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.)



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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3 Responses to Son et lumière

  1. pallsopp42 says:

    Brilliant description and explanation, Chuck. It makes it possible to imagine and describe particles (all of them) as persistent disturbances in the electromagnetic field – 3D standing waves in fact……



  2. indeed it is helpful to conceive of an electromagnetic medium and particles as coherent disturbances…even if the universe is holographic…and so my question would be: “does entropy affect radiation in a vacuum”?

  3. also, since low frequency sound waves can be experienced as a moving column of air, can it be said that wind is a form of music?

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