What if Einstein’s 1920 conjecture were true?

I have today posted a question on an open forum on LinkedIn, on the subject of Theoretical Physics, in the hope of generating a fruitful discussion on the subject, “What if Einstein’s 1920 conjecture were true?” :

In his address at the University of Leyden, May 5, 1920, titled “Ether and The Theory of Relativity,” Albert Einstein made the following statement

“Since according to our present conceptions the elementary particles of matter are also, in their essence, nothing else than condensations of the electromagnetic field, our present view of the universe presents two realities which are completely separated from each other conceptually, although connected causally, namely, gravitational ether and electromagnetic field, or as they might also be called space and matter.

Of course it would be a great advance if we could succeed in comprehending the gravitational field and the electromagnetic field together as one unified conformation. Then for the first time the epoch of theoretical physics founded by Faraday and Maxwell would reach a satisfactory conclusion. The contrast between ether and matter would fade away, and, through the general theory of relativity, the whole of physics would become a complete system of thought, like geometry, kinematics, and the theory of gravitation.”

If we were to remove from the first part of this statement a single word, “also”, it would effectively remove the word “particle” from our understanding of the universe and the conundrum of the balance of the discussion would disappear. What we call a “particle” would then be understood to be only an orderly, coherent entity, a persistent concentration of the energy of the underlying electromagnetic field, (or “ether” in the parlance of the time), that can sometimes appear to us as if it were a “particle”. If this were found to be the true structure of the microphysical universe, how would it change our understanding of quantum theory and its siblings?


For those of you who have followed this blog, or have read my book “the picnic at the edge of the universe.” you will recognize that this conjecture lies at the heart of my vision, my model of the universe. As to its effect on our understanding of quantum theory, it would effectively erase the paradoxes, contradictions, and quandaries related to “wave-particle duality”, “superposition”,  and the like. It would give new meaning to the limits of “c” the velocity of light; it would restore the concept of a “quantum” to its original meaning as a unit of measure, not a physical entity as it has come to be known; it would change the multiple fields, each associated with a particular hadron or fermion in quantum field theory to a more logical form as simply distortions in the fundamental electromagnetic background field. It would lead to a new interpretation of the photoelectric effect, as the result of interactions between one energetic entity with another, perhaps larger, more complex one. It would open our minds to a new understanding of the possible origins of our universe as one of perhaps many in a vast, not infinite but certainly limitless to our understanding, electromagnetic cosmos, not as resulting from a “big bang” and creation out of nothing.

As I have said before, it would not necessarily erase the mathematics underlying the practical applications we enjoy, but it might also open new paths to understanding and applications for the future by removing what I have long considered a barrier to reestablishing a connection of theoretical physics to physical reality in the classical sense.



About Charles Scurlock

Charles is a recently retired architect/planner and generalist problem-solver with a lifelong interest in science, physics, and cosmology, and the workings of the human mind. He has started this blog in the interest of sharing his ideas with others of like-(or not so like) minds.
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