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One unanswered question about Aether

  1. Nov 27, 2003 #1
    I have had this question nagging at me and making me lose sleep for over a year now, and I can't find the answer anywhere.
    Hopefully someone here (or at the other physics forum I got to) can help.

    Let me just preface the question with some information.
    If you know me through my posts, you may already know all of this.

    I am not a Physicist.
    I have never even taken a physics course in High School.
    The little I do know about Physics I have learned through reading books and papers, discussing the topic with scientists I have known and by asking questions on Internet forums.
    I am doing this for nothing more than my own edification and to satisfy my curiosity.

    The main stumbling block I have come up against in my self-education on Physics is my limited math skills.
    Learning the required math (on my own) has (as expected) proven to be a slow and arduous process.

    In the meantime, I have been attempting to learn as much as I can relying on reason.
    I have been fairly successful to this end, but obviously, it has its limitaions.
    I have a respectable understanding of SR (have not tackled GR yet), its reasoning and implications.

    When deciding to undertake the process of teaching myself Physics, I decided to take nothing for granted and face everything (even crackpots) with an open mind.
    Since I was in grade school, no matter what the teacher taught me, if (s)he couldn't explain to my satisfaction the hows and whys, I didn't believe it.
    Some teachers loved me bacause of it, some hated me.
    If Feynman, Hawking or Einstein says it's true, that doesn't necessarily mean it is and vice versa.
    On the other hand, I am also not one of those nit-wit conspracy theorists that will disregard anything out of the box because the "scientific powers that be" stand behind it. As I said, I am open minded.

    I have also read a number of papers by "anti-relativity" Aether proponents.
    Some of them make some sense.
    Some of them argue that Relativity is not supportable because of this flaw or that one in the supporting experiments, or that it is counter-intuitve due to it not being in compliance with Classical Newtonian Physics yet their hypothesis is far more flawed and/or makes Relativity look like elementary mathematics in light of their unsupportable fanciful explantions regarding 12th dimensions and swirling vortices of imaginary energy.

    I know that SR is fully supportable by experimental results.
    I know that the math makes complete sense, and is accurate.
    I have been told (and am taking it on faith for the time being) that GR makes up for what SR does not account in various "paradoxes" that SR fails to explain on its own.

    I have read the accounts of the Michelson Morely experiemnts (and other similar experiments since).
    I have read what the Aether proponets claim is flawed in them.
    I have read what Relativity proponents have replied to that.

    I do agree that relativity is counter-intuitive in some aspects, but I am also fully aware that counter-intuitiveness alone is no reason to discount anything.

    I am not attempting to disprove Einstein, nor have I fully accepted Relativity yet.

    I have only one question (unanswered by either camp) remaining that allows the Aether to still exist as a reasonable possibility in my mind, and that is the purpose of this post.

    The question may very well have been answered, I have just not come across that answer yet.

    I know that after reading this preface some people would have rolled their eyes by now and assumed I am an idiot, loaded their guns ready to shoot me down.
    If you are one of those people, please do us both a favor and don't bother.
    Keep assuming I am an idiot and click the back button on your browser rather than wasting your precious valuable time on me.

    The Relativists that I have read, in their explanations about why the Aether theories are not valid, invariably point to the lack of "Aether-wind".
    This explanation, is contested by Aetherists by various different (seemingly spurious at best) descriptions of faulty or limited equipment, limited test conditions, what have you.
    Let's say, for sake of argument, that we have firmly established an uncontested lack of "Aether-wind".
    As far as I can tell, this lack of "Aether-wind" would be sufficient evidence to disregard any "static" Aether theory, but I have yet to come across anyone providing evidence against a "dynamic" Aether theory.
    Let me explain what I mean by "static" and "dynamic".

    If the Aether were a "solid" substance or "fabric" (as some refer to it as) then the planets would be moving through this substance, and the M&M based experiments would have detected a wind.
    That is a given.
    However, what if the Aether were not A substance, rather space was filled with discrete particles (perhaps fundamental) that were, in effect, individual EM radiation tranducers of sorts.
    Radiation would pass from one of these particle (radiation carriers) to the next.
    First, this "formation" would explain Einstein's results from his photoelectric experiments that led to the current wave/particle duality view of EM radiation:
    They are discrete particles.
    The particles do not move in wave formation, however the energy would move as a wave through the particles, adhering to the inverse square rule.
    It would also explain the lack of "Aether-wind", because each of these discrete particles would be affected by gravity, therefor being dragged along with bodies.
    The particles being affected by gravitational fields would also explain the bending of light around massive bodies.

    There are other things this would address, but I am tired, and if this hypothesis has already (or can be) proven wrong by experimental evidence (or through reason), it would be a waste fo time pointing out all I have considered.

    In short, I have spent a lot of my spare time over the past year or so doing research trying to prove my hypothesis wrong, and have have not been able to.
    I am not posting here to tell you that I am right and why.
    I am posting here asking you to do what I could not.
    Punch holes in this and show me why it is wrong.

    Again, let me remind you that my math skills are limited.

    I believe it was Einstein (I could be wrong) who said basically that if you can't explain your theory to your grandmother, then you don't truly understand it yourself.

    Explain it to me like I am your grandmother.

    Thanks for any help you can offer.

    BTW, I don't plan on being online again until, at least, December 1st, so do not expect replies before then.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 27, 2003 #2


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    First, an aether affected by gravity would be affected differently by objects of different masses. It would also vary in concentration with distance from a massive object.

    Second, even if this aether were moving around the sun with the earth, would it be rotating too? Orbiting at the same speed as the moon? The same speed as our satellites? If you couldn't measure an aether wind between two points on the surface of the earth, you most certainly would be able to measure it between a point on the surface of the earth and a point in space.
  4. Nov 27, 2003 #3


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    Essentially what you are proposing is the same as "Ether drag", a proposal that has already been made. The problem with it is that it doesn't jive with certain astronomical observations, namely stellar aberration.

    To explain: Imagine a car sitting on the road in the rain.(assume the rain is the light from a distant light source.) If the car is sitting still, the rain fall straight down with respect to the car. Now let's assume the car is driving down the road. The rain will now fall at an angle to the car, and fromt he point of view of someone in the car, the rain appears to originate from somewhere ahead of the car in stead of from directly above.

    The same thing happens with light from the stars; we see the light originate from a slightly different position due to the Earth's motion around the Sun. And since the Earth travels in a circle, This position shifts over the course of a year. (The stars change positions slightly relative to each other over a year's time)

    Now imagine that the rain(light) is a light mist, one that is easily affected by air(the aether).

    The M&M exeriment would be like shooting a fine mist into the air while driving and noting how the "wind" caused by your driving effects the way the mist behaves. The results were that there was no wind and that the mist always behaves as if there were no wind.

    Your explanation is that the car drags a little "bubble of air" around it that stays motionless with respect to the car that protects the mist from the wind.

    The problem is how this will effect the mist (light) coming from a source outside the car. As the mist falls straight down, it will hit the air bubble at an angle like before, but the instant it does, the air bubble will start to drag it along. (it won't retain its initial horizontal velocity with respect to the car.) By the time the mist reaches you, the mist will have been robbed of all its horizontal speed with respect to you and it will seem to fall from straight above.

    If the mist experiment did show a "wind drift" (no protecting bubble) then we would expect to also see a "mist aberration"

    To return to light, Ether drag would mean that there is would be no stellar aberration and we woudn't see the stars shift positions.

    But we do see stellar aberration and the M&M experiment does not detect a aether drift, either.

    This rules out both rigid Aether(Aether drift and stellar aberration) and a "fluid" Aether(no Aether drift and no stellar aberration.)
  5. Nov 30, 2003 #4
    The fact that MMx and Kennedy-Thordyke experiments failed to detect our motion relative to space does not rule out the existence of an ether - one of the recent theories is that within the earth centered reference system, light is isotropic - because the earth's mass brings about this result as to experiments that are conducted using a local source and a local receiver that are comoving (for example GPS signals) - but with regard to light sources at large distances (stars and the like) we do detect our motion relative thereto (aberration). We also detect our motion relative to the CBR and we even detect a yearly variation in the CBR due to our motion around the Sun. While Special Relativity does not require an ether, General Relativity does. (I assume you have read Einstein's speach at Leden University in 1920) "Space without an ether is unthinkable ... but the idea of motion cannot be applied to it." The ether has measurable properties that determine the velocity of light (its permeability and permittivity) and the 377 ohm free space impedance that we match to transmitting antennas in order to acheive the most effective transfer of radiated power. Moreover, if one considers space as under elastic tension rather than compression, you can explain why transverse electrical waves can be transmitted.
  6. Dec 1, 2003 #5


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    The reciever and source in GPS signals are NOT "comoving." They are in different relativistic frames of reference and the effects of relativity are seen in the GPS system as predicted by the theory.
    No. Einstein was not describing what is commonly referred to as an "ether" in fitting with one-raven's question. The whole quote:
    For more, I went to Google, but there wasn't much beyond free energy and other crackpot sites listing this quote. There was however a link to an earlier archive of this very forum where this topic was discussed: https://www.physicsforums.com/archive/topic/4021-1.htmlAnd there is a reference there to another Einstein quote:
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2003
  7. Dec 1, 2003 #6


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    How can you find gems like the SelfAdjoint/Parson/arcnets material in PF archives (other than by googling the relevant content)?
  8. Dec 1, 2003 #7


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    Dunno. I've never even seen that part of PF. Pretty cool though.
  9. Dec 1, 2003 #8
    - Waters - When you have a situation when the transmitter and receiver are comoving - the velocity of light is isotropic - but if the receiver is moving relative to the transmitter - the relative velocity has to be corrected for in GPS - its called "one way Sagnac correction" but its not really explained by the notion of acceleration since the amount of curvature that occurs in the path of the receiver due to the earth's rotation is so slight compared to the linear distance traveled during the GPS transmission time as to be insignificant -

    And how do you know what Einstein had in mind? - Einstein simply renamed the ether as space - the word ether got a lot of bad press - but space has properties whatever you call it - it exhibits stress as per GR, but that doesn't imply physical particles - in addition to the notion of stress, there is also a growing number of researchers looking more seriously at the dynamic inflow theory of gravity - read some of Tom Martins articles on the internet -

    If you want to be more complete on Einsteins views - recall one of his quotes near the end of his life...where he reflects on the present position of science as having no lasting significance ..I cannot think of a single theory that will withstand the test of time - I ....may have been on the wrong track all along ... feelings of doubt come from within.. I don't hae it quite memorized perfectly, but you can look it up.

    And how can you explain all the interest in Einstiens theory that space will be be rotated near a rotating mass - etc - or Hawking statement "Empty space isn't empty" and on and on - and all the effort that has gone into string theory and loop gravity in an attempt to quantatize the nature of the medium ...Or Dirac's view of space as a dynamic... they are not crackpots

    I will say to the person that started this topic - applause - don't be mislead by the standard dogma of the diehard relativists - and also - it is most admirable to investigate these matters even though you have not been formally schooled in mathematics - actually - too much formal schooling can sometimes be an impediment to free thinking - AS Einstein said .. Our Experience hitherto tells us that nature is the simpliest form of mathematical ideas. But I don't mean to imply that formal education is not worthwhile - only that it is ok to be a skeptic and approach the standard views with caution -
  10. Dec 1, 2003 #9


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    Er... If you are just talking about renaming quantum foam into Ether just to confuse people, (as quantum foam most definitely isn't traditional ether) may I ask what is the point?
  11. Dec 1, 2003 #10
    I agree.
    On both counts.
    That would neatly explain the bending of light around massive celestial objects.
    The more massive, the more it bends.

    As far as I have read (though I very well could be wrong, of course) this test has never been performed.
    The MM based experiments have been limited to the surface of the earth.
    Do you have any links to experimental results that show this?

    I am not sure how stellar abberation and a Dynamic Aether would be mutually exclusive.
    I have read a few explanations, and understand what is being presented, but I am not convinced.

    The "bubble" would not be traveling and rotating with the Earth uniformly.
    The further you get from the Earth, the less effect gravity would have on the particles.
    Picture it like a whirlpool in water.
    The further you get from the center, the weaker the effect of the whirlpool, the less speed the water rotating around the center would have.
    In the stellar abberation refutation, it seems to (please do correct me if I misunderstood) assume that the Aether outside the Gravitational Field of the Earth would be moving relative to Earth, but the Aether within the Gravitational Field of the Earth would be stationary relative to the Earth.
    If the particles were affected by Gravity, this would not be the case.
    As you move further away from the Earth, the movement of the Aether (relative to the surface of the Earth) would slowly increase until it was out of the range of the Earth's gravitational field.
    If this were the case, stellar abberation would still exist.
    If I misunderstand the stellar abberation refutation, or if my explanation of how it is nto valid to apply it in this instance is incorrect, please explain to me where I went wrong.

  12. Dec 1, 2003 #11


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    So you DO concede that what Einstein was talking about isn't the same as the ether most anti-relativists were talking about. Great. Thats all I was saying - and your second sentence there answers the question in the first sentence: you know what Einstein had in mind too.
    As you said, not the same ether, not the same issue.
    It may be small but its there and it matches predictions. And other relativistic effects, most importantly time dilation, are very significant.
    Ironic: citing Einstein to attack Einstien.
    Caution is great: blanket rejection of the 'mainstream' because you just plain don't like (or don't understand) it is foolish.
    The problem here is that there will NEVER be a test that those who reject relativity will accept. There are literally dozens (hundreds?) of experiments and practical applications which show relativity to be correct or rely on its accuracy. Experiments and practical applications on relativity using satellites, the moon, and space probes are being conducted/used on an ongoing basis. Like I said - if this ether were rotating and revolving along with the earth, it would be observed in the operation of the GPS system. And how 'bout those lunar ranging experiments?
  13. Dec 1, 2003 #12


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    It doesn't matter whether you assume a sharp drop off or a smooth transition.
    Even if the Aether drag fell off as you moved away from the Earth it would still negate stellar aberration. The light would still have to alter its path to match the ether. Since the Ether at the Earth's surface would have to travel at the same speed as the Earth in order for the M&M experiment to give null results, By the time the light reaches the surface, the aberration effect would be negated. It doesn't matter that it occured slowly as the light traveled deeper into the Earth's gravity well, rather than abruptly.

    The whole point is that the light has to pass between two regions of ether that are moving wrt each other, and while making this transition has to alter its trajectory accordingly.

    The "bubble analogy" was just to simplify the explanation.
  14. Dec 1, 2003 #13
    Free thinking?

    hey, maybe the basic strings of it all - are in the surfaces, M not sure, but some place I looked everything acts the same here and everyplace else. In respect to black holes :eek:), but they are with us at the same time...

    any way- its a bunch of surface tention, like a bubble that cant pop because the other sides and other bubbles are next to it in all directions, "sides" of it cant wont let it. It stays together, but moves. Like in the sink -minus the pops..there is no sink or gravity around it...so it is round all together...we look at the universe with small eyes.

    We looked up and saw more than we thought was there...WE do not know how the structure looks "sort of..", but in my best guess its round, full of dead space, huge so it dont seem "REACT" empty.. but together by the same thing bubbles are held together with, but in huge scale, heat is nothing in this scale... One bubble like what we are in right now is full of trillions of galaxies, just the Vail of the bubble.

    Emagine the hugeness of millions of all different bubbles...if it was in a sink for example...each vail of each bubble has its own billions of molecules, each molecule or the quarks quark! of that molecule could be a galaxy making up the whole surface thinkness of each bubble....whats inside? reverse gravity? pressure in a small scale...anyway everything fits the same just have to have a larger scale...emagine making a soap bubble 100 trillion light years across, how thick whould the vail of its onlookers visual be?

    how empty is this universe is the question, there would be the speed.

    gravity, has no speed because it is what we are,

    I am a nut. Maybe this has made me crazy all these years.

    phew, okay I need some rest.
    Hans B.
  15. Dec 1, 2003 #14
    I think you are making a false assumption about me.
    I do not reject relativity.
    I am simply trying to learn.
    If you don't question what you are taught, you don't learn, you simply memorize.
    If what I am learning does not make sense to me, I question it and find either:
    A.) What I was missing or misunderstood that would fill in the blanks for me.
    B.) The solution elsewhere.

    Besides that, what I am saying does not question or attempt to refute Einstein's observations at all.
    It doesn't invalidate relatvity, rather it questions the popular interpretation of those observations and the implications of it.

    As I said, I am just looking for an answer for this single question that is still outstanding (for me and what I have learned).

    Again, I am not questioning the accuracy of relatvity and its predictions.
    I am looking for an answer to what invalidates the idea of a "dynamic" Aether.

    How 'bout them?
    If there are experiments that directly and conclusively refute the existence of a "dynamic" Aether, I would greatly appreciate more information about them, perhaps even links to papers and such.
    That is all I am asking for.

    I am not arguing against the validity of relativity (or anything else, for that matter) I am looking for more information about it.
    If you want to help... Great! I appreciate it fully.
    If not... Don't. I will continue looking for the answer(s).
    It is really as simple as that.
  16. Dec 1, 2003 #15
    On the surface, what you are saying makes perfect sense, but there is something I am not quite grasping about this.
    I am not sure what I am missing.
    I will have to give it some thought and get back to you.

    Thanks a lot for your help.
    It has finally given me something to chew on.
  17. Dec 1, 2003 #16
    man, me too!

    Yes I would and want the same answer here as you one_raven.

  18. Dec 1, 2003 #17
    With regard to Russ Waters comment about the many verifications of SR - it should be mentioned that these confirming tests also validate the Modified Lorentz Either theory and the Dynamic Inflow theory - and some others - so even though we can show time dilation and length contraction - we still do not know whether they are apparent or real - In other words, experiments cannot prove a theory, they can only disprove a theory - a classic example is Kennedy/Thorndike - when they performed their experiment there were three rival theories - by using an interferometer with different leg lengths, they eliminated the theory that explained MMx based upon the FitzGerald contraction hypothesis alone - but these experiments left in tack SR and the modified Lorentz Theory that was formulated to incorporate both time dilation and length contraction .. so again, one of the many reasons so many tests have been made and so much has been written about SR and the aether is that it provokes our curosity - we really want to know if there is an underlying dynamic - or can it all be dismissed as kinematic - and if Einstein can question his own legacy - why should everyone else who is disturbed by SR be branded as a crackpot?
  19. Dec 2, 2003 #18


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    Your wording implied an unwillingness to accept relativity. But...
    If that is truly the case, try this for a start (posted by Nereid in another thread):
    http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/Relativity/SR/experiments.html#7. Other experiments
    Last edited: Dec 2, 2003
  20. Dec 2, 2003 #19
    Thank you.
    I book marked the site, and will hopefully get to it tomorrow.
  21. Dec 2, 2003 #20
    Einstein predicted also 'FRAME DRAGGING'. This discussion might touch that.

    http://www.phy.duke.edu/~kolena/framedrag.html :

    "General relativity predicts that massive rotating objects should drag space-time around themselves as they rotate," said
    Pavlis._ "Frame dragging is like what happens if a bowling ball spins in a thick fluid such as molasses._ As the ball spins, it pulls the molasses around itself._ Anything stuck in the molasses will also move around the ball. Similarly, as the Earth rotates, it pulls space-time in its vicinity around itself._ This will shift the orbits of satellites near the Earth.
    Einstein's theory of general relativity has been highly successful at explaining how matter and light behave in strong
    gravitational fields, and has been successfully tested using a
    wide variety of astrophysical observations._ The frame-dragging effect was first derived using general relativity by Austrian physicists Joseph Lense and Hans Thirring in 1918._ Known as the
    Lense-Thirring effect, it was previously observed by the team of Ciufolini using the LAGEOS satellites and has recently been observed around distant celestial objects with intense gravitational fields, such as black holes and neutron stars._ The new research around Earth is the first direct detection and measurement of this phenomenon. "

    More by google.
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