Why Gestalt Aether Theory ?
Trying to find a name for the new ideas that were emerging on the nature of light, was quite problematic, because the name would ideally have to be unbiased and at the same time give some idea of what the theory was about. I had originally thought in terms of calling it “Aumic” theory after the Hindu religious word “Aum” since I am an Indian. I then realised that this had nothing to do with Indian philosophy it was pure Western Science, so it would be pretentious to call it something that it was not. Around this time I came across the definition for the word ‘Gestalt’ : “A system, the whole of which is greater than the sum of its parts.” Even more important is the fact that, so economical is the construction of the ‘gestalt’ system that removal of a single component would result in the failure of the whole system.
The name was apposite, especially since the study of physics had itself become so compartmentalized and specialized and in many cases one section did not even relate to another section. Also numerous explanations existed for what in essence was a single phenomenon. For instance direct current is attributed to the electromagnetic wave created by acceleration in electrons in a conductor under a difference of potential, while alternating current is attributed to the oscillation of electrons as they come under the influence of an alternating difference of potential, although the electrons themselves remain stationary. Similarly electromagnetism in a wire carrying a current is thought to be due to oscillating or accelerating electrons while the electromagnetism displayed in permanent magnets is thought to be due to the effect of electrons as they spin and orbit the atom. The very concept of the electron as a charge carrier is therefore only weakly sustained, in present day physics, since the explanation for electrical conduction is both vague and varied.
Similarly electromagnetic radiation is thought to be caused by perturbations in the electron. According to modern day physics, Maxwell’s theory of electromagnetic radiation with its alternating fluctuating electric and magnetic fields is no longer acceptable. According to relativistic Quantum theory photons are created by perturbances in the motions of electrons and other charged particles; and, in reverse, photons can disappear and thereby create a pair of oppositely charged particles, usually a particle and its antiparticle (e.g., an electron and a positron). A description of this intimate interaction between charged particles and electromagnetic radiation requires a theory that includes both quantum mechanics and special relativity. The foundations of such a theory, known as relativistic quantum mechanics, were laid beginning in 1929 by Paul A.M. Dirac, Heisenberg, and Wolfgang Pauli.
This seems to be far too complex and abstruse an explanation for a phenomenon for which simpler explanations based on empirical data were available. What in effect is being claimed is that electromagnetic radiation is propagated through the continuous creation and annihilation of ‘virtual entangled quantum particles’ one can only try to imagine how complicated such a scenario might be! The name ‘Gestalt Aether Theory on the nature of light and related phenomenon’ was therefore settled on to introduce a new ‘theory of everything’ or TOE, that explained physical phenomena on empirical or observable data, rather than on highly abstract and esoteric mathematical theories.
At one time in History, it must have been difficult to believe in the existence of air. True the movement of air could be felt when there was a breeze but when a breeze was absent it must have been difficult to imagine that any kind of substance was present. Eventually however, as a consequence of experience and time, it was decided that a substance such as air did in fact exist. How much more difficult then must it be to accept the presence of an Aether ? The very fact that such a concept was proposed shows that the classical physicists knew what they were talking about. It is necessary to have a medium to convey any kind of physical activity. For instance sound waves won’t travel in space, where a virtual vacuum exists, on earth sound waves need the density provided by the atmosphere to propagate. With Newton’s experiments with light and gravity came the realization that some medium must be necessary for light to propagate through. But what exactly was this medium or Aether ? The theory of the aether that the physicists of the eighteenth century came up with was that the entire Universe lies in and is permeated by an invisible, tasteless , colourless, odourless substance that has no properties at all!
According to modern day theory the Aether existed simply because it had to exist, so that light waves could have something to propagate in! For light to travel as waves, according to the theory, something had to be present. That something was the Aether. Quantum Mechanics treats such ideas with scorn, they claim that interpreting things in terms of physical phenomena was archaic thinking dating from the time of Newton when the Universe was thought of as a huge machine.
The Aether , according to classical physicists, is everywhere and is in everything. We live and perform our experiments in a sea of Aether. To the Aether the hardest substance is as porous as a sponge is to water.
Examining these properties, the Aether is:
- Permeates the entire Universe.
- Can pass through any substance or vice versa without being detected.
- Can convey electromagnetic radiation at the speed of c.
So far this seems to be a fairly accurate description of how even modern day physicists think of the Aether, unfortunately with the coming of Maxwell and his theory on the propagation of electromagnetic waves, it was thought that apart from the above properties the Aether would also have to be absolutely motionless and stiff so that it could accommodate the propagation of transverse waves. This what Max Born the father of probability waves had to say: “One obvious objection to the hypothesis of an elastic Aether (Space) arises from the necessity of ascribing to it the great rigidity it must have to account for the high velocity of Waves. Such a substance would necessarily offer resistance to the motion of heavenly bodies, particularly to that of planets. Astronomy has never detected departures from Newton’s Laws of Motion that would point to such a resistance. (Max Born, 1924)”. It might be as well to have an account of what waves actually are:
Waves-Transverse and Longitudinal Waves
A wave may be defined as a periodic disturbance in a medium that carries energy from one point to another.
- All waves require a source and a medium of propagation.
- Waves may lose energy as they propagate through a dense medium (attenuation).
- Waves that radiate isotropically (uniformly in all directions) from a source also lose intensity due to the fact that the energy they carry is spread out over an increasingly large area. This is known as the inverse square Law.
- There are two distinct types of waves: Longitudinal and Transverse
- Sound waves are an example of longitudinal waves while electromagnetic waves, such as light, are examples of transverse waves.
- Transverse waves transfer energy in a direction perpendicular to the direction of the disturbance in the medium. A vibrating string is an example of a transverse wave. Although all points on the string itself are constrained to move only up and down, wave pulses move perpendicularly along the length of the string. The wave speed is the speed with which a pulse moves along the string.
- A transverse wave may consist of more than one pulse. Transverse waves consisting of many pulses result when the wave source oscillates about some equilibrium position for long periods of time. Under such conditions an initial pulse is followed immediately by another pulse of opposite displacement. A series of such alternating pulses is known as a wave train.
- If the oscillations are steady the resulting waveform is periodic. If the oscillations are harmonic in the series of pulses is known as a harmonic wave train. All of the electromagnetic spectrum, including light, consists of transverse waves that result from harmonic oscillations in molecular, atomic or nuclear structures.
- Longitudinal waves are waves that transfer energy in the same direction as the disturbance in the medium of propagation. Like transverse waves, longitudinal waves may consist of single or multiple pulses. All longitudinal waves consist of regions of high and low density known as condensations and rarefactions that oscillate around local positions of equilibrium parallel to the path of energy transfer. Sound waves are longitudinal waves. Sound waves propagating through air consist of a series of pressure fluctuations above and below atmospheric pressure.
Thus in order to accommodate transverse waves it was thought that apart from its other properties enumerated above that it would also have to be completely rigid. It was this property of the Aether that gave Michelson & Morley the idea that light moving against such a ‘rigid’ medium would be slowed down and it would thus be possible to prove once and for all whether the Aether existed or not.
The Gestalt Aether Theory model of the Aether has no need for such a ‘stiff’ or ‘rigid’ Aether to enable the propagation of light. The Gestalt Aether Theory model of the aether also possesses one further property that physicists seem not to have considered; it can convey the energy of a photon intact from the moment of emission to re-absorption over huge distances, this in spite of the inverse square law. And Yes ! The Gestalt Aether Theory model holds up to all of this. It can be stated here categorically that the Michelson & Morley experiment designed specifically to prove or disprove the existence of an Aether would have had no effect at all and would not have been able to detect the Gestalt Aether Theory model of the Aether.
The Gestalt Aether Theory model of the Aether is that directly following the Big Bang, the whole of the Universe was flooded with light. As time passed the light gradually dispersed its energy over a huge area, leaving each photon a ‘virtual photon’ shell of what it once was while at the same time in keeping with the Conservation of energy laws. (i.e., energy has neither been created nor destroyed) the energy has just been re-distributed. Think about it there is not enough matter in the entire Universe to absorb even a fraction of the photons created at the time of the Big Bang! These ‘virtual photons’ are identical to real photons except for the fact that they have extremely low energies. Thus these ‘virtual photons’ acquired all of the properties of the Aether enumerated above, they are invisible, tasteless, odourless, colourless, even the most dense matter is permeable to them and so on. Thus when atoms in matter pass through the Aether, the extremely low energy of the ‘virtual photons’ means that they do not interact with matter at all, however dense it may be, because the electrons of the atom have no use for, and do not recognize such low energy levels. At the same time in the presence of a real photon (i.e., when a real photon is emitted by an electron), the ‘virtual photons’ of the Aether which permeates the whole of the Universe and which are normally randomly oriented, line up in the direction of propagation of the real photon, forming a line whose ends rest on infinity and the energy of the real photon is conveyed along this line of aligned ‘virtual photons’. Because of the physical construction of the photon (both real and virtual photons share the same physical construction) it is possible for the energy of an emitted photon to travel for huge distances before it is absorbed by an electron in another atom. This theory of the Aether is particularly appealing because it means in effect that photons share the same long life span as protons and electrons and other sub atomic particles. This is made possible by the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle which states that: .
This means in effect that if the product of the energy and time of a given particle exceed the reduced planck’s constant that they can either exist forever or have practically any energy. In the case of ‘virtual photons’ of the Aether their energy is so extremely low on the order of that they can exist practically forever, no time limit exists for them!
Another very important function of the Aether, apart from its function of giving light a medium to propagate through, was to provide an inertial co-ordinate system so that Galilean transformations would be valid anywhere in the Universe. If the Aether existed ( and it had to exist) the co-ordinate system attached to it was the co-ordinate system against which all other co-ordinate systems could be measured to see if they were moving or not.
What is light ?
For more than 450 years an argument has been raging between the supporters of Sir Isaac Newton and the Dutch scientist Christian Hugyens, at times the dispute erupted into violence. Quite improbably the question of what light was and how it propagated was a topic for heated discussion in the coffee houses of London and Amsterdam. Everything that we know about the World, the Solar system and the Universe comes from our ability to observe things at first hand through the sense of sight. So it is not surprising that people became impassioned on the question of what ‘light’ actually was. The argument went first one way, towards Newton’s corpuscular theory of light when he was able to show experimentally that light moved in straight lines or ‘rays’ and then the other, when Thomas Young was able to demonstrate by means of the Double Slit experiment that light displayed definite wave like properties such as diffraction and interference. Then the Davisson and Germer diffraction experiment with electron’s seemed to put the final coffin in the particle theory of light, until Einstein came up with his photoelectric effect and this together with the Compton effect proved that light can have both effects, the results of Compton scattering can be explained as beginning as a wave and ending as a particle !
Yet it is not difficult to understand the strong passions that a discussion about light raises. Even now the mention of light results in an increase in blood pressure and a flood of adrenalin. The reasons for this are as follows. In a nut shell it comes down to wave/particle duality and ‘complementarity’ theory. The reasoning is as follows. Demonstrate that light follows the inverse square law (under certain conditions) and there is absolutely no problem with that, anyone can reproduce the results. Fine that is something that can be accepted. Demonstrate that white light is made up of a coloured spectrum and once again there is no problem. BUT state that light can be either a particle OR a wave but NEVER possess both properties simultaneously and it rubs the wrong way. This is simply because as it turns out light CAN possess both properties, those of a wave and those of a particle simultaneously and to state in spite of this clear evidence that this is not possible, and that ‘complementarity’ is a LAW that HAS to be followed is not science it is humbuggery. Even though both Neils Bohr and other scientists who had developed Quantum Mechanics are held in the highest esteem and respect, and rightly so, the principle of freedom of speech and thought, should never be perverted even in the cause of science. Neither should facts be perverted to favour a particular point of view.
The next thing we have to consider is the constancy of the speed of light. The speed of light remains constant whether it is moving away from an observer or towards an observer! This is extremely peculiar behaviour and absolutely baffled eighteenth century physicists. All movement in every day life is governed by what are known as Galilean transformations. Thus if we have two cars ‘a’ and ‘b’ approaching each other with speeds of 70 kmph and 80 kmph and they are separated by 100 kms we know that they will meet after 40 minutes when car ‘a’ has traveled 46.6 kms and car ‘b’ has traveled 53.3 kms! Thus when two bodies are approaching each other their velocities are added to give a Galilean transformation. In the above case the combined speed of the two vehicles will be 80kmph plus 70 kmph or 150 kmph. Similarly if they are going in opposite directions their speeds relative to each other would be 80 kmph – 70 kmph or they will be moving away from each other at a rate of 10 kmph ! Light on the other hand and quite remarkably, does not obey Galilean transformations!
The relative velocity of two objects never exceeds the speed of light. In order to see how this works it is necessary to view the relative velocities as seen by different observers. In order to understand how different observers may view relative velocities it is necessary to understand Lorentz transformations. The Lorentz transformations show that length of an object moving close to the speed of light will contract, while time will dilate and its mass will increase.
The symbols and are used to simplify relativistic equations. If an object is moving at 0.7c then and
Time dilation will equal
Increase in mass equals
Thus it can be seen that an object moving at 0.7c will contract to 0.7 of its original length, will experience time dilation amounting to 1.4 times the original time and undergo an increase of mass amounting to 1.4 times its original mass.!
The paradox is that the measured velocity of light has been found (The Michelson Morley Experiment) to be independent of the motion of the observer ! In other words , assuming a light wave propagating through a medium, how can we move through the same medium towards the approaching wave without increasing its approaching velocity ?
The way in which the Lorentz transformation explains this is to say that as an object approaches the speed of light it begins to shrink in the direction of its motion, while time expands! Although this might sound very eerie and weird it just might be true, because there is definite evidence that as objects reach speeds near the region of the speed of light they will become infinite in mass and their dimensions will shrink until at the speed of light they will disappear!
However with ‘Gestalt Aether theory’ the constancy of the speed of light is explained. IF the ‘virtual photon’ aether exists, it follows that light is conveyed along it as fast as it can travel in a vacuum (i.e., at the speed of c) at the same time since we or any other physical object are absolutely permeable to that ‘virtual photon’ aether, it means that any motion towards or away from it would have no effect whatsoever, it would be meaningless. Nevertheless Lorentz transformations and Einstein velocity additions would still be valid.