Gustav Mie and the simple universe

The second decade of the 20th century, 1909 to 1919, was a remarkable period in the development of physics and cosmology. In particular, three intellectual giants emerged and published works that would result in profound changes in how we view the world, the universe, and the cosmos. Today we remember one in particular, Albert Einstein, who between 1913 and 1916 published extensive work on his model of the cosmos culminating in his Theory of General Relativity in 1916. Einstein’s theory offered a major update of the Galilean idea of relativity along with a generalization that would effectively replace Newton’s theory of gravity. Einstein’s theory came complete with a set of field equations that described the universe in a seemingly complete fashion.

David Hilbert, until about 1912 known mostly as a brilliant mathematician, turned his attention to physics and on the publication of GR, was able to offer more complete and extensive solutions to Einstein’s field equations. He followed with an almost complete generalization of a theory of everything, his “axiomatic derivation of the basic equations of physics.”

The third of these intellectual giants was Gustav Mie, who was to challenge Einstein on his conclusions and to offer a plausible alternative to his theory, but someone which has been mostly forgotten until recent years. Mie was about ten years older than Einstein and was known to have challenged him on his assumptions and on his conclusions in several of their interactions. Einstein’s view of the universe ultimately prevailed and became a large part of the standard model of cosmology we adhere to today. Mie’s theories were to become an important influence on Hilbert’s later expansion of Einstein’s work, primarily on the mathematical side. Mie’s theories, however, lay unrefuted, but obscure in the wake of Einstein’s success.

I find it personally remarkable that my own researches in the history and development of models of the cosmos somehow skipped right over and past that of Mie, but I think that may have been the result of his major works never having been translated into English and my own lack of comfort with German originals. In any case I have recently been made aware of Mie’s theory of an electromagnetic basis for cosmology because of it’s strong similarities to my own rudimentary model, the simple universe. It all begins with the “discovery” of something very tiny.

What would turn out to be one the most significant discoveries of the later years of the 19th century would turn out to be that of that thing called the “electron.” In 1869, the German physicist Johann Wilhelm Hittorf, while engaged in the study of electrical conductivity in rarefied gases. . .

“. . .discovered a glow emitted from the cathode that increased in size with decrease in gas pressure. In 1876, the German physicist Eugen Goldstein showed that the rays from this glow cast a shadow, and he dubbed the rays cathode rays. During the 1870s, the English chemist and physicist Sir William Crookes developed the first cathode ray tube to have a high vacuum inside.[28] He then showed that the luminescence rays appearing within the tube carried energy and moved from the cathode to the anode. Furthermore, by applying a magnetic field, he was able to deflect the rays, thereby demonstrating that the beam behaved as though it were negatively charged.[29][30] In 1879, he proposed that these properties could be explained by what he termed ‘radiant matter’. He suggested that this was a fourth state of matter, consisting of negatively charged molecules that were being projected with high velocity from the cathode. In 1892 Hendrik Lorentz suggested that the mass of these particles (electrons) could be a consequence of their electric charge.

In 1896, the British physicist J. J. Thomson, with his colleagues John S. Townsend and H. A. Wilson, performed experiments indicating that cathode rays really were unique particles, rather than waves, atoms or molecules as was believed earlier.[5] Thomson made good estimates of both the charge e and the mass m, finding that cathode ray particles, which he called “corpuscles,” had perhaps one thousandth of the mass of the least massive ion known: hydrogen.[5][14] He showed that their charge to mass ratio, e/m, was independent of cathode material. He further showed that the negatively charged particles produced by radioactive materials, by heated materials and by illuminated materials were universal.[5][34] The name electron was again proposed for these particles by the Irish physicist George F. Fitzgerald, and the name has since gained universal acceptance.” (from Wikipedia “the electron”)

So. it would appear, the question of “What is an electron?, of what does it consist?” was a hot topic among experimental physicists.

For most of these researchers, it was sufficient to accept an electron as a fundamental particle, of whatever shape or size as long as it was extremely tiny (no one has actually seen one yet). But Mie took a slightly different track. What must have remained on his mind was the question, “What is an electron, exactly?” He wasn’t ready to offer an answer until about 1910 and 1911. Before that he devoted his efforts and research to the phenomenon that still bears his name, the issue of what causes the red and yellow colors and patterns in the atmosphere when illuminated by light at sunset and in rainbows and the like. His studies of the scattering of light by suspended microscopic particles in the atmosphere is what he is remembered most for today, called “Mie scattering.”

What he is not remembered so much for is his studies and concepts of where that mysterious thing called an electron comes from. During this time, Mie was Professor of Theoretical Physics at the University of Greifswald.

“During his Greifswald years Mie worked on the computation of scattering of an electromagnetic wave by a homogeneous dielectric sphere, which was published in 1908 under the title of “Contributions to the optics of turbid media, particularly of colloidal metal solutions” in “Annalen der Physik“. The term Mie scattering is still related to his name. Using Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory applied to spherical gold particles Mie provided a theoretical treatment of plasmon resonance absorption of gold colloids. The sharp absorption bands depend on the particle size and explain the change in colour that occurs as the size of the colloid nanoparticles is increased from 20 to 1600 nm. He wrote further important contributions to electromagnetism and also to relativity theory. In addition he was employed on measurements units and finally developed his Mie system of units in 1910 with the basic units Volt, Ampere, Coulomb and Second (VACS-system).” (from Wikipedia, “Gustav Mie”)

But the question of “What is an electron, exactly?” must have been still on his mind.

A  1999 paper gives the background of Mie’s study, going on to elaborate on it’s influence on the work of Hilbert’s mathematical extensions of General Relativity. Leo Corry of Tel Aviv University describes his contributions this way:

“In 1910 Mie published a textbook on electromagnetism that soon became a classic and saw two additional editions in 1941 and 1948 (Mie 1910). Mie believed that this was the first textbook in which Maxwell’s conclusions were arrived at in a completely inductive way starting from the experimental, factual material. When the first edition was published, Mie took special pride on having been able to “present the Maxwell equations in a complete and exact fashion, expressing himself in plain words, and without having to introduce any mathematical symbols.”. . . Mie sent the first installment of his electromagnetic theory of matter to the Annelen der Physik in January 1912. At the center of Mie’s theory was an articulate attempt to support the main tenets of the so-called “electromagnetic worldview,” and more specifically to develop the idea that the electrons cannot be ascribed physical existence independently of the ether. . .. . . Mie based his theory on three explicitly formulated basic assumptions. The first one is that the electric and the magnetic field are present both outside and inside the electron as well. This means that the electrons are in fact an organic part of the ether, rather than foreign elements added to the ether, as was common belief among certain physicists at the time (e.g. Einstein in 1909). The electron is thus conceived as a non-sharply delimited, highly dense nucleus in the ether that extends continually and independently into an atmosphere of electrical charge. An atom is a concentration of electrons, and the high intensity of the electric field around it is what should ultimately explain the phenomenon of gravitation.”

(“From Mie’s Electromagnetic Theory of Matter to Hilbert’s Unified Foundations of Physics“, by Leo Corry) Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 30(2): 159-183 (1999).

In 1916, Albert Einstein, unwittingly, I think, enshrined in the minds of physicists and most inhabitants of the civilized world, the notion that empty space was a substantive entity that could be warped, stretched, deformed in subtle ways, and that these distortions of a non-existent substance could explain motion, gravity, and a thousand other phenomena that occurred in the real world. It was a wonderful, mathematically beautiful myth, and it overwhelmed otherwise intelligent scientists world wide. Gustav Mie challenged Einstein, saying in his own way that there was another, more complete and consistent explanation. But Mie’s way required an ether, an electromagnetic one, but by this time the age of particles had taken over physics and a field theory of the scope and extent of this one had no chance.

Let’s just summarize what Mie proposed. The electron, the most fundamental entity of the time, was not a solid, spherical entity, but was rather an excitation, a disturbance, a concentration in the ether, not something passing through it but a disturbance in and part of it. As a concentration of energy, it’s influence radiated from its core outward in all directions, causing a diminishing sphere of energy in the medium, and these disturbances might well be the generator of gravity. The ether not only surrounded and penetrated what we called an electron but existed in and through it. They were of the same substance. Further, what we call matter consists of higher level aggregations of these fundamentals. “Both electric and gravitational actions could be shown as a direct manifestations of the forces that account for the very existence of matter.” He further asserted that the rules that governed these actions could be found not in some new particle theory, but right there in Maxwell’s equations, which he then set out to recreate directly out of empirical observations. In short: “The electron is thus conceived as a non-sharply delimited, highly dense nucleus in the ether that extends continually and independently into an atmosphere of electrical charge. An atom is a concentration of electrons, and the high intensity of the electric field around it is what should ultimately explain the phenomenon of gravitation.”

Here is the foundation of “the simple universe,” my own model, a non-particle, electromagnetic-ether based theory that encompasses all of the phenomena of the universe, from the tiniest excitation of the ether, call it an electron or more likely, something very much smaller, out to the stars, galaxies and clusters of the most distant and unreachable objects we are aware of.

My discovery of Gustav Mie and his model has come late, but strongly solidifies my confidence that my own model has intrinsic value and is worthy of testing, a path I continue to follow. The details, as far as they been taken so far, can be found described in first, “the picnic at the edge of the universe,” published in early 2015, followed by “imagine darkness,” released just a month later, both available from bookstores and Amazon. Other confirmations can be found in the series of over 50 articles on the same subject in my blog at (this page). I commend them to you.

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Son et lumière

The first two principal axioms of my model, the simple universe are these:

Axiom 1

“The cosmos, what we call the ether, is made up of an electromagnetic energy field extending in all directions an indefinite distance from all points in the universe.”

(What physicists refer to as space is neither void nor vacuum but consists of energy in the form of a continuous electromagnetic ether, extending indefinitely, without limit, without edges or borders farther than the eye can see, even with the most powerful instruments. The field is fixed and is, in the relativistic sense, a privileged prime reference frame. It is, however, fluid, elastic, and subject to the same internal movements, currents, turbulence, and topological defects as any elastic medium. This ether pervades all of space, as evidenced by its carriage of all electromagnetic phenomena to and from its farthest limits as well as by the constant velocity of that radiation.)

 Axiom 2

“All perceptible entities in the universe, that is, all objects, events, and phenomena, at whatever scale, consist of organized, coherent concentrations and distortions of that energy field, in patterns governed by a simple set of rules.”

 (There are no particles, no “uncutable” first beginnings, no atoms, no protons, neutrons, electrons, quarks, neutrinos, bosons, gluons; again, no “particles.” There is only energy, flowing through and within the cosmos. Its formation into concentrations of various size, intensity, and complexity gives rise to imaginings of entities of a particulate nature.)

 The arguments for the truth of these axioms are offered in detail in my book “imagine darkness,’ but a condensed, and, I believe, convincing argument, can be made as follows.

(the following quote is from physicist and author Alexander Unzicker)

“For the entire 19th-century continuum mechanics was believed to be a valuable description of electrodynamics. Physicists imagined electromagnetic waves as propagating oscillations of an elastic medium called the ether which was believed to permeate all of space.”

The ether theories vanished after 1905, because Einstein’s theory of relativity didn’t need ether and the experimenters at that time couldn’t find it. In fact the idea of masses gliding through the ether as fish do through water leads to contradictions.

However, there is an intriguing analogy. Wave structures and other irregularities in an elastic continuum (defects) surprisingly behave like particles. Being nothing but the nucleus of a disturbance it cannot move faster than the disturbance itself, and (in the atmosphere, for example) the motion of the disturbance is limited by the speed of sound. The analogy to electron motion which is limited by the speed of light is obvious. Moreover the formulas for charged particles in the special theory of relativity are identical to those describing the motion of defects in elastic solids. This is exciting because it could mean that the ether was abandoned prematurely since people didn’t know about the possibility of modeling particles as defects in such an elastic solid.”      —Alexander Unzicker, Bankrupting Physics, Springer-Verlag, Heidelberg, Pangrave Macmillan, New York (2013)

So, if matter is not made up of particles, what might it be made up of? Could it be energy?

It is an easy step from the generalization that “particles” are nothing more than Einstein’s condensations in the ether” to the notion that a perceived “particle” might be portion of such a defect, or condensation, or ether modification, one that goes in and out of our boundaries of perception, giving the appearance of a series of separate entities, not the continuous wave that is the phenomenon’s actual nature. Or it might be simply that what we perceive as particles are coherent, organized (temporarily stable) foci of energy, but still part of the ether, the medium we see as the source of everything. “Temporary” on a cosmic scale might, of course, be billions of years.

Let’s look again at Unzicker’s comment. “Wave structures and other irregularities (defects) in an elastic continuum surprisingly behave like particles.” He suggests a direct analogy might be that of sound traveling in an elastic medium such as air or water. If one considers a normal atmosphere like ours, sound waves, which are, in fact, compression waves in the medium of the air, travel at a constant velocity as long as the medium is of uniform pressure and density. Generating a sound creates a sequence of higher and lower pressure vibrations in the medium. Note here that sound waves are not made up of some esoteric material or bundles of particles (sonitons, anyone?) passing through the medium. Rather they are actually structural distortions of the medium itself. The velocity of a sound wave, about 1100 fps at sea level, is not determined by the energy (loudness) or the frequency (a particular pitch), but are inherent in the (relatively) constant medium of which they are an integral part.. A low pitched, soft note travels at the same velocity as a loud, high pitched one.

And most sounds are not pure. Even a single tone from say, a flute, contains not just one set of vibrations, but many. These can be attributed to the material of the instrument, wood or metal, sometimes called tone color; as well as overtones, that is, a mix of a fundamental pitches and resonant higher frequencies produced by sympathetic vibrations in the materials of the instrument. If one examines the wave forms emitted by the instrument, one finds a mix of complex, overlapping patterns that can make the sound from a particular flute unique and identifiable to a person with a well-trained ear.

Now multiply the sources of the sound:    To make this example even more complex, our flautist sits in the third row of an ensemble of 100 musicians. There are 3 more flutes, of course, each slightly different from the others, so that the sound carries slightly more complexity, but the ninety-six other players are creating related sounds on different instruments, each of which disturbs the atmosphere in a different way. So, if you attempted to analyze the makeup of the many hundreds of soundwaves reaching you in the third row of the second balcony, you would find it extremely difficult. On the other hand, as a whole, the sounds and tone colors and resonances and harmonies reaching your ears comprise a whole, powerful experience as only a performance of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony can do.

If we start to analyze the individual parts of the experience what we find is that each tone and its set of overtones from each flute, violin, horn in the ensemble has generated its sound on the basis of some simple rules. The vibration of a bow drawn across a string of metal or gut; the vibration of the lips of the trumpet player passing through and absorbing the sympathetic vibrations of the horn; a reed vibrating in the lips of the bassoonist. Each combination, say the output of 3 bass violins, is made up of several patterns of frequencies and amplitudes of the complex compression waves in the atmosphere of the auditorium. And each of these in their sonorous relation with other instruments, interacts with and modifies the output that reaches your ears.

All depends on the temperature, pressure and density of the medium and the way it behaves when vibrated. All of the different sounds reached you simultaneously, because for the most part they emanated from a single somewhat diffuse point on the stage, implying that the velocity of sound from the string bass was exactly the same as that from the piccolo or the percussionist’s triangle. And you will understand that this magnificent, rich, complex experience resulted from a small set of simple rules, inherent in the medium, and manipulated by the players. The rules will have to do with what we know about phenomena like reverberation, reinforcement, resonance, which, if in opposition, damps sounds almost to silence, but which in concert magnifies the sound almost to too great an intensity.

So, what is sound? It is a distortion of its medium such that a perceptible difference is sensed. What is music? Also a distortion in the medium, but an ordered, coherent one that conveys distinct patterns to the listener. The first is noise, the second transmits information. But note that this information is at the next level of abstraction from the complex set of vibrations reaching your ears.

In our universe, “the simple universe” as I have chosen to call it, our atmosphere is the electromagnetic cosmos, high energy, high entropy, unlimited in depth and extent, but still turbulent, as we can see from images recorded and proposed as the cosmic background radiation, which fills the cosmos in all directions at an average (measured) temperature of 2.7° Kelvin. This, our ‘electromagnetic atmosphere,” is the medium for all that we perceive within it, all organized, coherent disturbances in it. It is perceptible to our senses as magnetic and gravitational fields, as the medium for all electromagnetic radiation from the highest frequencies through the visible spectrum to long waves used for communications and the like. Evidence for its existence is ubiquitous, but particularly in the recognized and depended upon constancy of that radiation’s limiting velocity, what we know as “c.” In an interesting recursive sense, the gaseous atmosphere that carries Mahler’s Ninth to our ears is itself one of those entities that arise from and is part of the cosmos.

Remember, these “fields” are not separate and independent entities traveling through the medium, but are part and parcel of it. just as the chorus from the Ninth Symphony is not separate from the air that carries it but part and parcel of that medium, an organized, coherent entity, arising out of its medium by the application of simple rules and patterns, small, even tiny, but in uncountable numbers.

(a substantial part of this post is taken directly from “imagine darkness, the making of the simple universe,” by Charles Scurlock, published February, 2015, available from Amazon and other booksellers.)


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“Everything is made of fields” (but fields of what?)

Sean Carroll of Caltech is right.

Well, partially right at least. In his lecture at Fermilab in 2013 (Particles, Fields and The Future of Physics) as reported in symmetry magazine that same year, (Everything is Made of Fields, July 18, 2013), he makes some important assertions.

(Dr. Carroll is Professor of Theoretical Physics and Astrophysics at California Institute of Technology)

From the symmetry article:

“To understand what is going on, you actually need to give up a little bit on the notion of particles,” Carroll said in the June lecture.

Instead, think in terms of fields.

You’re already familiar with some fields. When you hold two magnets close together, you can feel their attraction or repulsion before they even touch—an interaction between two magnetic fields. Likewise, you know that when you jump in the air, you’re going to come back down. That’s because you live in Earth’s gravitational field.

Carroll’s stunner, at least to many non-scientists, is this: Every particle is actually a field. The universe is full of fields, and what we think of as particles are just excitations of those fields, like waves in an ocean. An electron, for example, is just an excitation of an electron field.

This may seem counterintuitive, but seeing the world in terms of fields actually helps make sense of some otherwise confusing facts of particle physics.

In his lecture Carroll explains this model very clearly in terms of quantum field theory, a major premise of which is that every charged particle carries with it a unique field and that the effects of these in motion and in collisions is the result of the interaction of those unique fields. The place where Carroll is right is in his explanation that what we, and most physicists call particles are, in fact, simply concentrations of the energy of those fields. So let that sink in a little. According to the standard model there exist in this world at least 60 different charged particles, count ’em. And each is carrying its own field around with it. That makes a pretty complicated picture, doesn’t it? And they are all out interacting with each other both inside and outside of their atoms and molecules. It makes the idea that we can understand their workings pretty impossible, it’s no wonder that quantum physicists gave up and decided that we can’t possibly measure them with any accuracy and invented a new form of probability theory to take the place of explanations.

The complexity grows. The article goes on to say:

“There’s an analogy that’s often used here,” Carroll said, “that doing particle physics is like smashing two watches together and trying to figure out how watches work by watching all the pieces fall apart.

“This analogy is terrible for many reasons,” he said. “The primary one is that what’s coming out when you smash particles together is not what was inside the original particles. … [Instead,] it’s like you smash two Timex watches together and a Rolex pops out.”

What’s really happening in LHC collisions is that especially excited excitations of a field—the energetic protons—are vibrating together and transferring their energy to adjacent fields, forming new excitations that we see as new particles—such as Higgs bosons.

Thinking in fields can also better explain how the Higgs works. Higgs bosons themselves do not give other particles mass by, say, sticking to them in clumps. Instead, the Higgs field interacts with other fields, giving them—and, by extension, their particles—mass.

 As shown in this image from his lecture, the Higgs field is on its own, hovering somewhere above the other multiple fields dancing below, a not very convincing image, and what is it made of? Waves are waves of something and so are fields.


Mass equals energy, doesn’t it? So why don’t we just say that instead of introducing another term for energy that isn’t needed? We’ll never know.

Back to where Dr. Carroll is less right. There is a simple way to cut through all of this complexity. Just as he has eliminated a complex variable by making particles into what they most likely really are, a version of Einstein’s notion that they might just be “condensations of the ether,” what if we eliminate all of those multitudinous fields and say there is only one? Then we could give up having to explain how each of over 60, and who knows how many more, unique fields arose (a chicken and egg quandary, as well, in the sense of which comes first, the field or the particle, and, by the way, from whence did either arise?), we can see these multiple entities as simply arising from the energy of a single, primal field, giving us only one mysterious entity to seek the origins of. The obvious description of it is that it is an electromagnetic field, high frequency, high energy because there is so much of it, fixed in location, extending indefinitely in all directions, but internally turbulent. And because of its nature and structure it establishes a key limit, “c,” the velocity of light and all other EM radiation. No photons needed, light is simply a coherent distortion of the field itself, just as sound is just a distortion of its own medium.

In my own writings, I have dubbed this model the simple universe, for obvious reasons. In the simple universe we don’t talk of matter or mass, we call it what it is, energy and energy density. And instead of those 60 plus fields chasing each particle around, what QFT calls unique fields, they are seen as simply distortions of the primal field, surrounding the high concentrations of energy manifested as “particles,” on up to stars, galaxies, and clusters. And guess how those distortions manifest themselves to us and our astronomers. Why, they are the regions the mystical physicists call “dark matter,” distortions of that primal field which itself is actually, you guessed it, “dark energy.”

No particles were destroyed in this experiment, they just didn’t exist in the first place.

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Is the Scientific Method obsolete?

Today’s issue of the NYT (June 7, 2015), in its Sunday Review section, contains a reasonably fair commentary titled “A crisis at the edge of physics,” by Adam Frank and Marcelo Gleiser, both respected professionals in modern physics. The authors refer back to a December 2014 article in Nature magazine, Scientific Method: Defending the integrity of physics, by George Ellis and Joe Silk, which criticizes the tendency among many modern physicists for suggesting—explicitly—that the need for the testing of theories should be abandoned in favor of some method of applying a lesser test or tests, among them something called “elegance,” and/or “explanatory power,” thus ‘breaking with centuries of philosophical tradition of defining scientific knowledge as empirical.’

This is a position that has been argued for a number of years now, possibly, or even probably, out of despair because of the continued failure of physicists to resolve the conflicts between the two “accepted” standard models of physics and cosmology (quantum mechanics on the one hand, and General Relativity and the big bang on the other) or to make progress toward combining them into a reasonable unified theory. This resolution, of course, has been the holy grail of the past hundred years or so among theorists and has, unfortunately, been the generator of multiple speculative schools of thought and speculative theories with the common characteristic of being fundamentally untestable.

Speculation is, of course, not a bad thing in and of itself, what if? being the fundamental first step in any theoretical endeavor. The scientific argument is whether these speculations can be brought into a testable state. The last several years, however, has seen the birth of a wide range of these so far untestable scientific speculations, chief among them the various versions of string theory, supersymmetry, and the multiverse. String theory has now been around for over thirty years and its “practitioners” now number in the thousands at many universities and institutes around the world, soaking up millions of dollars in research grants and university budgets, to the dismay of its critics who point out, correctly, that it has yet to generate a single testable hypothesis. To this thinker, it has only one real virtue. It suggests that the universe is filled, that is, it is not a vacuum, and that this filling consists of tiny, as yet undetectable strings of something, which goes into making up all of the higher forms of matter and energy that we can and do detect. Why strings? That is not explained. Perhaps it is because strings can be wound up, twisted, tied in knots, to have a mechanical function, a simplistic notion that has been around for millennia.

I think there may be two reasons for this mood of despair. One is just tiredness. It’s been almost a hundred years with no progress, no connection. Let’s give up. People have believed for thousands of years that some things are just unknowable, why not this. So we have two theories that seem almost right, maybe that’s all we’re going to get. They’re both somewhat elegant and they both seem to work pretty well as they are, so let’s just—well, not exactly change the rules—just maybe move the goalposts a little bit, so we can relax a little, declare victory and go home, maybe? Besides, most people are convinced that these hundred-year-old theories are correct, aren’t they? An army of experts are usually right, after all.

That’s one reason.

But what if there is  another reason for our failure to resolve this issue? What if one of those beliefs is actually wrong? or, God forgive, what if both of them are wrong? What if we’ve been running down the wrong track all this time? They seem to work, but only if we accept some assumptions about things we’ve never seen, just assumed they must be there. I know, Einstein invented spacetime out of nothing, but it enabled him to create a beautiful theory, didn’t it? And exchanging the probability of something for real knowledge made it possible to create some gorgeous equations about the movements of tiny particles, doesn’t that count for something?

Well, no.

Let’s look at those “true” theories a little closer. Einstein must have known that there was some sort of medium out there, else light and other radiation had no medium to carry them. But the idea of an “ether” had been debunked nearly 20 years before. There were no particles in space that slowed down light, so it must be empty, and inserting something would really mess up these beautiful equations, so let’s just assume that this (hypothetical) spacetime thing is real. It gives us a neat way to describe gravity, after all. And besides, if it’s hypothetical nobody can ever prove it isn’t true, can they.

An important example.

In 1898, Ludwig Boltzmann published the second volume of his Lectures on Gas Theory, but was not optimistic about its acceptance. The theorists arrayed against his assertions, based on the particulate theories of gases, were three formidable opponents, Wilhelm Ostwald, George Helm, and Ernst Mach, who had together and separately argued for an antiatomic theory which came to be called energetics. “Ostwald believed that a grand scheme could be formulated that encompassed all of the fields of science, beginning with the energy concept as a unifying principle. He was convinced that energy fluxes and transformations determined the laws of physics and chemistry.” [1] Mach did not fully subscribe to energetics but was described as an ardent antiatomist. He did not accept the existence of atoms and molecules because he could find no direct evidence for their existence. He found Boltzmann’s explanations of the second law of thermodynamics as a consequence of molecular chaos as superficial, based as they were on unverifiable assumptions. While Ostwald later came to accept Boltzmann’s conclusions, his acceptance was based on another set of circular arguments, principal among which was the common belief that all was particles, another unprovable assumption. The proofs came from two other theoreticians, Einstein, in his 1905 paper making a gas analogy with ‘colloidal’ particles in solutions, and J. J. Thompson’s so-called “discovery” of the electron, also based on the particulate assumption. Here we have an almost exact parallel with quantum mechanics, which stands and falls on the presumed existence of particles. With these two thinkers arrayed against it, energetics fell into obscurity from which it is only now re-emerging.

What was missing from Ostwald, Helm, and Mach’s model was a physical concept of what they referred to as the world-ether and any explanation of how the rest of the ponderable universe could have arisen from it, even though they had all of Helmholtz, Hertz, and Maxwell’s work on the existence and behavior of fields to rely upon. Einstein himself finally came to believe that the ether had to have some form of substance, a level of energy to support its role as a carrier of electromagnetic phenomena, but his math had no need of it, so it was never included in his theories. And all of them were prisoners of the concept that energy must just be a quality of the real fundamental entities, the particles, rather than being a phenomenon in and of itself, out of which something resembling particles might arise and be identified.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost, and on up to the hierarchy of complexity we live with today, instead of a simple unified model that can explain the entire dimensional range of objects, events, and phenomena we now recognize mas making up the real world. The step not taken was to see the ether as an electromagnetic field, a step which might have turned on the real light of discovery.

So, the second reason that the two accepted theories of physics and cosmology cannot be reconciled, and why some are ready to abandon experimental verification as part of the scientific method, is that both of those “standard theories” are simply wrong. They try to explain two separate aspects of nature based on faulty, hypothetical assumptions rather than on observable phenomena. They are based on “elegant” mathematical models not confirmable in reality. They are still rooted in a Platonic notion of the ideal, attainable in mathematics but not in the real world. Quite simply, nature, left to its own devices, is rough, not smooth,. Only the math is smooth. Plato’s smooth, perfect ideal was something given by the gods. The modern physicist’s ideal is a construct created by the math. It was wrong in Plato’s time and it is wrong today. No two snowflakes are alike, no two humans, no two galaxies. Circumspice. Look about you, not at your formulae.

[1] Great Physicists, William H. Cropper, Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 198

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After dark, perhaps a little light

For at least the last hundred years, there has existed an ongoing debate about the entity or hypothetical entity we call space. It has been called the vacuum, a container, or a physical substance of some kind. Einstein used it as part of a larger construct he called spacetime. He used this concept to bring forward a new concept for the force we call gravity, replacing Newton’s construct with one that explained more clearly, he thought, the motions and structure of the universe at the astronomical scale. Now this idea had a problem. For it to have the characteristics he gave it, that of being bendable, stretchable, capable of carrying electromagnetic waves, it needed some substance, some real physical characteristics which neither part (space, and time) of spacetime was able to contribute. So, in 1916 and later, in a notable address at the University of Leyden in May 1920, he agreed that his principle, General Relativity, could not exist or function without some medium filling spacetime. He chose to call that filler substance a “gravitational ether,” recognizing that an earlier ether concept of a particulate nature had been proven nonexistent by Michelson and Morley in 1887. Still, that didn’t settle the questions. Einstein made another point in his talk, that we should not attribute to his gravitational ether any kind of motion.. It may be that that caveat meant that he would not have to take such motion into account and have to revise his equations. It was sort of an escape clause in his model of the universe. Today, we still debate the questions of “what is space?” and “is there such a thing as an ether?

Leaving those questions aside for the moment, today’s astronomers and cosmologist have found themselves wrestling with bigger questions. Most accept that the universe we can detect out many billions of light-years distant appears to be expanding, and at an accelerating rate, at that. What could cause and maintain that expansion? If there was a big bang at the beginning, some momentum could still exist, but that doesn’t explain acceleration, so there must be some other effect coming from somewhere else.

Most astronomers today are convinced of the existence of mysterious entities they call dark energy and dark matter, partly filling the space between and around the so-called ponderable matter of planets, stars and galaxies, and calculated to make up making up as much as 96% of all matter in the universe. The dark energy appears to fill the universe and its presence is suggested to be the driving force behind the apparently accelerating expansion of the universe. Dark matter, on the other hand, appears to be more concentrated, in what some call patches, others filaments, closer to stars, galaxies, and clusters of galaxies. And while neither can be actually seen, dark matter has been presumed as causing certain gravitational effects such as lensing of light in astronomical observations and causing light and other radiation to be deflected when passing through these regions. In the usual way some bright conceptualizers looked at accelerating expansion and this other mystery, dark matter, and thought, “what if they are connected?” Now of course we know how easy that is. Maybe one mysterious substance might be what is causing another mystery to occur. So far, thankfully, its still just a question. None of this has stopped the search for the nature, the content and the extent of dark matter.

A few years ago an researcher at CalTech, Richard Massey, published some work that indicated that dark matter might actually be the scaffolding, the infrastructure for the formation of stars, since it seemed to be concentrated in regions heavy with new (and, some older) stars and galaxies. Massey published both his results, drawn from Hubble photographs, along with some computer simulations to show how this might be happening. I’ve previously posted those images on my blog and in my two books on this subject.

Most recently, we have seen its evidence in the first report of the Dark Energy Survey. “The Dark Energy Survey (DES) is a collaboration of research institutions in the US, Brazil, the UK, Germany and Spain that aims to gain insight into these two mysterious entities. The survey uses a 4 m optical–infrared telescope at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile.” (published this week on As of this week, the survey has completed and published the initial results of its work, a 150 square degree region of the southern sky centered at about -55° declination and 75° right ascension, showing in false color the gradients of dark matter as determined by their technique which they have dubbed “cosmic shear.”

That portion of the sky is shown here and then the survey results, with some visual correlation between the denser regions of DM and the locations of the larger, brighter galaxies here in what’s called the Fornax Cluster.

Star cluster

Figure 1, the Fornax cluster of galaxies


Figure 2. the same region in the DES survey. Red (hotter) regions indicate greater DM density (or just energy density?).

We can see from these and other studies that we’re detecting something out there that isn’t a star or a galaxy and it has measurable effects on those stars and galaxies, or at least on our observations of them. And the two possibilities are that these are, for dark energy, some form of energy. And for dark matter, some form of matter, which would explain what we perceive as the gravitational effects we’ve observed. There isn’t anything else is there? some third fundamental entity? —outside of the E=mc2 formulation? Probably not.

Those questions have ben a central topic in my own writings and study over the past several years. Might there be another way to look at this data? For example, what if everything is energy?

And what do we perceive that field to be? Most, these days, call it dark energy. We know it’s there, or at least presume it’s there because otherwise we’d have no explanation for these other perceived effects, the apparent absence of predicted mass, etc. But because we can’t actually see it, and because of the love of the mysterious endemic to all astronomers, we call it dark energy— and speculate endlessly about its origins, its constituents, its presence. Is it really there or not?

Now I’m going to ask you to step outside the multiple boxes of the standard model of particle physics and the standard model of cosmology, all the relativistic and “quantum” parts of them, and take a fresh look at what we’ve been seeing all these years. No, I’m not accepting the existence of something called dark energy or dark matter, but of something else that is out there and is neither mysterious or dark.

It’s a clear night, billions of stars are shining our way, we’ve blanked out the astrological signs and the “constellations” of our ancestors and can start from scratch. Well, not quite that far back. We’ll start from these observations we’ve been making of the dark sky and its components. In general we’re agreed that it’s mostly full of energy, it’s not empty space. The stars, galaxies, and clusters, they’re energy, too, just really high concentrations of it. And what about those other things we’ve postulated as being out there, from cosmic dust to asteroids, comets, moons, even planets? Well, if you believe that wonderful equation, E=mc2, why, of course, all of that stuff is energy, too. Now there’s an idea. What if everything is made of energy? How would we go about explaining that?

So let’s accept for a moment that the universe (all of it, that is), in it’s most basic, fundamental parts, consists of an essentially unlimited electromagnetic field. All energy, in a form we’re very familiar with. We can see it in the admittedly doctored CMB images, as a turbulent but fixed field of high energy, (relatively) high entropy, a background at an average temperature of about 2.7° Kelvin. And, we can see a small part of it in the DES images, a bit turbulent but I think we’re going to find out that everything is turbulent.

Then, accept for a moment that the key elements of what we perceive as stellar, galactic, even planetary masses represent high energy concentrations in that field. E=mc2, after all. But for most part, possibly 96%, at least, it’s simply energy, and there’s a lot of it out there. So let’s assume that it’s our best known kind of energy, electromagnetism. That we know the math of, at least.

Then, let’s suppose that those other things out there we can see, those planets, stars galaxies, once again, very high energy concentrations in that field, might have some effects outside of their perceived surfaces. Oh, actually, we know they do, Each has a “gravitational” effect, most have “magnetic effects,” light bends around them, most give off radiation at a very high velocity, and they have astronomical haloes! But again, in our still functioning love of mystery, we call those effects dark matter! And we give it mysterious powers, antigravity, among others.

But what if we just take it as it is and call it simply a high, just not visibly high, distortion of the surrounding field. What have we now put together?

We have a new vision of the universe. A simpler vision where we no longer need to reconcile the very small with the very large, where we no longer have to live with the contradictions and paradoxes of quantum theories, string theories, multiverses, ‘branes singularities, entanglements, wave-particle dualities, you name it, we’ve got it. Considering that even the smallest entities that we say have mass are also simply temporarily coherent concentrations of energy (remember E=mc2, again), then maybe we can see everything following the same rules, and we don’t need multiple theories to explain the world. And maybe William of Occam can stop spinning in his grave!

What we have now is the simple universe. You can learn more about that from my books, the picnic at the edge of the universe, and its more complete follow-up, imagine darkness, and from multiple earlier posts on this blog.

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Axioms of the simple universe

Axioms of the simple universe

(from “imagine darkness” by Charles Scurlock)

 Axiom 1

The cosmos, what we call the ether, is made up of an electromagnetic energy field extending in all directions an indefinite distance from all points in the universe.

What physicists refer to as space is neither void nor vacuum but consists of energy in the form of a continuous electromagnetic ether, extending indefinitely, without limit, without edges or borders farther than the eye can see, even with the most powerful instruments. The field is fixed and is, in the relativistic sense, a privileged prime reference frame. It is, however, fluid, elastic, and subject to the same internal movements, currents, turbulence, and topological defects as any elastic medium. This ether pervades all of space, as evidenced by its carriage of all electromagnetic phenomena to and from its farthest limits as well as by the constant velocity of that radiation.

Axiom 2

All perceptible entities in the universe, that is, all objects, events, and phenomena, at whatever scale, consist of organized, coherent concentrations and distortions of that energy field, in patterns governed by a simple set of rules.

There are no particles, no “uncutable” first beginnings, no atoms, no protons, neutrons, electrons, quarks, neutrinos, bosons, gluons; again, no “particles.” There is only energy, flowing through and within the cosmos. Its formation into concentrations of various size, intensity, and complexity gives rise to imaginings of entities of a particulate nature.

Axiom 3

The region we call the universe is an aggregation of those concentrations, of size and complexity ranging from submicroscopic entities to stars, galaxies and clusters of galaxies, all resulting from the same set of rules.

All of reality that we perceive is made up in its entirety of these complex coherent organizations of energy, these “condensations of the ether” as Einstein called them, resulting from reverberation, reinforcement, resonance and phase transitions in the medium. In fact, all identifiable components of reality, objects, events, and phenomena, consist of coherent deformations of the ether, from the smallest entities we can identify, through those that make up what we have called the “zone of middle dimensions,” out to the most distant and immense features of the cosmos, the stars, quasars, galaxies, and clusters of the astronomers. The presence of these high energy-density concentrations generates larger regions of distortion in the ether, mistakenly identified  as mysterious “dark matter,” or Einstein’s hypothetical “curvature of spacetime.”

 Axiom 4

All naturally occurring entities are identifiable by their roughness, that is, their forms, shapes, arrangement, and motion are neither regular nor smooth.

Left to its own devices nature is rough, not smooth. The Platonic ideal of perfect smoothness is not attained in nature. Nature is irregular, not ordered. It is random, not predictable. No two snowflakes are identical, no two galaxies. The universe is neither homogenous nor isotropic. This “cosmological principal” is a false assumption, invented for the convenience of mathematics.

Axiom 5

At all scales everything in nature is in continuous vibratory motion, nothing is still.

At all scales everything in the universe is in motion, both internally in all its component parts and externally in relation to the fixed frame of the ether and all other perceptible entities. This motion is essential to our perception, which functions only by the detection of differences. Turbulence is a necessary condition of that motion. Without it can occur none of the essential interactions of reverberation, reinforcement and resonance out of which emerge the coherent concentrations of energy which make up the universe as we know it.

All of these axioms are confirmable by direct observation and examination here in the real world.

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Back to Reality: a Pilgrimage

The two most discussed scientific theories of the last 100 years, that is, the “standard models” of physics and cosmology, have their roots, even their foundations, in the belief in the existence of billions of tiny entities for which there is no believable nor demonstrable physical evidence. These “particles” cannot be seen, heard, felt, smelled or tasted. Their existence is premised totally on observations of their presumed effects or the mathematically predicted probability of existence. The proofs of all other phenomena in the observable universe are then explained by reference to this first set of unproved entities, giving rise to the predicted existence of even more “particles,” things like WIMP’s and “neutralinos,” supposedly explaining “dark matter” which is also something no one has yet found. Still we spend millions of man-hours, and untold intellectual capital in the search for these dark mysteries. And new ones are being invented every day.

The theory of the simple universe, on the other hand, is based on the presence of a single, demonstrable entity, the fundamental and universal electromagnetic field we call the ether. This non-particulate field extends indefinitely in all directions from every point in the universe. It’s existence is easily and directly confirmed by the presence of multiple phenomena with which we are all familiar, primarily by the ubiquitous presence of electromagnetic radiation of all frequencies, including light, solar energy, and wireless communications and all of its devices, particularly those most of us now carry in our pockets and purses, our wireless cellular telephones. the simple universe is the theory of physics and cosmology first sketched out in my book, the picnic at the edge of the universe (2011), and described in more complete detail in my second book, imagine darkness: the making of the simple universe (2015).

The ease with which the first set of unprovable theories is accepted and the difficulty in accepting the second is a puzzle to me. In any case, this is a lead in to what I really set out to say.

The two “standard models” face many hurdles, in that they are not only impossible to demonstrate without multiple unsupported assumptions, they are, in many parts, either irreconcilable with one another, or internally inconsistent, or, in several instances in direct contradiction. One example: the currently accepted and promoted model of the origin of the universe requires a brief but huge expansion of all of the mass and energy created at the instant of the big bang followed by a slower but still accelerating expansion after that time. This theory is offered as an explanation of two things: one is that the universe is basically uniform in all directions, the so-called cosmological constant, and two, it is presumed that in this initial period, many of the lighter elements, hydrogen, helium, and lithium, were created and distributed evenly throughout the universe. First, there is either something wrong with the cosmological constant or with our observations, because from our vantage point, presumed to be exactly like all other vantage points, the universe has vast gaps and concentrations of matter, not an even distribution. The second gap is in the observed abundance of lithium in contrast to what the big bang—inflation—light elements—expansion—stars and galaxies—heavy elements— the model predicts. The big bang theory also requires certain fields to exist around the tiniest particles created in its initiation, leading up to the latest to be presumed to be found, the Higgs boson, but if the Higgs is what it seems to be, the inflation—expansion theory has some explaining to do or some abandonment to consider, since its characteristics contradict some the big bang/inflation predictions.

This is only a sample of the problems, not to speak of the ones that have plagued the various quantum theories since their inception, not the least of which is understanding where gravity fits in the scheme of things.

Now the vast preponderance of current research in these areas is being carried out by mathematicians, I don’t say this loosely even though most of them call themselves physicists. They are mathematical physicists, toiling in the wilderness of untestable notions like string theory and multiverses, two of the more fanciful approaches for young PhD candidates, to judge from a scan of current publications and journals. I liken this to the man found searching for his lost keys under a street lamp because the light is brighter there than across the street where he dropped them.

Not many thinkers are wandering away from the warm campfires of accepted thought, unfortunately, and those who do often find themselves branded as apostates at best, cranks and crackpots at worst, and permanently barred from many standard journals and other venues, like grants and research funding.

As a result, getting a hearing in the temples of the blest is not easy, and the flood of publications from within the hearts of our institutions powerfully dims the light from any new models that might appear. I think it was Max Planck who suggested that the best hope for a new theory creeping out of the establishment tent is that the establishment ultimately dies off, leaving room for new minds.

A few of us are giving it a try, however. I’ve cited several in these pages in the past, serious astronomers like Halton Arp, some voices from academia or the scientific press, like Alexander Unzicker and Jim Baggott, among others, who have expressed their frustration and challenged the established norms. However, places like The Perimeter Institute and other centers of research are still places where string theorists and other cosmological speculators find welcoming hearths, 33 of them on staff at TPI, at my last count. There are other theorists out there, of course, but a careful look at their proposals reveals what to me seem fatal flaws. Most are in the mental grip of particle theories, or are heavily engaged in controversies over the proper language to use to describe this force or that spin. or is there perhaps a new name we can give an old idea. I myself suffer from a determined commitment to the idea that the truth must be sought out in the real world, not in a new hypothetical particle to make the math work out (gravitons, anyone?) or a new constant in the equation (hidden as something called renormalization, perhaps).

I’m convinced that we have fallen into the trap of saying, “Well, this is almost right, so if we tweak it here or maybe here and there, the pieces may fall into place.” Or, “If a thousand graduate students haven’t figured it out yet, maybe ten thousand might” (the old Navy way). A hundred years of tinkering should have taught us a lesson, wouldn’t you think?

I’d like to encourage as many as possible to join me out here on this limb and see if we can get far enough away to once again see the whole tree instead of just staring at a single branch. My contribution to date is my short book, the picnic at the edge of the universe, and the more detailed and longer work, imagine darkness, now available here and on Amazon, and soon, hopefully, in your local bookstore or library. They are in book distributor’s inventories, so bookstores can order them. They are my own product, built from my own, probably incomplete, scholarly research and imagination, so I solicit your comments, arguments, criticism, even (reasoned) rejection. I’m hoping to start a new discussion, you see, and would like to see it flower. And if there’s an adventurous mathematician out there who’d like to join in, let me hear from you.

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