Copyright © Harold Aspden, 1998

'Ether' (also Aether): a substance formerly believed to fill all space and to be responsible for trasmitting electromagnetic waves.


The above is the definition of the word 'ether' to be found in a Chambers dictionary, 1998. A 1934 Edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary defines the ether as 'the subtle elastic fluid permeating space and filling the interstices between particles of air and other matter, a medium through which light-waves are propagated.' In these web pages I use the spelling 'aether' to distinguish it from the chemical (anaesthetic) meaning of the word 'ether'.

These dictionary meanings are ambiguous. The aether is best defined as 'that which fills space devoid of matter'. If you say there is 'nothing' in that space, meaning that space itself is 'nothingness', then 'space', which the dictionary defines as 'a continuous extension viewed with or without reference to the existence of objects in it', is something you view when there is nothing there to see. With its other meaning you are viewing something that is not there by looking at what is there. 'Nothingness' means 'non-existent'. The word 'aether' has to mean something and the physicist should accept it as meaning 'that which fills space devoid of matter', even though he or she may try then to prove that what does fill that space is so subtle as to be ignored for all practical purposes.

There are then three scientific perspectives that one can consider. Firstly, it can be declared by way of assumption that the aether has a specific property of determining the constant speed of light relative to an absolute universal frame of reference. Alternatively, one can say that the aether is a 'subtle elastic fluid permeating space', a medium so subtle that it can adapt to ensure that the finite speed of light as measured in the presence of matter takes its reference on a frame determined by the matter present. The third perspective is to say that the aether is 'that which fills space devoid of matter', 'that' being a sea of energy, the deployment and reorganization of which accounts for the creation of matter and then go on to supplement that with the second definition.

The history which led to the conflict between the Chambers 1998 dictionary definition of 'aether' as a 'former belief' and the 1934 Oxford dictionary definition as a 'subtle elastic fluid' is that of Einstein's theory in assuming, quite falsely, that, if the aether exists it defines the light propagation frame as an absolute single frame of reference. Such history has meant that scientists have turned their thoughts away from the study of the properties of aether proper, a study which nevertheless can lead us to the prospect of harnessing its energy and understanding its true regulating effect on light propagation, particularly the scaled frequency loss implicit in the Hubble constant, which has been misinterpreted as an orderly progressive expansion of the universe in a sea of nothingness.

If you really wish to follow the path of the heretic then read on. You will learn all about the aether and see that I must be right in making these statements.


At this point you may wonder how I can jump from Maxwell's demon and the practical world of thermodynamics and move into the depths of the hidden underworld I have chosen to call the 'aether'. Well, Maxwell himself did that when he addressed the mysteries of that Second Law of Thermodynamics and evolved a theory for the manner in which the aether transports electromagnetic waves.

However, I will go directly to the question I have just posed. Does the aether have a temperature? Well, if you are a conformist and believe Einstein then you must say that, since the aether does not exist in any tangible form, and has been replaced by the mathematics of space-time, it cannot have a temperature any more than a mathematical equation can have a temperature.

Given that verdict, suppose I now say that I accept that energy has mass and that mass can gravitate and, furthermore, that there is a sea of energy filling space, then you will conclude that if I am right the aether is subject to gravitational forces. You may conclude that I have to be wrong as I have gone far beyond the notion that the aether has a temperature. Indeed, what value could that temperature be?

I ask now if you have heard of the 'cosmic background temperature', a quantity measured in the locality of Earth as being 2.7 K? Orthodox scientists cannot explain that other than by declaring it to be the heat residue of the Big Bang, implying that it is the temperature of whatever residue of matter there is out there in so-called empty space.

I say that that temperature is the temperature of the aether. It is determined by the gravitational properties of the aether and it is a temperature which the aether shares with matter dispersed in space.

Now I do not want here to get involved in too much physics, because I shall cover the details of this subject in the specialist PHYSICS section of these web pages. So, for the immediate purpose I will just say that, though the aether has a mass density, that density is kept uniform, but we can still say that there is what is called a 'gravitational potential' acting between aether and material bodies such as the sun. This potential implies that energy has been released, as energy of motion, typically heat. The reason is that gravitational potential is negative as it implies release of energy by the coming together of two masses.

Suppose I say that the aether owes its gravitational mass to the presence of a system of aether particles each having a specific mass, then the gravitational potential as between the sun and one such particle will be a measure of the heat shed to the particle and retained by the particle, inasmuch as the aether itself does not radiate energy from itself. It follows that I can then be guided by the way heat energy is shared by particles in a gas or in solid matter. There is a constant in physics known as Boltzmann's constant. It connects the particle's heat energy and temperature and so, if say that the energy shed by the gravitational potential of the aether is retained by it as heat, using that 2.7 K temperature we measure as the cosmic background temperature, I can work out the mass of each such aether particle.

I have done such calculations. Indeed, I derived the mass of the aether particle in the 1950s and reported it in a book I published in 1960. The book, or rather booklet as it was only 48 printed pages, was entitled The Theory of Gravitation. It was some 30 years later that I did those aether temperature calculations using the theoretical aether particle mass I had derived in that 1960 publication and I obtained a temperature that did, indeed, confirm the value measured as the temperature of the cosmic background. See [1993d]. There was no Big Bang argument in my theory!


I must now just mention one feature of the aether, one overlooked by Clerk Maxwell and all those who did pursue their 19th century models of aether. The aether conveys electromagnetic waves. Those waves have a lateral oscillation, meaning that they wriggle sideways in their forward progress as does a snake. To sustain such waves the aether had to behave as if it were a solid and yet we move through it as if it were a fluid devoid of mass. The 1934 dictionary said it was 'a subtle elastic fluid'. That was before the 1998 dictionary got around to saying it was nothing other than something 'formerly believed to fill all space'. Well, how can the aether be fluid and solid at the same time and sustain the passage those lateral electromagnetic oscillations?

The answer is that it has the form of a fluid crystal and, further, that those lateral waves need something other than the structure of the fluid crystal to provide a lateral dynamic balance. In a fluid crystal the local presence of electric fields can cause the fluid to develop its crystal form in the locality of those fields. A material system such as body Earth which comprises, at its ultra microscopic atomic level, electric charges and their attendant fields can move through the aetherial fluid crystal and carry a kind of aether crystal with it, whilst surrounding aether has its own separate crystal form. The structure can dissolve at the foward boundaries, dispersing into the background fluid, only to reappear as new crystal structures forms behind the aether structure that is 'dragged' along by body Earth.

Why, one may well wonder, has the fluid crystal not been adopted by aether theorists as their model for the aether? Am I really alone in seeing this as the answer? What is wrong with physics if it cannot see the good sense of at least examining the possibilities opened up by the knowledge that there are liquid crystal displays in our pocket calculators. If you read the 19th century history of ideas concerning the aether, as being something impossible, both a fluid and a solid, and you have such a calculator before you, then you have under your control something that can exhibit the properties of both a liquid or a solid. You cannot then say there is no aether because there is a unresolved conflict as between its liquid and solid properties. You might as well say that the liquid crystal display of your calculator is an illusion, rather than a technological reality.

Just understand that the aether has properties akin to those of a fluid crystal! Or are you so sure that Einstein is right in turning away from the aether notion, that you accept his viewpoint, rather than respecting the memory of so many great 19th century physicists by reviewing their efforts constructively and taken account of today's knowledge of the fluid crystal?

Let us get back to the question of that lateral vibration of propagating electromagnetic waves. Believe it or not, there is a kind of unseen 'snake' wriggling along side-by-side with the wave we eventually sense. It is an electrical component of the aether, a dual displacement feature, and it not only keeps the aether in balance dynamically, but it preserves the continuity of the wave oscillations when minor impediments are encountered in its transit through space. Those impediments, however, take their toll on energy and, as my theoretical analysis shows, the effect is that the wave energy can be depleted in transit and with that the frequency. This accounts for what cosmologists call the redshift and interpret as the mutual recession of all stars in the universe, the phenomenon they say is the expansion of the universe.

I can derive from this argument and pure theory based on detailed analysis of aether structure, the observed value of what is termed the Hubble constant and that is why I am certain about what I have just said. It is all reported elsewhere in these Web pages and in my scientific papers of public record. See, for example, [1984e]

At this point, however, since these are just words, I think I should share with you a picture of what the aether looks like, if you really could see it. My insight into that and its portrayal will emerge when you press the link to the 'NEXT PAGE'. I certainly do not regard the aether as 'nothingness' and my task ahead is to educate you, the reader, on the aether topic, whilst applying my heresy also to more important topics, such as how we can extract energy from that aether as well as from new kinds of heat engine that tap ambient source of low grade heat. First, however, I must try to guide you along the channels of thought that led me to my aether belief. Foremost in this quest is the need to understand something your textbooks cannot begin to address, which is how energy fed into a solenoid, a wound coil of wire, can store energy in that 'nothingness' I call aether and then allow us to recover that energy when we switch the current off. Yes, your physics textbooks will tell you about Faraday's discovery of induction and about magnetic fields and lines of force, but though they tell you how to calculate the energy stored in unit volume of space, they will not tell you how a magnetic field actually stores that energy and holds it ready for our recovery. To be sure, no textbook can ever explain that without coming to terms with the reality of the aether.

Harold Aspden
September 10, 1998