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Quantum Aether

Here is another account of the way time and other processes in our universe could work. Its not so much different from the other on this site I'm afraid, but could maybe offer some other angle on the subject.

Posted 13 August 2000.

The universe may seem to be very complicated but the way it works is really quite simple.
It is all a matter of elasticity.

To understand what is going on some idea about how time could operate turn out to be very important.
When I started contemplating all of this back in –76, the idea that set me off was the insight that if time were to stop no one would ever notice.
This implies that time could well be discontinuous without us knowing about it.

If that is the case, then what would the consequences be?

Trying to figure out an answer I eventually discovered that most of our present knowledge about the universe fits well within the dynamics of an elastic aether.
The classic aether concept was however deserted by mainstream physics about 100 years ago.
This happened partly because experiments by Michelson-Morley and others had failed to detect the relative difference in the speed of light that according to the classic aether theories would exist due to the earth’s own movement as she passed through the aether on her way around the sun.
Mainly, however, Einstein’s theory of special relativity arriving in 1905 is considered the decisive turning point.
By regarding the speed of light constant to all frames of reference Einstein was able to predict effects that were novel to physics and which were soon to be confirmed.
As a result the aether idea was rejected and reduced to “crank status”.

This crank status may now perhaps be subject to change.
The very latest popular account of the professional ideas about space and time by the respected American physicist Brian Greene, also author of “The Elegant Universe”, is titled ”The Fabric of Cosmos – Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality.”.
Call the substance that make up our universe the “Fabric of Cosmos” if you like, but this is only a play with names.
The name Aether has the advantage to be well defined by some of the sharpest minds that has tried to understand how things work.
Maxwell and Lorenz were two of these that could be named as an example, but there are many more.
However, aether theories have problems.
Apart from the difficulties hinted at above, those problems are essentially the same today as they were in the past.
You can find an account of the main problems in Sir Edmund Whittaker’s book “A History of the Theories of Aether and Electricity”; Part one, “The Classical Theories”.

Essentially, but not exclusively, the problems relate to the fact that longitudinal and transverse waves move at different speed in the elastic-solid type of aether and that the ideal-gas type of aether cannot support transverse waves at all.
Due to this, difficulties arise to identify what type of aether it may be that is hosting our universe if, indeed, the aether exist at all.

However, evidence shows that light is a wave phenomenon of some kind, and because waves need something in which to “wave”, the intuitive picture provided by the aether idea has prompted many a “crank” to keep searching for a way past all the obstacles.

The reason we have a problem with the different speeds of longitudinal and transverse waves is because if light is a transverse wave as the polarization of light seem to imply, then the aether has to be the elastic-solid type that can support transverse waves.
In that case, where are the longitudinal waves?
They should whisk past us at speeds faster then light if our theories regarding elasticity are correct.
On the other hand, if it could be shown that a mechanism exists that would permit light waves to be longitudinal, still accounting for the polarization of light, then the aether could be of the ideal-gas type and we would not have to worry about transverse waves at all.

Exploring the different possibilities took some time, but in 1998 I realized that the problem with the fast longitudinal waves in the elastic-solid type of aether would under certain conditions simply disappear.
This type of aether can then account for all known effects precisely because it is still able to support longitudinal as well as transverse waves.
Below follows an account of what I think would best be named “Quantum Aether” or “QE” for short.
QE is a try to make sense out of time, quantum effects and their relation to relativity and gravitation.
I am sure it is possible to translate QE on to mathematics footing without too much effort, but I will make no attempt to do so here.
There certainly remain other insights to arrive at, besides those that I am going to describe here, but for a start, this is how I see things:
The universe we live in has only one component.
This is the substance that historically has been named “Aether”.
Quantum Aether is a speculation regarding how this substance would behave under the “certain conditions” referred to above.

Similar to some of the examples Sir Edmund Whittaker is presenting in his book, this aether substance is elastic and can support transverse as well as longitudinal waves.
Its normal (ground-)state is probably that of a complete rest without internal stress or strain. The properties of this aether are in other words mainly the same as those one finds in any ordinary elastic solid.
With regard as to how the aether substance is composed, what makes it elastic; I do not think that we are able to specify that.
For our purpose we may as well consider it to be continuous and completely featureless. The “fabric” of the aether has to remain open to speculation, and the same goes for the mechanism behind the elastic properties.
So, to summarize, in QE, the proposed aether is just a three-dimensional elastic-solid substance that is completely feature-less and inherently inert with unknown elastic constants, composition and size.

However, compared to what we find in the real universe some things are missing.
First we need to have a scale.
Since the aether as described above is completely featureless it could as well be a dot.
We are missing a yardstick to measure the dimensions.

The second thing missing is time.
There is a general tendency to take time for granted.
It seems not necessary to define. I think that is a mistake. In my view time is as much a consequence of what made a universe out of this lump of aether as is the scale that was introduced in the same process.
In the spirit of Einstein, time has been viewed as the fourth dimension.
The definition of this fourth dimension, however, was never as straightforward and intuitive as the definition of the basic three.
With the addition of our tendency to take time for granted and our way of regarding the past and the future as occasions in the fourth dimension, possible to visit if you only know how, confusion about reality, and time, is unavoidable.
Long ago the philosopher Aristotle had ideas about time. He put them forward in the form of a paradox:
"Think of time as divided into the past, the present and the future, and then think about the present.
The present is just the limit between the past and the future.
Because the past is something that no longer exists, the present has yet to come and so does not yet exist we have a paradox; a limit between two entities that does not exist should also not exist."
I have edited my version of this statement somewhat.
You may be able to find a proper quote in the literature.

Now, if Aristotle is correct about the past and the future in the sense that they do not exist, but wrong in his derived assumption about the non-existence of the present, the next question is; how long is the present, and how wide?
The mechanics of QE propose that the present moment is as wide as the universe and reoccurring elastically. According to QE time is only a dynamic consequence of an elastic aether.
There is a saying that some people only live in the present, but it seems everyone does just that.

At first this may seem contradicting the special theory of relativity, but to my mind it only contradicts part of the traditional interpretation of SR.
QE requires this part and a few others to be reconsidered.
As has been shown by the Michelson-Morley experiment, the existence of the aether does not introduce any practically discriminate reference system. It appears to be quite undetectable.
Because of this it does not invalidate SR.
Instead, the role QE could play in physics is more akin to that of the theory about the quarks which by their very nature forbid direct observation.
The aether “exists” at the same level the quarks do.
It has arrived again only to bring sense to our observations.
If aether theory in the shape of QE manages to do that we will find that some things, like e.g. simultaneity and SR and a few other things work a little different from the way we used to think they do.

If Aristotle was right about the past and the future, then the present moment is the only time that exists and all physical theories must obey a general principle that could well be called “The principle of simultaneity.”
It simply states that everything in the universe occupy the same moment.

This principle provides the missing link between quantum physics and relativity and alongside with the constancy of the speed of light it describes another fundamental property of our universe.
To some effect the principle of simultaneity reinstates Newton’s universe, but it also reduces time-dependent events to become a dynamic phenomenon that is a consequence of the elastic properties of the aether.

The “certain conditions”:
To account for the presence of a scale and of time in the elastic-solid aether universe, the aether must sometime in the past have become subjected to a cataclysmic event.
This event, however it came about, forced the aether substance to enter into a state of violent vibrations.
These vibrations eventually settled down to a state of somewhat damped simple harmonic oscillations between compression and rarefaction in the way of longitudinal bulk displacements like very large standing sound waves in the elastic-solid.
Perhaps so big that the part of the universe we live in could consist of just one of these oscillating sound-waves.
This is the state of the universe now.

What actually happened to start the oscillations is beyond me, but the result is that the substance of the elastic-solid due to its unknown but elastic properties has stayed oscillating in this pulsating way ever since the event occurred.
The damped character of the oscillations may be inferred from the apparent expansion of the universe.

This oscillation between compression and rarefaction has some basic consequences:

1. The “extra” volume added to the volume of the compressed aether as it oscillates towards rarefaction accounts for the scale.
As may be understood this “extra” volume will be evenly distributed in the substance as the aether radius grows, and may thus serve as a yardstick.
Finding out the size of this yardstick is a different story because we have no idea about the size of the compressed aether “ball”, nor do we know how much volume is being added as a result of the rarefaction when the aether radius grows.
However, by measuring everything with the yardstick provided this way the interesting effect will be that to an observer outside the universe, all distances will seem to grow by the square as the aether oscillate from compression to rarefaction.
The relative character of the yardstick funny enough also makes it absolute to the user inside the universe, since he cannot detect variations to the amplitude of the bulk aether oscillations.

2. The full period of oscillation between compression-rarefaction-compression corresponds to the duration of the present moment, what we call time.
It is due to the simultaneous pace at which this change in the “universal pressure” occurs over the whole of the standing wave that we have the principle of simultaneity.
As you can see, this picture does not include, nor does it allow for any past or future time.
None the less, a mechanism must exist to “record” the events of a present moment in order for the aether substance to “know” how future moments should “behave”.
This is provided by the elasticity of the substance during the oscillating cycle.
A moving object will be subject to acceleration as the aether oscillates from compression to rarefaction.
When the acceleration works the other way as the aether oscillates from rarefaction to compression, the moving object will be braked by the aether in the line of transit until the oscillating cycle moves into the rarefaction phase again.
As a consequence the aether substance will be a little “extra” compressed in the direction of movement.
The direction and magnitude of this induced “extra” compression will serve to allow the object an “early start” in the correct direction as the cycle of compression-rarefaction-compression continues the next moment, and the next, and the next...-and so on.
The braking effect described above is one part of the mechanism behind inertia.

3. The compression-rarefaction-compression cycle takes care of the problem with longitudinal waves in a simple way.
It turns out that any longitudinal wave will become a standing longitudinal wave when it tries to oscillate in this already oscillating environment.
They will wind up in a state of resonance with the bulk compression-rarefaction-compression cycle, and this resonance will keep them going for as long as the bulk oscillation cycle may continue.
They are still able to move, but the speed they are allowed is dictated by the bulk oscillations rather then by the properties of the elastic-solid.
This has the effect to keep them at speeds that may approach, but never reach the speed of light in the substance.
Being longitudinal spherical oscillations the half sphere pointing backwards from the line of transit will serve as a cannonball shackled by a chain to the leg of a convict.
This is the other part of the mechanism behind inertia.
And, as you have probably guessed by now, the longitudinal waves referred to above are the fermions.
There still remains to explain the constituent members of most of the fermions, the quarks.
My guess is that a mathematical exploration will show the quarks to be more violent longitudinal vibrations that vibrate as a sort of overtone.
To account for the three families of quarks, perhaps in the shape of a first, second and third harmonic to the base oscillations of the aether.

4. The standing longitudinal wave of a fermion will cause the aether substance to compress-rarefy-compress again at a much smaller scale but to some extent in the same way as the bulk oscillation cycle does.
The difference is that these oscillations will vary in size between the largest amplitude in the focus of the wave and a zero at the border to the unaffected, surrounding aether.
Due to this, the aether substance within reach will be stretched in the direction of the focus.
The stretching will cause all other oscillations arriving in this area to accelerate by “sliding along” with the stretching substance in the direction towards the focus.
This is the mechanism behind gravity.

5. QE stands for Quantum Aether and the “Quantum is motivated by the short duration of the basic aether oscillations.
The short duration of the present if you want.
A quantum of time.
This serves to “chop up” all phenomena that we experience to become a sequence of equally spaced events.
During these very brief moments the aether is only able to “handle”, or “record” events as under (2) above, to the limit provided by the unknown elastic properties of the aether substance.
This, in turn, will serve to limit the “size” of the dynamic impulse that can be “recorded” from one moment to the next.
It also defines the “size” of the yardstick (1), above.
The yardstick may be identified as the “Planck constant” and this is the mechanism behind quantum physics.

6. The existence of a “universal moment” in QE brings back Newton’s absolute time in a way. This is because moving objects all must experience the same number of moments even if they are moving with different speed.
However, the “dynamic record”, (2 and 5) above, will differ between those moving at high speed and those moving at slower speed.
The faster objects will cause larger “extra compression” to the aether substance.
As a consequence they will spend a larger part of the oscillating cycle, the moment, just accelerating.
This will reduce the part of the “universal moment” left to the faster object to interact with co-moving objects like the internals of a clock or the chemical reactions of a living body, or, for that matter, atomic level reactions.
A larger number of moments will thus be required to complete any specific reaction in the faster object.
This is the mechanism behind relativistic time dilation.

7. The longitudinal oscillation of a fermion is a state of oscillation of a local area of the aether substance itself.
As such it may be considered to be in balance for as long as it is not disturbed.
This balance includes the advance component of the fermion oscillations through the aether.
Similar to the oscillations of the fermion itself this component of directed oscillations is also in a state of resonance with the universal bulk oscillations.
They do in fact become part of the fermion.
These directed parts of the fermion oscillations correspond to the “dynamic record” in (5) and (6), above.
This accounts for the relativistic addition of mass due to velocity.
Any activity that causes the fermion to accelerate to a higher or a lower speed, or to alter the direction it travels will however produce more or reduce the existing extra longitudinal compression in the surrounding elastic-solid aether substance as a reaction to the induced acceleration.
Because the accelerating activity persists in the same direction throughout the duration of the full cycle of bulk oscillation of the aether, this altering of the extra compression will continue for a corresponding time, that is, for a complete universal moment.
The rarefaction recoil that follows when the fermion leaves the area at the new speed acquired will be of the same duration, a complete universal moment.
In other words, this oscillation, which is essentially longitudinal and circular but not spherical, will need two moments to complete a full cycle and will be left behind as the fermion move on into the next moment.
The circular edges to this type of longitudinal oscillation will induce transverse waves in the surrounding elastic-solid substance.
The waves will spread at whatever speed the unknown elastic properties of the aether allow.
This is the speed of light in the aether substance.
As the waves spread outward each oscillation of the waves also carries away energy from the longitudinal oscillations at the center, which for this reason eventually will calm down and die.
Except for the last wave, which carries the balance in the train of oscillations, all other waves will carry an equal part of the original amount of oscillatory energy being dispersed from the center.
The magnitude of each of these parts will be a consequence of (5), above.
The vibrating cycle of the transverse waves will have the same duration as the forced excess compression during the full compression-rarefaction-compression cycle, that is, including the following recoil it will require two moments for a full cycle.
As the transverse circular wave spread away from the point of origin it would be expected to drop in amplitude due to the circular growth.
However, the compression-rarefaction-compression cycle of the universal bulk oscillations will not allow this. Instead the component of bulk oscillation acting in the direction of the tangent to the wave-front will serve to split the wave at intervals along the perimeter.
The distance from the point of origin and the positions around the perimeter where this split occur will be guided by the “limitation to size”; see (5), above.
As a result the original amount of energy contained in the whole of the wave front will be conserved and directed into evenly spread discrete “corridors”, each guiding a train of transverse oscillations.
This is the mechanism behind bosons, including the photons and all other electromagnetic waves.

8. The universal bulk oscillations are hidden to us because we, as well as our yardstick participate in the oscillations.
As a consequence we cannot measure the rapid oscillation of the three dimensions by observing the aether directly.
However, the longitudinal oscillation of the resonating fermions and the transverse electromagnetic oscillations of the bosons are not hidden from detection.
Because of their resonance with the bulk oscillations of the universe, the period of the fermions and the bosons must show as a measure that is relative to these basic oscillations.
Since the boson require two full moments to complete one period of oscillation but the fermion need only one, this measure will display a systematic difference between the periods of the possible modes of oscillation that allow them to stay in resonance with the bulk oscillations.
This difference between fermions and bosons with respect to the possible modes of oscillation was discovered long ago.
Contemporary physics refer to it as the property of spin.

As the reader probably realize, the account above does not exhaust the subject. I choose to quit at this point simply because I think I have covered enough parts of physics to show that the aether concept is viable and would help to explain things in much the same way as the idea about the quarks.
If QE is the correct theory still remains to be seen.
In fact the work to complete the task is of such magnitude that I don’t see how I would ever be able to do it on my own.
Not only do I lack command of the necessary mathematical tools, it also turns out that I am not much of a writer, so trying to trace my line of thought through this account may not be as easy as I would have wanted it to be.

One last thing, with respect to the expansion of the universe the QE explanation is very simple.
As the damping of the simple harmonic universal bulk oscillations proceed, the amplitude of these oscillations diminishes.
Because of this our yardstick is becoming smaller.
In other words, it is not the universe that is expanding but rather you and me who are shrinking!
However, it’s hard to tell the difference, isn’t it?

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