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Consciousness, Physics, and the Holographic Paradigm

Essays by A.T. Williams

Part I:  Sneaking Up On Einstein

Energy has an objective, independent physical existence and exists in the absence of matter,
but matter is entirely dependent upon energy and cannot exist in the absence of energy.
- A.T. Williams


Section 1 Section 2 Section 3 Section 4

Chapter 2

Section 4:  Einstein Insights

Albert Einstein was born in 1879, the same year James Clerk Maxwell died. Despite achieving early prominence as a theoretical physicist, Einstein essentially remained a man of his own time. That is, while his theories and work product were offered as solutions to contemporary 20th century physical problems, he was educated, immersed in and deeply influenced by 19th century physics (then called "natural philosophy") which, unrecognized by most scientists during Einstein's formative years, was still in the early stages of progressing beyond classical (Newtonian) physics.

Indeed, the special and general relativity theories reflect Einstein's personal struggle to advance 20th century theory and practice beyond the knowledge accumulated by classical physics per se. It should also be noted that Einstein used classical methods in his search for new knowledge and, as men of their own time, that neither Maxwell nor Einstein had the benefit of the sophisticated technology or the century of historic accomplishments upon which contemporary science is based.

Maxwell arrived at his conclusions by means of theory and experiment. He reconstructed and repeated many of Faraday's experiments just to be sure he understood the physical details of Faraday's work as best he could. If the results he obtained differed from Faraday's results, he questioned Faraday and relevant contemporary experts at length. Like Maxwell, Einstein diligently researched, conversed with, and corresponded with his contemporaries. He then constructed his theories based on logical and mathematical proofs by performing various gedanken experiments – idealized thought experiments – for which he justly became famous. Each of these methods has advantages as well as disadvantages.

Einstein's understanding of classical (Newtonian) physics and his idealized thought experiments lead him to remain unalterably opposed to the existence of a stationary material medium – a luminiferous ether – from the 1905 publication of his special theory of relativity to the end of his life. And rightly so. His reasoning, based on molecular-kinetic mathematical theory, was valid. For example, in his 1920 address Ether and the Theory of Relativity at the University of Leyden, the very first sentence asks the rhetorical question, "How does it come about that alongside of the idea of ponderable matter, which is derived by abstraction from everyday life, the physicists set the idea of the existence of another kind of matter, the ether?" He then proceeds to answer the question in detail.

In a 1924 article, On The Ether, Einstein wrote:

    Historically, the ether hypothesis, in its present-day form, arose out of the mechanical ether hypothesis of optics by way of sublimation. After long and fruitless efforts, one came to the conviction that light could not be explained as the motion of an elastic medium with inertia, that the electromagnetic fields of the Maxwellian theory cannot in general be explained in a mechanical way. Under this burden of failure, the electromagnetic fields were gradually considered as final, irreducible physical realities, which are not to be further explained as states of the ether.14

As always, Einstein is speaking of a stationary material (Lorentzian) ether rather than an energetic, pervasive nonmaterial ether. Einstein's conclusion concerning the nonexistence of a stationary material ether is relentlessly consistent over the years – which is exactly as it should be. He is correct:  There is no elastic material medium (ether) within which electromagnetic waves propagate. But there is a viable alternative.

A few years later in a 1931 article written for the centenary of Maxwell's birth,15 Maxwell's Influence on the Development of the Conception of Physical Reality, Einstein acknowledges:

    The greatest change in the axiomatic basis of physics, and correspondingly in our conception of the structure of reality, since the foundation of theoretical physics through Newton, came about through the researches of Faraday and Maxwell on electromagnetic phenomena.16

    Before Maxwell people thought of physical reality – in so far as it represented events in nature – as material points, whose changes consist only in motions which are subject to total differential equations. After Maxwell they thought of physical reality as represented by continuous fields, not mechanically explicable, which are subject to partial differential equations. This change in the conception of reality is the most profound and the most fruitful that physics has experienced since Newton; but it must also be granted that the complete realisation of the programme implied in this idea has not by any means been carried out yet.17

Not surprisingly, Einstein is also relentlessly consistent concerning a second fundamental issue. As a student in Zurich at the end of the 19th century, Einstein dedicated himself to advancing the concept of atomism which, at the time, was in the vanguard of theoretical physics.

Note well the phrase "not mechanically explicable" in the previous paragraph. This phrase, and many similar comments, implies that Einstein knew that Maxwell's electromagnetic fields are not mechanically explicable but for some reason discounted or dismissed the possibility of a viable energetic cosmological medium. Thus, from the perspective of the new universal principle of energy, it is reasonable to infer that Einstein's rigid adherence to the concept of atomism played a significant role in his unsuccessful effort to combine the mathematics of Newton's material point and Maxwell's electromagnetic fields in a single Unified Field Theory.

Einstein's ether problem:

By the time he wrote his deceptively simple book, The Evolution of Physics, in 1938 – thirty-three years after the advent of special relativity – Einstein was really unhappy with the incessant arguments concerning the existence or nonexistence of ether and took great pains to explain his position. He wrote:

    The Galilean relativity principle is valid for mechanical phenomena. The same laws of mechanics apply to all inertial systems moving relative to each other. Is this principle also valid for nonmechanical phenomena, especially for those for which the field concepts proved so very important? All problems concentrated around this question immediately bring us to the starting point of [special] relativity theory.18

He then offers three idealized possibilities as a solution to the ether problem – but he chooses to ignore the third, more complicated possibility and dismisses it out of hand:

    Is the ether carried with [a] room as the air [is]? Since we have no mechanical picture of the ether it is extremely difficult to answer this question. If the room is closed, the air inside is forced to move with it. There is obviously no sense in thinking of ether in this way, since all matter is immersed in it and it penetrates everywhere. No doors are closed to ether. The 'moving room,' now means only a moving CS [coordinate system] to which the source of light is rigidly connected. It is, however, not beyond us to imagine that the room moving with its light source carries the ether along with it just as the sound source and air is carried along in the closed room. But we can equally well imagine the opposite: that the room travels through the ether as a ship through a perfectly smooth sea, not carrying any part of the medium along but moving through it. In our first picture, the room moving with its light source carries the ether. An analogy with a sound wave is possible and quite similar conclusions can be drawn. In the second, the room moving with its light source does not carry the ether. No analogy with a sound wave is possible and the conclusions drawn in the case of a sound wave do not hold for a light wave. These are the two limiting possibilities. We could imagine the still more complicated possibility that the ether is only partially carried by the room moving with its light source. But there is no reason to discuss the more complicated assumptions before finding out which of the two simpler limiting cases experiment favors.19

Einstein knew very well that experimental results favored neither one of his two limiting cases. Furthermore, despite the perfunctory question concerning the validity of applying the Galilean relativity principle to nonmechanical phenomena, Einstein offered neither real nor gedanken (idealized) experiments that investigated the possibility of a nonmechanical ether. Indeed, in the thirty-three years between the time he presented the theory of special relativity to the world in 1905 and the writing of the words quoted above in 1938, Einstein does not seem to have expended any time or effort, even by collaborating with others, in searching for a physically viable alternative to the deprecated stationary mechanical ether.

Thoroughly irritated by persistent questioning on the ether issue, and with unmistakable finality, Einstein passionately ended his participation in any future arguments concerning the discredited mechanical ether in an uncharacteristic fit of pique. He wrote:

    Every attempt to explain the electromagnetic phenomena in moving CS [coordinate systems] with the help of the motion of the ether, motion through the ether, or both these motions, proved unsuccessful.
    Thus arose one of the most dramatic situations in the history of science. All assumptions concerning ether led nowhere! The experimental verdict was always negative. Looking back over the development of physics we see that the ether, soon after its birth, became the 'enfant terrible' of the family of physical substances. First, the construction of a simple mechanical picture of the ether proved to be impossible and was discarded. This caused, to a great extent, the breakdown of the mechanical point of view. Second, we had to give up hope that through the presence of the ether-sea one CS would be distinguished and lead to the recognition of absolute, and not only relative, motion. This would have been the only way, besides carrying the waves, in which ether could mark and justify its existence. All our attempts to make ether real failed. It revealed neither its mechanical construction nor absolute motion. Nothing remained of all the properties of the ether except that for which it was invented, i.e., its ability to transmit electromagnetic waves. [Emphasis added] Our attempts to discover the properties of the ether led to difficulties and contradictions. After such bad experiences, this is the moment to forget the ether completely and to try never to mention its name. We shall say: our space has the physical property of transmitting waves, and so omit the use of a word we have decided to avoid.
    The omission of a word from our vocabulary is, of course, no remedy. Our troubles are indeed much too profound to be solved in this way!20

Einstein's unfounded assertion that empty space (German: leer Raum) has the physical property of transmitting electromagnetic waves over astronomical distances was, and is, astonishingly unscientific. Unsupported by experiment, his view not only proposes an unfounded, radical departure from the apparently seamless regularity and symmetry of various kinds of waves in nature, but also postulates a extraordinary, anomalous ad hoc property of space. Nonetheless, a careful reading of Einstein's own words, quoted above, provides abundant clues to the nonmechanical, nonmaterial solution of the ether problem:

  • "The electromagnetic fields of the Maxwellian theory cannot in general be explained in a mechanical way."
  • "After Maxwell [people] thought of physical reality as represented by continuous fields, not mechanically explicable."
  • "Is this [Galilean relativity] principle also valid for nonmechanical phenomena, especially for those for which the field concepts proved so very important?"
  • "We have no mechanical picture of the ether."
  • "All matter is immersed in it and it penetrates everywhere. No doors are closed to ether."
  • "Every attempt to explain the electromagnetic phenomena in moving CS [coordinate systems] with the help of the motion of the [mechanical] ether, motion through the [mechanical] ether, or both these motions, proved unsuccessful."
  • "Thus arose one of the most dramatic situations in the history of science. All assumptions concerning [the mechanical] ether led nowhere! The experimental verdict was always negative."
  • "A simple mechanical picture of the ether proved to be impossible."
  • "All our attempts to make [the mechanical] ether real failed."

Thus, in the broadest sense, Einstein was correct:  The accumulated evidence of an exhaustive search extending from the mid-19th century to the early 21st century 21 strongly affirms that the pervasive cosmological medium (i.e., the omnipresent primordial energy domain, sometimes called vacuum energy) is something other than a material medium or a mechanical system.

It is well said that the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. This leads directly to the inescapable conclusion that a physically real cosmological medium is necessarily nonmechanical and nonmaterial in nature. Indeed, if experimental investigation confirms the newly discovered universal principle of energy, then the existence of the objective, transcendent, irreducible nonmaterial primordial energy domain postulated by The Energetic Holographic Paradigm (TEHP) model and described in these essays will also be confirmed.

Continued in Chapter 3:  The Unexamined Alternatives


Reference Notes (Click on the Note number to return to the text):

14  Einstein, Albert. "Über den Äther", Schweizerische naturforschende Gesellschaft, Verhanflungen (1924), 105:  85-93. S.W. Saunders, translator. The Philosophy of Vacuum, edited by Simon Saunders and Harvey R. Brown, pp. 13-20; Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1991.  ISBN 0-19-824449-5

15  James Clerk Maxwell: A Commemoration volume 1831-1931; essays by J.J. Thomson, Max Planck, Albert Einstein, et al.; The University press, Cambridge, 1931.

16  Torrance, Thomas, editor. A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field, by James Clerk Maxwell (1865), p. 29; Wipf and Stock Publishers, Eugene OR, 1982.  ISBN 1-57910-015-5

17  Ref. 16, p. 31.

18  Einstein, Albert and Infeld, Leopold. The Evolution of Physics, p. 164, Simon & Schuster, Inc., New York NY, 1938. Copyright renewed 1966.  ISBN 0-671-20156-5

19  Ref. 18, pp. 167-168.

20  Ref. 18, pp.175-176.

21  The search for the omnipresent, pervasive, energetic Cosmological Medium continued until the universal principle of energy was discovered in 2002.


Back to Chapter 2, Section 3:  Footprints

Index:  Consciousness, Physics, and the Holographic Paradigm

Last Edit:  August 14, 2006.

Comments and suggestions welcome.

This paper is a work in progress.
Please check for the latest update before quoting in other venues the concepts and hypotheses presented here.
Thank you.


Copyright © 2004-2006 by Alan T. Williams. All rights reserved.