newton The Third Book of Opticks

     (1718)http://www.newtonproject.sussex.ac.uk/view/texts/normalized/NATP00051

4. James Clerk Maxwell: "A Treatise on Electricity and  Magnetism/Part IV/Chapter XX "

5. Kostro, L. (1992), "An outline of the history of Einstein's relativistic ether concept", in Jean  Eisenstaedt & Anne J. Kox, Studies in the history of general relativity 3 , Boston-Basel-  

     Berlin: Birkhäuser, pp. 260–280,ISBN0-8176-3479-7

6. Einstein, Albert: "Ether and the Theory of Relativity " (1920), republished in Sidelights on    Relativity (Methuen, London, 1922)

7. Dirac, Paul: "Is there an Aether?", Nature 168 (1951), p. 906.

8. Kragh, Helge (2005). Dirac. A Scientific Biography . Cambridge: Cambridge University  Press. pp. 200–203. ISBN0-521-01756-4 .

9.   Laughlin, Robert B. (2005). A Different Universe: Reinventing Physics from the Bottom

    Down. NY, NY: Basic Books. pp. 120–121. ISBN978-0-465-03828-2 .

10. Annales de la Fondation Louis de Broglie, Volume 12, no.4, 1987

       11.   Foundations of Physics, Volume 13, Issue 2 . Springer. 1983.      pp. 253–286. doi :10.1007/BF01889484 . It is shown that one can deduce the de Broglie waves as real  collective Markov processes on the top of Dirac's aether

       12.  Albert Einstein's 'First' Paper (1894 or   1895),http://www.straco.ch/papers/Einstein%20First%20Paper.pdf

       13. Einstein, Albert:  "Ether and the Theory of Relativity " (1920), republished in Sidelights on  Relativity (Methuen, London, 1922)

       14. R. Brunetti and A. Zeilinger (Eds.), Quantum (Un)speakables, Springer, Berlin (2002),   Ch. 22

      15. M. Blasone, P. Jizba and H. Kleinert,.“Path Integral Approach to 't Hooft's Derivation of Quantum from Classical Physics”,arXiv:quant-ph/0409021

 

Time and relativity 

As Lorentz later noted (1921, 1928), he considered the time indicated by clocks resting in the aether as "true" time, while local time was seen by him as a heuristic working hypothesis and a mathematical artifice. Therefore, Lorentz's theorem is seen by modern authors as being a mathematical transformation from a "real" system resting in the aether into a "fictitious" system in our observable reality. 

 

This is an interesting and partly correct view in the sense that the aether frame in which light travels, is a preferred local reference frame. The aether frame of reference can only provide us with a true time for a given location at a given time, but it can be seen as more fundamental than the relative time in billions of different arbitrary objects of proper mass all having their own relative time scale. The problem is that this local frame changes with the surroundings. And it is perceived differently by different spectators, depending on their relative speed and location. As will be demonstrated, time is truly dilated in all other frames of reference moving relative to the local aether, and the speed of light is truly observed as a constant in all frames of reference. Therefore, it is difficult, if not impossible, to determine the local reference frame in which light moves. Einstein’s space-time is based on how light moves, but since it is relativistic, space-time changes according to the observers’ location and speed.

 

We’re tempted to twist Orwell’s words and say that “all frames of reference are equal, but some are more equal than others”. When you calculate relativistic time dilation, this is exactly what you look for. You try to find the most aether-like reference frame available, and then calculate relative time dilation. Kinematic time dilation has little to do with the relative speed of the objects – then there would never be any time dilation to measure, since it is arbitrary which object is considered at rest and which is moving. Hafele-Keating omitted that problem when they calculated the kinematic part of time dilation, by defining the local center of mass (the earth) as the reference point. That was not the local aether frame, but when the test clocks should orbit earth then other variations in the aether would cancel out. We take the following directly from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luminiferous_aether  

 

1.   The work of Lorentz was mathematically perfected by Henri Poincaréwho formulated on many occasions the Principle of Relativityand tried to harmonize it with electrodynamics. He declared simultaneity only a convenient convention which depends on the speed of light, whereby the constancy of the speed of light would be a useful postulatefor making the laws of nature as simple as possible. In 1900 and 1904 he physically interpreted Lorentz's local time as the result of clock synchronization by light signals. And finally in June and July 1905 he declared the relativity principle a general law of nature, including gravitation. He corrected some mistakes of Lorentz and proved the Lorentz covariance of the electromagnetic equations. However, he used the notion of an aether as a perfectly undetectable medium and distinguished between apparent and real time, so most historians of science argue that he failed to invent special relativity.

 

Poincaré, Henri (1900), " La théorie de Lorentz et le principe de réaction", Archives néerlandaises des sciences exactes et naturelles, 5: 252–278.  

Poincaré, Henri (1904/1906), "The Principles of Mathematical Physics", in Rogers, Howard J.,Congress of arts and science, universal exposition, St. Louis, 1904,1, Boston and New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, pp. 604–622  

Poincaré, Henri (1905b), "Sur la dynamique de l'électron"  [On the Dynamics of the Electron],Comptes Rendus, 140: 1504–1508  , and Poincaré, Henri (1906), "Sur la dynamique de l'électron" [On the Dynamics of the Electron], Rendiconti del Circolo matematico di Palermo, 21: 129–176, doi:10.1007/BF03013466 

  

Poincaré’s notion of an aether as a perfectly undetectable medium was 100% correct regarding the theory of relativity. However, he is proven wrong on other points by quantum mechanics (but less wrong than Einstein). It is easy to understand that nobody could grasp the true nature of the aether, when even the aether’s most ardent supporters viewed it as undetectable. With today’s knowledge of the vacuum energy in quantum mechanics, it seems a bit strange that most physicists don’t see the vacuum energy as the hard footprint of an aether of some kind, and that the aether reveals itself most obviously through the working of the uncertainty principle.

 

Poincaré distinguished between apparent and real time, which is correct in the way that the time in the local frame of the light is more real than time in any arbitrary reference frame of matter residing at the same location. The question is how real is the frame that we cannot detect? We would say the reference frame of light itself is essential for the thought process necessary to ferret out the true nature of the laws of physics. But a true time and a true reference frame is non-existing. You can be happy with your local curved space in which light travel, and call that your frame of reference, or the inter-solar space would be better, the space between galaxies would seem even more suitable, etc. You can always improve on your reference frame by moving further away to more remote areas with less matter in its vicinity.

 

 

 

Previous:

Scientific Method 

 

 

 

Forces by Proxy

 

Michelson & Morley’s aether experiment

 

Properties of the aether

 

Gravity

 

Particles

 

The Electromagnetic Force

 

The Strong Force

 

Quantum Mechanics and the Uncertainty Principle

 

General Relativity

 

Special Relativity

 

Scientific Method

 

Some support for the aether 

 

 

 

 

Authors  

Jørgen Karlsen 

Einar Nyberg Karlsen

 

Editor  

PrinciplePhysics.com 

Jorgen Karlsen 

Høvik, Norway 

karlsen.jorgen@gmail.com  

 

Illustrations: 

Tormod Førre 

 

Acknowledgements: 

Trond Erik Hillestad 

Dr. Ian Ashmore 

Prof. Kaare Olaussen 

 

 

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PrinciplePhysics.com has as its main goal to present new theories and models which can help solve some of the principle problems in physics. The topics will range from elementary particles, nuclear physics and quantum mechanics to  gravity and general relativity. A second edition of Forces by Proxy was published as an attachment to the Norwegian journal “Astronomi”, 2017 – 3. Here we present a short version, which was first released on May 17th 2017