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Memories of the 28th Century

Dark Matter or Aether

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I saw another article about dark matter a while ago, and it reminded me of how much like luminiferous aether (or just Aether) this dark matter is. It was assumed for a very long time that there was something in space that filled it and was a medium through which light travelled. The Lorenz Transformations that Einstein used to come up with e=mc2 were derived by Lorenz from Maxwell's electromagnetism theory at a time when it was assumed that Aether did exists. While Einstein insisted that Aether could not exist, Special Relativity is completely consistent with Aether Theory, except that space-time can't be used as an inertial frame of reference. The Michelson-Morley Experience was said to have demonstrated that Aether was false, but that is far from the truth. That experiment showed that Aether drift was considerably less than had been theorized, but there was a definite drift.

Subsequent experimental work and theoretical work on Aether Drift were carried out by Dayton Miller. ( Professor Miller's observations have been attacked since his death, but they agree with other observations, especially with regard to the direction in which the Earth is moving with respect to distant objects.

Among the characteristics of Aether that dark matter has are that it has mass and affects gravity and light, just like dark matter. Aether, can't be detected directly but only through its effects on light and matter. Dark matter also is attracted to regular matter, just like Aether. I can't think of any characteristic of dark matter that isn't a characteristic of Aether. 1

The world would have saved a lot of trouble by just defining Aether as not being usable as an inertial frame of reference and continuing to use the concept as part of the Standard Model. There are a few matters that might be a little different with Aether accepted than as they are considered today. Those include the size of the universe and the velocity at which things are moving.

Hubble based his "red-shift" theory on the assumption that there was nothing except distance between the objects he was observing and himself. Both Aether and dark matter bring into question the accuracy of the distance estimates based on red-shift, because Aether has mass that cause the red-shift by itself. There still would be a relationship between distance and red-shift, but the Aether has a general drift that is directional. And it happens that the Aether Drift is consistent with observations that this galaxy and others are moving toward "the Great Attractor".

Aether is just a ready-made explanation for dark matter, but there is another simple explanation that was rejected for no particular reason. That is that dark matter is ordinary matter is sizes that are unlikely to be detected. Clouds of dust would absorb light, but scattered chunks of sizes from the size of a baseball to planet sizes would reflect very little light but could easily have the mass necessary to do what has been observed. For some reason many cosmologists want to define dark matter as something different from what has been observed. It would be a good idea to apply Occam's Razor to the matter. The simplest explanation probably is the best one, and I think that the simplest explanation is that dark matter is ordinary matter in sizes that do not interact with light very much. If you don't like that explanation, then dark matter may be Aether, which is almost identical to space-time as defined by Einstein.

Take your pick, but remember that Aether theory fell out of fashion because there was no direct evidence of its existence and the popular theory of the moment had assumptions that didn't match observations. Dark matter is similar in so far as there is no direct evidence for its existence, and some people are claiming that it is something that doesn't fit all of the observations. The exotic is sometimes popular in Physics.