I thought it was just me. I have this oddball metaphysical suspicion that the most likely cause of the appearance of a universe that is made of stuff, is stuff that the universe is made of. There is no way to prove it and it doesn't make any difference to what physicists actually see and record anyway, but that’s metaphysics for you.
Anyway, it turns out I’m not the only one. In 1920 Einstein gave a lecture at the University of Leiden called ‘Aether and the theory of Relativity’ in which he said:
Then there’s the more contemporary Robert LaughlinEinstein wrote: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
Well, as Shakespeare said:Laughlin wrote: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…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.
The thing is, physics deals with phenomena that are measurable, charge, mass, spin and whatnot; it doesn’t matter to physics what is charged, has mass or spin. It’s hypotheses non fingo, Copenhagen interpretation, Machian positivism; long story short: empiricism, who cares what the cause is? Here’s the effect. But philosophers from Thales onward have wanted to know, what is everything made of?Shakespeare wrote:A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
I think the most sensible position is that attributed to John Bell who suggested: “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.” Indeed; all this physics is (probably) happening to something.