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The Ether

by Miles Mathis

In my papers I have shown that Special Relativity, understood mainly as the Doppler Effect upon all physical data, is true. Time dilation and length contraction are operational facts, the necessary outcome of measurement using light or any electromagnetic radiation. Although I have proved the necessity of certain mathematical and axiomatic updates to SR and GR, I have, for the most part, confirmed Einstein's theories. This has led many readers to assume that I have no use for the ether.

But in the same papers I maintain that Relativity is a theory of measurement, not of existence, claiming that Relativity does not apply locally. This makes dilation and contraction only appearances caused by distance or speed, and not existential facts for the particles or objects themselves. In addition, I have shown in my GR papers that it is possible to construct a rectilinear mathematical field underlying the curved field equations, giving us simplified calculations. Both these things suggest that an ether is still possible in some form.

Likewise, my papers on Michelson’s interferometer have been taken as confirmation of an ether, since I show that all the historical experiments have been poorly prepared. Since they were built on faulty logic, they could only achieve a null set, a null set that neither proved nor disproved an ether. I have been asked by readers to clarify my opinion on the ether, since to many my comments have appeared to be contradictory.

While I don't think my comments on the ether have been contradictory, I will admit that they have been incomplete up to this time. This paper is my attempt to collect my various findings and to put them into a more satisfactory form, for those interested in the historical fate of the ether.

The fate of the ether has not been one of my top priorities, which explains why I am late in some readers' minds in writing this overview of the topic. I have stated that you can get the right answer with or without an ether, with a curved field or a rectilinear field, so that it is almost arbitrary mathematically whether you choose to work with an ether or not. However, after re-reading various biographies of Einstein and other historical texts, I decided that my lackadaisical attitude could not be maintained. I do have some very firm opinions on the ether, and it is best I share them.

It is commonly believed now that Einstein showed there was no absolute time. But this is false. Einstein proved no such thing. What Einstein showed is that clocks will disagree across co-ordinate systems. He proved time dilation, which is the apparent non-equivalence of the periods of clocks. This much I agree with. Einstein's equations are nearly correct; my corrections have made them even more nearly correct, as well as greatly extending them. But Einstein was wrong to claim that Newton's idea of absolute time had been overthrown. The reason he was wrong is that his thought problems concerning simultaneity were incomplete. He stated that you could not give a logical definition of simultaneity, given the postulate that light was measured as c from all locations. This is false because he did not include the wavelength of light in his thought problem. The Doppler Effect states that although light is emitted from all objects at c, and received by all objects at c, its wavelength is affected by the motion of either the emitter or receiver. Relative motion away will create a red shift, relative motion toward will create a blue shift. This falsifies his claim that there is no method for determining simultaneity, since shifts would do precisely that. A measurer between two events can indeed know the relative motion of those events, by looking at shifts; therefore simultaneity can theoretically be determined.

For example, if lightning strikes some traintracks in two different places, as Einstein imagines, and a device on a moving train on those tracks sees both, it can easily determine whether they were simultaneous or not, provided the device can also measure Doppler shifts accurately enough. Einstein states that the speed of the train will make simultaneous lightning strikes look non-simultaneous, and that the train cannot correct for this without knowing its own speed. But this is false. The shifts will automatically tell him relative speeds, allowing him to make all corrections. This is just the first suggestion that a sort of ether does exist, and that it is determined by c. The speed of light is itself a time setter, and in a sense an absolute time setter.

What this means in practice is that if we can measure shifts accurately (which we can, for the most part) and if we know the normal emission spectra of the objects we are looking at (which we do completely for many objects like stars, lightning, etc.) we can then calculate our own speed relative to light. This falsifies Einstein's postulate that any object can claim it is at rest. An object that is seeing shifted light is not at rest relative to that light, and that object cannot claim it is at rest. A device measuring lightning strikes cannot claim it is at rest unless it is receiving unshifted light from both strikes. This means that there is a privileged system, regarding measurement of those two strikes. A device that is measuring unshifted light is privileged over other devices in motion that are measuring shifted light. That privileged device can certainly claim that its finding of simultaneity is valid, and it can show the perfect physical evidence for that claim.

The other thing that leads us back to the possibility of simultaneity is the interferometer experiment. I have shown that the null set of the interferometer was caused by a badly composed experiment, and by nothing else. This would leave open the possibility that Einstein's first postulate—of the equivalence of c from all inertial frames—is mistaken. However, I have stated that Einstein is certainly correct, despite the faulty interpretation of the interferometer. The interferometer did not prove that the speed of light is constant, but it is true nonetheless. I have shown that all measurers must measure the speed of light as c, and this is neither a postulate nor an axiom nor an assumption nor a theory nor a principle. It is a necessary operational outcome, caused by the very simple fact that you cannot see or measure light from a distance. Light, when seen or measured, is always local: meaning, it is always right in your eye or your instrument. Furthermore, it is always moving right at you when you see it or measure it. You cannot measure tangent light or light at any angle or light at any distance. You cannot measure light moving parallel to you, perpendicular to you, or moving away from you. Any attempt to measure the speed of light will be the attempt to measure light that is already impinging on the eye or instrument. For the same reason that light is always emitted at c, it is always received at c. That reason being that the emission and reception are both relatively instantaneous. Light is so small and moving so fast, that any motion of the emitter or receiver becomes negligible. Over the interval of emission or reception, the emitter or receiver is as good as stopped. Mathematically, we say the interval of reception approaches zero, which means that the motion of the receiver approaches zero. This is the reason all receivers measure the speed of light to be c, and for no other reason.

So Einstein was correct. He was not right to call c a postulate, but he was correct that c is constant for all measurers.

But this leaves out one measurer: the light itself. In my SR papers, I reminded the reader that velocity can always be measured by the moving object itself. Since Einstein was talking about quantum particles, he overlooked this. We always measure quantum particles from a distance. But I showed that when you are speaking of the velocity of a car, for example, the car can measure its own velocity. The standard model now assumes that you cannot talk about local velocity, and it brushes off the question by stating that a thing has no velocity relative to itself. But a thing does have a velocity relative to a given background, and that velocity is not equivalent to its velocity relative to that background as measured by a second thing. To be more specific, the velocity of a car relative to the road measured by the car is not the same as the velocity of the car relative to the road measured by a parked policeman. This skews all Einstein’s math, as I have shown in exhaustive detail; but the thing I want you to look at here is the possibility that light can measure its own speed. Einstein is famous for "riding his ray of light," but he did not really do it. He did not ask himself how things would be measured from the light itself. Or, if he did, he didn’t tell us anything interesting about it.

What Einstein did is solve the riddle of how light can go c relative to everything. He did it by doing all the math from the point of view of outside measurers. He showed that all their measurements would be thrown off by the idea, and that this would cause time dilation and length contraction and mass increase and so on. Well, he was right. It does throw off all our measurements. But the question remains, what is really happening beneath our measurements? The standard model now takes this question to have no meaning. It is considered to be a metaphysical question. But it is not a metaphysical question. It is a valid mechanical question, and it still has an answer. Because the value for c is constant, we can answer this question, just as we were able to answer the question about simultaneity. And in both cases we must disagree with Einstein.

From the point of view of all measurers, light goes c relative to each of them, no matter how fast they are going. But from the point of view of the light, this cannot be true. The light cannot be going c relative to a car that is stopped and c relative to a car that is going c/2 away from it. It can do so from the point of view of the two cars, since they will see eachother in strange ways, making the math work out. But from the point of view of the light, no math or logic can resolve the problem. The light can have only one velocity. If it had the same velocity relative to both cars, it would catch them both at the same time, which would negate the whole idea of distance. The distance that the second car went while the light was catching the first car would be negated, and we would have to find the second car right next to the first one. This is not what we would find, experimentally, so from the point of view of the light, c is not a constant. The light is going slower relative to the second car than the first, if measured from the light.

Skeptics will say this may or may not be true logically, but experimentally it is a non-statement. We cannot know what the light sees or measures, so talking about it is just a waste of time.

It is not a waste of time, though, since it leads us to some very important conclusions—conclusions that are true experimentally and physically as well as logically. If you found it difficult to imagine measuring velocity from the point of view of light, let me give you other examples that show the same thing. Physicists and astronomers talk about light-years all the time. They also talk about seeing into the past: they say that because light took a certain amount of time to reach us from a distant galaxy, we are seeing that galaxy millions of years in the past, for example. Well, they can calculate both things only by assuming a sort of absolute time, and that time is determined by c. When an astronomer uses a light-year, whose year is he or she using? If all time is relative, is that the galaxy’s year or ours? You will say it must be ours, since a year is determined by the earth going around the sun. Galaxies don’t have years. So let me ask it another way. Astronomers also talk of light-seconds. Whose seconds are those? We define the second using the cesium atom now, and they have cesium atoms all over the universe. The truth is, the second in the light-second belongs to the light. That second is definitional, and therefore it belongs to the light itself. Remember that c is a postulate, according to Einstein and the standard model, and that c is a velocity. So we are assuming both the distance and the time. Velocity is d/t, so if you assume v, you assume both d and t. That is the t we are talking about here, and it belongs to the light, not to you or me or the distant galaxy.

That is what makes it possible to calculate simultaneity. If an astronomer says that we are looking at a galaxy ten million years in the past, then that by itself implies that some time ten million years in our own past was simultaneous with the event we are currently viewing. If our instruments and equations were precise enough, we could calculate the dates almost exactly. If we cannot do it, it is because our instruments and equations are not precise enough; it is not because time is relative.

The same is true of much simpler calculations. Physicists now claim there is no absolute time, but they disprove it every time they make a long distance phone call. It may not be 5pm in China, but it is "now" in China, otherwise I wouldn't be able to talk to anyone over there. We are absolutely linked to China, as a matter of time, and the only time differential is the time it takes for light to travel over there through cables or the atmosphere. We know the speed of light, and the distance it travels, and the conductivity of the cables or air. So we can calculate the differential exactly. Therefore we can determine exactly whether events are simultaneous or not. That is how we know if things are "live" or not. We know if they are "live" plus five seconds or live plus ten seconds. That is a measurement of simultaneity. If I sneeze, then see a feed from China of a guy sneezing five seconds later, and if I know the feed delay—caused by the speed of light—is five seconds, then I know that the two sneezes were simultaneous. This falsifies Einstein's claim.

Most will say that my example above doesn’t work, since both sneezers are at rest on the earth's surface. This makes them at rest relative to eachother, in which case relativity doesn’t pertain. I disagree, but I can choose another example, if you prefer. Let us start with any case in which relativity does pertain, and look at the transform. The transform tells us how one system measures the other, but it also tells us the light-time separation between systems. If we work the equations backwards in this way, the light-time separation will tell us the absolute time separation between the events in question. This is our delay, and simultaneity will be plus or minus this delay. It is breathtakingly simple, and the fact that it is overlooked is astonishing. Logically, you cannot build "relative" time transforms without an underlying system of absolute time. This absolute time is just hidden in the variable c, and the 20th century has preferred to ignore it.

Lorentz once said that simultaneity would require an infinite speed for light, and this is still believed by many standard model folks. But this is false. Einstein's problem with the lightning wasn't to show that everything seen at the same time was or was not simultaneous. Einstein's problem was (or should have been) whether it is possible to calculate whether two seen events were simultaneous or not. Einstein said the reason it was not possible to prove simultaneity was that the train seeing the lightning could not know its absolute speed relative to the ether. Without knowing its own absolute speed, the train could not prove simultaneity. Events that looked simultaneous might not be, and events that did not look simultaneous might be. Einstein said that the normal thing to do was for the train to define itself as at rest, since according to relativity it was free to do so. But this is disingenuous of Einstein, since, as I have shown, it is not a matter of what the train is free to do, or what is normal for it to do. The question is, what is it logical to do? It is logical for the train to spend a bit more effort discovering its own velocity relative to the events it is witnessing. If it does that, it can in fact discover that velocity, and solve the problem of simultaneity. The calculation of simultaneity does not require an infinite speed for light (although that of course would make the calculation very easy). The calculation of simultaneity only requires an absolute connection between the measuring object and the events measured, and c is that absolute connection.

This falsifies Einstein's simultaneity arguments because the reverse transform can be applied to any distances, no matter how large. All places in the universe that we can see, we see with light, and where light goes, the absolute system it creates goes. The time gap, measured with light, is not relative, it is absolute. According to Einstein and the standard model, it is absolute because c is absolute, as a postulate. According to me, it is absolute because it is an experimental fact. But in either case, the gap is absolute. This makes simultaneity calculable in all cases, not just terrestrial cases. If the gap were not absolute, we would have no way of measuring any cosmic distances. The light-year would be relative to the second of whoever was measuring the distance, and the year in space would not be equivalent to our own year. A year in space and a year here are the same because they are both set by light. This makes the year absolute, as long as it is applied to light.

In the same way, we can achieve absolute distance. Since c is absolute, and since c = d/t, both d and t are absolute, as long as they are being traversed by light. This gives us a sort of ether. The speed of light, by itself, gives us an absolute frame of reference. If this is what you mean by an ether, then you have an ether. I think I have proved the existence of this ether, here and in my other papers.

But, historically, Maxwell’s ether was supposed to be a physical medium, one that mediated the transmission of electromagnetic waves. The ether was assumed to have characteristics, which often included oscillating motion, mass, inertia, or resistance. Contemporary theories which have claimed to have done away with Maxwell’s ether still claim that free space or the void have some of these characteristics. In the newest theories, space is said to have pressure, for instance, or to be composed of virtual particle pairs, or to have other physical characteristics. I do not think there is any experimental evidence for an ether or void or free space of this sort. I think all these abstractions are born of bad math and theory, just as Maxwell’s ad hoc assumption was. I have shown in another paper that the wave motion of light and matter is caused by multiple spins, not by the motion of a medium. Because y and z spins must be physically external to the x spin, the wave motion may be explained with motions of the particle itself—no medium is required. This removes the primary historical reason for the ether, and again puts me in line with Einstein.

The secondary historical reason for the ether was to give a framework to absolute time and distance, but light gives us this framework without the ether. Absolute time and distance are given us by the light itself, not by the ether. This makes the ether just a mathematical abstraction. It does not exist, in the physical sense. It has no characteristics. It is simply a conceptual framework that is created by the speed of light. It is more like a Cartesian graph than a physical ether. But, having said this, I definitely do diverge from Einstein, since Einstein did not see, or preferred not to see, that c, by itself, provided us with a universal system of time and distance in which relative time and distance of measured objects could be calculated.

Many will be surprised to hear that Einstein agreed with the first part of this, and said so. In 1920, at his inaugural lecture in Leyden titled The Ether and the Relativity Theory, he said, "the ether concept has once more acquired a clear content. The ether in the general theory of relativity is a medium which itself is bereft of all mechanical and kinetic properties, but which has a share in determining mechanical and electromechanical occurrences." Clearly this is the same use I am giving it in this paper. Einstein does not tie the ether explicitly to the speed of light, as I have, or call the "medium" absolute; but once you realize that GR uses bent light to define the field, you arrive at precisely my definition of the ether or the absolute system. The only difference is that my field is Einstein's field inside out. Einstein curves the field so that he can continue to have the central gravitational vector point in. This curves the path of light. I reverse the central gravitational vector, which allows the light to move in straight lines, as well as allowing us to do field equations in 1/10 the time.

This lecture in Leyden opened Einstein up to more attacks from the anti-relativists like Weyland and Lenard, so he dropped all talk of an ether after that. But this was a political move, not a scientific one. Relativity unquestionably changed the definition of the ether, but it did not--contrary to standard model claims--forbid all talk of an ether. In fact, the refusal to countenance the existence of a mathematical background for gravitational and electromagnetic motion has set the standard model up for a host of theoretical and axiomatic problems and contradictions.

So I have shown the existence of an absolute system, but I do not like the term ether, since the term implies a space composed of particles. It implies a sort of background mist. The concept of the ether gives space a materiality, even if it is not a quantum material. Space certainly contains particles, but space is not composed of particles. Space contains material, but it is not material itself. The particles or material are one thing and the space is another. The particles are the material, and the space is an empty abstraction—a mathematical construct. Material moves through space, but it needs no medium to do so. Logically, a medium would impede motion, not facilitate it.

Some will say that air facilitates the motion of sound, but this is imprecise as well. The air does not facilitate the motion of sound, the air is in motion itself. Sound is the motion of the air, so nothing is facilitated. There is no medium. There is only the motion of the air. The waveform is only a shape made by the field of air molecules, and sound is this waveform. Talking of a medium implies that the sound is a material thing on its own, without the air, and that the air is a facilitator or medium. But that is not the case. There is not a primary particle with a primary motion and a secondary field of particles with a facilitating motion; there is only one field of particles and one field of motion, so that all talk of a medium is imprecise.

This is why Maxwell's ether has been disproved, and remains disproved. He and the other theorists of the time assumed that light, as an electromagnetic wave, required a medium for transmission. They assumed that light was an analogue to sound. But light is not an analogue to sound. The wave motion physically belongs to the photon. To put it another way, the waveform is created by the motion of a single particle, not by a field of particles. Light is made up of many photons, but each photon moves as a wave. This is not true of air or water waves, where each molecule moves up and down: only the field of molecules creates a waveform.

One final question and answer. I have admitted to a limited sort of ether, if we want to call the absolute time and distance system created by c an ether. Is this ether at rest?

Yes, it is at rest. It is at rest because we freely define it that way. This absolute system is not a physical entity. It does not exist physically. But it does exist conceptually and mathematically, since all motion requires a background that is at rest. The speed of light is the primary defining motion of the universe, for either Einstein or myself, and this motion requires a background just like any other. The speed of light must be relative to something, for the simple reason that all motion is relative—and that includes the speed of light. The speed of light, 3 x 108 m/s, is relative to this absolute system at rest. We could just as freely define this system as not at rest—as having some velocity. But that would change the value of c, so it wouldn’t be a good choice to make. In fact, we aren’t that free to choose, since light chooses for us. Any other choice but "at rest" just creates needless mathematical problems.

I must stress that the speed of light comes first, and then the absolute system. The first determines the second. This is just the opposite of classical theory, in which space or the ether or the absolute system came first, and then the objects it contained came later. This was a creational sort of theory, and it doesn’t apply in the context of this paper. This paper addresses the logical and operational way that we came to our current knowledge of kinematics and electrodynamics, and that theory begins with the experimental fact that all measurers measure light to go c. That experimental fact leads logically and inexorably to both Einstein’s theory of relativity and to an absolute space and time created by c. Only light moves in this absolute space and time, without transforms, but because light must move in this space, this space can be proved to exist. It does not exist as a mediating ether, or as a material entity of any kind. But it certainly may be said to exist as much as any coordinate system exists. And arguably moreso, since it acts as a conceptual and mathematical foundation for every other coordinate system.

This paper was an overview, in which I was able to just touch on a number of important issues. I do not pretend or claim that it is exhaustive. Much more can be said on all these issues, and I have said more about some of them in other places. This paper does, however, contain some information that will be new to my readers, including the idea that the emission and reception of light are analogous, in that they are both nearly instantaneous. The theory that this explains why light is always measured at c by every receiver may be unique. Also possibly unique is the idea that Doppler shifts may be used to calculate simultaneity. I mentioned this in my SR papers, but I go into a bit more detail here, I think. But the reason this paper was worth writing is that I believe it offers a view of the ether that has not been put forward by either side. As you now understand, I have not accepted the position of Einstein, but I have also not accepted the classical position. Nor do I move toward the position of new superluminal theories, string theories, or other complex avant garde physical theories. Instead, I show that Einstein and Newton are both correct. There is both relative time and absolute time, and each requires the other. Relative time would not be calculable without the absolute time implied by c. Einstein’s first postulate gives us this absolute framework, although he did not realize it or chose to bury it. This takes some of the magic or mystery out of relativity, but in the long run it puts it on a firmer foundation. In the same way I hope to de-mystify and re-foundationalize all of physics.

Also see my paper on Tesla v. Einstein as regards the ether.

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