Blimey! I'm an aether theorist

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tillingborn
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Blimey! I'm an aether theorist

Post by tillingborn »

A lot of what follows was lifted from here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aether_theories

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:
Einstein 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
Then there’s the more contemporary Robert Laughlin
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.
Well, as Shakespeare said:
Shakespeare wrote:A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
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?
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.
jackles
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Re: Blimey! I'm an aether theorist

Post by jackles »

Yes but there is no aether.are you a time traveler from ancient greece or somfin.who cant stop the habit of believin in the aether.
tillingborn
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Re: Blimey! I'm an aether theorist

Post by tillingborn »

jackles wrote:Yes but there is no aether.are you a time traveler from ancient greece or somfin.who cant stop the habit of believin in the aether.
Well, Aristotle described aether as the fifth element. The terrestrial elements, earth, water, air and fire all naturally travel in straight lines, he said; straight down in the case of earth and water and straight up in the case of air and fire. He believed that there are two types of natural movement; as well as in a straight line, there is moving in a circle. All observed movement, staggering home from the pub for example, can be plotted using lines and arcs, which is true. Aristotle argued that because circular motion is unnatural to earth, water, air and fire, it must be natural to some other element, which is bollocks. Nevertheless, he claimed that everything in heaven, the sun the moon and the stars, were all made of aether and in heaven, it being uncorrupted by earthly elements, everything moved in perfect circles. In fact it's more bonkers, the heavenly bodies weren't bodies at all, instead heaven was made up of spheres, one inside the other and what we think are the sun, moon and stars are points where the spheres are rubbing, causing friction "and particularly in that part where the sun is attached to it".
Anyway, you'll have to take my word for it that I'm not a time traveler from Ancient Greece who believes any of that. If anything, my thinking is even older, going back to the Pre-Socratics, particularly the Milesians who wanted to know what the world is made of.
Physics is brilliant at describing the properties of fundamental particles, mass, charge and spin for example, but not so good at saying what quarks, electrons, photons and whatnot are made of. It doesn't matter, it's metaphysics, because it doesn't make any difference to the observable properties whether you think fundamental particles are ideas in the mind of god, which is what Berkeley thought, or they are made of stuff, which is what most people think.
By aether, I just mean this stuff. You're new to this forum jackles, welcome aboard, by the way, so you may not have encountered me saying that I suspect that the cause of the phenomena that looks like a universe made of some stuff, is some stuff the universe is made of. As Robert Laughlin says:
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.
As far as the physics is concerned an electromagnetic field, a gravitational field, a Higgs field is a place where a force is exerted, whereas the 'aether' is the stuff in which there are distortions that give rise to the field. For a practical demonstration, get a sponge and pinch it in the middle. Doing so will draw the rest of the sponge towards the pinch; that is analogous to a boson, a force carrying particle like a photon. If on the other hand you twist a bit of the sponge, you have made a fermion, a matter particle. Or somefin.
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Kuznetzova
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Re: Blimey! I'm an aether theorist

Post by Kuznetzova »

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.
LOL
tillingborn
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Re: Blimey! I'm an aether theorist

Post by tillingborn »

Kuznetzova wrote:
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.
LOL
Yep, strange but true. We can all measure apples falling on our head; if we are any good at it, we will agree that on Earth they accelerate at near enough 9.8 metres per second per second. If we are clever enough, we can deduce a mathematical expression that not only describes what we can see happening, but makes predictions about what we will see in the future. We might be tempted to believe the model presented by General Relativity and put gravity down to warped spacetime. We might instead prefer the metaphysics of (some versions of) Quantum Mechanics and be persuaded that it is caused by the exchange of gravitons. We might on the other hand believe that whatever it is that string or loop quantum gravity theorists put it down to is real. Who can tell? Physicists only start to pay attention to ideas that make testable predictions or that make the maths easier, or, as in the case of string theory, which does neither, because they are bonkers.
The phenomenon, the subject of physics, is not in dispute, unless you're a bit rubbish. The underlying causes, the metaphysics, is interesting but not vital to the day to day practice of physics, the measurement of apples falling for example, what Kuhn called normal science.
Anyway, while I'm here, I might as well peddle my own fruit-loopery. As an aether theorist I think it probable that the universe is made of some stuff. I think this stuff is denser around matter, so that light bending around stars and galaxies, a phenomenon that looks exactly like refraction, is refraction. Since matter is made of 'particles' tumbling over each other, there is an element of their tumbling which is perpendicular to any gravitational 'field' they are in; hence they are refracted as they pass left to right, and again as they pass right to left. The net force is towards the source of the field, although in the case of apples and planets, the amount the planet falls towards the apple is negligible, unless it's a very big apple and a very small planet (New York and Pluto, if you must).
Ginkgo
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Re: Blimey! I'm an aether theorist

Post by Ginkgo »

tillingborn wrote:
Kuznetzova wrote:
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.
LOL
Yep, strange but true. We can all measure apples falling on our head; if we are any good at it, we will agree that on Earth they accelerate at near enough 9.8 metres per second per second. If we are clever enough, we can deduce a mathematical expression that not only describes what we can see happening, but makes predictions about what we will see in the future. We might be tempted to believe the model presented by General Relativity and put gravity down to warped spacetime. We might instead prefer the metaphysics of (some versions of) Quantum Mechanics and be persuaded that it is caused by the exchange of gravitons. We might on the other hand believe that whatever it is that string or loop quantum gravity theorists put it down to is real. Who can tell? Physicists only start to pay attention to ideas that make testable predictions or that make the maths easier, or, as in the case of string theory, which does neither, because they are bonkers.
The phenomenon, the subject of physics, is not in dispute, unless you're a bit rubbish. The underlying causes, the metaphysics, is interesting but not vital to the day to day practice of physics, the measurement of apples falling for example, what Kuhn called normal science.
Anyway, while I'm here, I might as well peddle my own fruit-loopery. As an aether theorist I think it probable that the universe is made of some stuff. I think this stuff is denser around matter, so that light bending around stars and galaxies, a phenomenon that looks exactly like refraction, is refraction. Since matter is made of 'particles' tumbling over each other, there is an element of their tumbling which is perpendicular to any gravitational 'field' they are in; hence they are refracted as they pass left to right, and again as they pass right to left. The net force is towards the source of the field, although in the case of apples and planets, the amount the planet falls towards the apple is negligible, unless it's a very big apple and a very small planet (New York and Pluto, if you must).

That's a really interesting question. Are string theorists doing physics or metaphysics? At the moment I don't think anyone has come up with a way to physically put any of the theories to the test. However, that doesn't exclude the possibility of a testable version of string theory in the future.

Does this mean that string theory is still a scientific theory because it is potentially verifiable in the future?
tillingborn
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Re: Blimey! I'm an aether theorist

Post by tillingborn »

Ginkgo wrote:Are string theorists doing physics or metaphysics?
It's a bit of everything, really. As far as I can work out, it started with some bright spark wondering whether different fundamental particles might be modes of vibration of a common entity, a string. It's the sort of thing that only makes sense in mathematics, where 11 or 12 dimensions are tenable; anyone with a practical bone in their body wonders what keeps strings vibrating after nearly 14 billion years. That there are such strings is a metaphysical hypothesis, certainly for the foreseeable future, because there is no immediate prospect of us recreating the energies necessary to prove it. As you say though:
Ginkgo wrote:However, that doesn't exclude the possibility of a testable version of string theory in the future.
Indeed. The God of the Gaps hypothesis is also theoretically a scientific theory. If, as some people imagine, we ever discover a final theory of everything that explains nature to a degree that brooks no argument, it maybe that there remain phenomena that can only be ascribed to a supernatural being playing silly-buggers. I don't think that's imminent either.
Ginkgo wrote:Does this mean that string theory is still a scientific theory because it is potentially verifiable in the future?
I did History and Philosophy of Science fairly seriously about 25 years ago at King's College, London. We couldn't work out what was or wasn't science generally. In terms of physics though, it is plausible to take a Wittgensteinian/positivist stance and argue that if it can't be verified by a light flashing, bell ringing or some physical event, it isn't physics. The proviso being that you have to allow for advances in technology that will make verification possible, or falsification, if you prefer Popper's slant.
Ultimately, I think Feyerabend nailed it; it is pointless getting all Aristotelian and categorising the ways that people think about the world to the extent that you can't decide were to put one idea or another. Broadly speaking, philosophy is what philosophers do, science is what scientists do and maths is what mathematicians do, but the edges are blurred.
James Markham
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Re: Blimey! I'm an aether theorist

Post by James Markham »

When we ask questions about space, I think it's important to realise that it came into existence in the same manner and event as the rest of the universe, and if we can class energy as the potential for events to occur, then dimensional presence is the principal event to occur. It therefore must, like all physical phenomena, be nothing more or less energy. So in other words space is a quality that energy exhibits, not something independent that events take place within, but all part of the same event.
tillingborn
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Re: Blimey! I'm an aether theorist

Post by tillingborn »

James Markham wrote:When we ask questions about space, I think it's important to realise that it came into existence in the same manner and event as the rest of the universe,
It depends what you mean by space. Some people equate space with the universe, in which case what you say is obviously true, although you appear to be saying that space and the universe are two different things that happened to come into existence at the same time. Some think space is just the separation of objects; in which case it doesn't actually exist as a discrete thing and didn't exist at all until there were at least two objects to have some space between them. Others think space is the thing that the universe somehow is in.
James Markham wrote:and if we can class energy as the potential for events to occur,
then dimensional presence is the principal event to occur. It therefore must, like all physical phenomena, be nothing more or less energy.
I'm not sure what you mean by 'dimensional presence'.
James Markham wrote:So in other words space is a quality that energy exhibits, not something independent that events take place within, but all part of the same event.
It looks like you are using 'energy' to mean some primordial substance here rather than the 'potential for events to occur'. I think the latter is closer to my understanding of energy, but I would go further and say that without something existing, aether in the current context, there is nothing for events to happen to.
Greylorn Ell
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Re: Blimey! I'm an aether theorist

Post by Greylorn Ell »

tillingborn wrote:
James Markham wrote:When we ask questions about space, I think it's important to realise that it came into existence in the same manner and event as the rest of the universe,
It depends what you mean by space. Some people equate space with the universe, in which case what you say is obviously true, although you appear to be saying that space and the universe are two different things that happened to come into existence at the same time. Some think space is just the separation of objects; in which case it doesn't actually exist as a discrete thing and didn't exist at all until there were at least two objects to have some space between them. Others think space is the thing that the universe somehow is in.
James Markham wrote:and if we can class energy as the potential for events to occur,
then dimensional presence is the principal event to occur. It therefore must, like all physical phenomena, be nothing more or less energy.
I'm not sure what you mean by 'dimensional presence'.
James Markham wrote:So in other words space is a quality that energy exhibits, not something independent that events take place within, but all part of the same event.
It looks like you are using 'energy' to mean some primordial substance here rather than the 'potential for events to occur'. I think the latter is closer to my understanding of energy, but I would go further and say that without something existing, aether in the current context, there is nothing for events to happen to.
Your thoughts about the aether are mostly correct, IMO. If you adopt the notion that Dark Energy (D.E.) and the aether are the same thing, the notion can be taken somewhat further.

Notice that all known forms of energy (which define structures and fields) are time dependent, yet the Three Laws of Thermodynamics are entirely independent of time. This suggests that dark energy is the unstructured, time-independent form of ordinary energy.

Before D.E. was formally discovered, I referred to it as "raw" energy. It must have at least three properties:

1. Existence, perhaps as a 3D manifold within a 4D space that contains it and allows for it to change. (First law of Thermodynamics.)

Obviously I disagree with Markham, in that IMO space does not have an origin. Origin hypotheses uglify all discussions about the beginnings. Something, or things, must have pre-existed. Implied in the First Law of Thermodynamics is the unequivocal principle that energy cannot be created or destroyed.

2. It manifests one and only one force, that which originally kept it at, and now tries to return it to a state of thermal equilibrium. (The 2nd Law.)

3. It originally existed at a state of absolute entropy 1, at a temperature of 0 Kelvin.

Of course these properties require a counter-force to the 2nd Law, else we'd not have a universe. That is another topic, but an easy one to deal with.

Obviously I agree with Markham in that D.E. must be a substance, not simply a "potential." (If that is indeed his opinion.)
jackles
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Re: Blimey! I'm an aether theorist

Post by jackles »

the answer is no your not aether theorist.you no its not true and thats official.nonlocality is the aether and thats official.
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