In considering science, we must realize that what it tells us is fact cannot always be explained, even within its own parameters of logical reasoning and understanding. This is to say that science, although it demands reasoned explanations that will fit into an already established order before it will accept a thing as being real, has often overlooked this requirement.
Let’s consider this in relation to gravity. This is something we all accept as real because we each experience it every day and cannot get around it without having to take a flight into space to escape its effect. Gravity was first scientifically considered by Sir Isaac Newton, who made certain observations regarding it that have since become the foundation for our understanding of classical physics. These observations have been integrated into our scientific framework and are so crucial to it that without them, the framework would fall apart. And yet, within that very framework, gravity sits precariously, still unable to be explained without raising further mysteries in the process, and even breaking certain established understandings that have been built into that framework.
The one contention that arises regarding gravity that has thrown our current scientific framework into question is that it seems to affect objects at a distance, which, except for the fact that quantum entanglement has fairly recently suggested otherwise, has always been deemed an impossibility. This has been the one aspect of gravity that has kept scientists from being able to explain it within the context of their established understanding. They have tried very hard to formulate an understanding that excludes such a possibility of action at a distance (otherwise known as nonlocality), but have so far failed.1
Einstein himself had to rely on the concept of an etheric substance that permeated space in order to explain gravity. In doing so, he effectively resorted to using a concept that had already been officially denounced by the scientific establishment not so many years earlier, but the fact that he did so has been obfuscated by his use of it never being referred to in terms of an ether. Einstein actually believed that an etheric substance must permeate the universe, and even stated that his Theory of General Relativity required it. In explaining gravity with his Theory of General Relativity, he described space as like a rubber sheet, with large masses such as planets being represented by marbles that are placed on the sheet. The marbles warp the sheet with their weight or mass, and the heavier ones attract the lighter ones that lie within the distortion of their warp.
This is an interesting analogy, but it requires that either there is some sort of etheric substance throughout the universe, or we are back to some other mysterious force playing on matter. The analogy of the rubber sheet and marbles is, of course, a two-dimensional representation of three-dimensional space, and we need to imagine that the rubber sheet is a thin slice out of a three-dimensional space. According to Einstein’s theory, space is warped by large masses just as the rubber sheet is, but the warping occurs in three dimensions rather than in two.
The analogy of the rubber sheet is commonly used to explain gravity in terms of Einstein’s theory, but the suggestion of the involvement of any sort of an etheric substance is rarely ever made. The analogy is accepted by most without them ever considering the need for an ether,
The belief that an ether permeating space was supposedly put to rest years ago after experiments were conducted that were meant to look for etheric drag caused by the Earth’s rotation. The most notable of these, which is assumed to have disproved the existence of an ether once and for all, was conducted in 1887 by Albert Michelson and Edward Morley, and has been appropriately named the Michelson/Morley experiment. This experiment involved the use of an interferometer, which is a device that measures the relative differences in the times that photons take to reach a certain point. The logical premise regarding the ether was that, because of the Earth’s movement through such an ether, both in regards to its spin and to its orbital rotation around the sun, there would be more drag against the ether on one side of the Earth than on the other, where the one side was moving through the ether faster than the other. The expectations of this experiment were that the ether would cause a noticeable difference in timing through its drag effect on photons traveling against the ether compared to those that were not. The interferometer was used to measure the relative speeds of the two parts of a photon beam that had been split, where each part was exposed to what was expected to be different degrees of etheric drag. The two parts of this photon beam were then measured by the interferometer, and if the timing was off, then an etheric drag existed, and therefore so did an ether. When no signs of any drag were detected through the methods applied, this was thought to confirm its nonexistence. Of course, at that time, the superfluid properties of matter were unheard of. It is now known, however, that under certain conditions, some substances cause little or no friction to objects moving through or against them.
To return to using the concept of an ether after the scientific establishment so thoroughly denounced it not so very long ago, we might assume that it would be very difficult for the scientific establishment to reverse its opinion and accept the idea once again. Perhaps it is because such an idea is an unstated requirement of nature in the eyes of such a great man as Albert Einstein that it has been accepted by the scientific establishment with virtually no contest and never an allusion to it as an ether. The important thing for them, really, is to have some sort of conceptual context in which to understand and explain gravity, and any useable context is better than none at all.
The idea of a universal ether is not really as unlikely a possibility as it has been made out to be in the past. In fact, there is evidence that such an etheric field exists at the quantum level. The quantum field pervades all points in space and consists of fluctuating energies of minute quanta that continually pop in and out of existence. This field is sometimes referred to as the zero-point field, because the energy continues to vibrate at absolute zero temperatures, where all other quantum movement above this baseline theoretically stops.
The mere presence of the quantum field may or may not in itself provide the force of gravitation. Nevertheless, it provides the etheric substance through which a force might act in an all-pervading manner. Using the concept of an ether allows us to keep most of our current scientific framework virtually intact, and the evidence that this quantum field of energy exists lends weight to the possibility of an etheric medium. At the very least, thinking in terms of there being an ether causes fewer problems than it solves.
It is interesting to note that the ether was supposedly disproved once and for all in 1887, and yet variations on its conceptual existence were still being entertained by the scientific establishment under other guises – particularly within Einstein’s theories – over the next thirty years or so until the quantum field theory was formulated in the 1920’s. This theory, of course, is effectively incorporating another variation of the same physical phenomena as was originally disproved. The fact that the concept itself had been existing for so long in the minds of men, and that it provided a necessary aspect to understanding physical reality, may have had more to do with the eventual manifestation of the quantum field than anything else. This is another example of necessity and expectation causing certain aspects of reality to arise, just as with the neutrino, Neptune, and the ice age.
Of course, getting back to the rubber sheet analogy, it is just one way to explain gravity. Einstein simply wanted to provide the analogy as a means to help others better conceive what he was describing, and he may have had no intention to suggest that there was an etheric substance involved. And yet, it seems that there would have to be, at least within the context of this analogy.
We must remember, however, that what we are discussing here are merely conceptual constructs, mental descriptions that are meant to help us understand the unfamiliar in familiar terms. They are representative models, as any theory is, and as such, they can never be completely accurate compared to the real thing. The reason we need such models is to establish an understanding that explains our perceptions and experiences. They provide a foundation on which we can stand as we explore reality further. However, the map is not the territory, and yet science is relying more and more on using these conceptual maps as though they were the actual territory they are exploring.
It must be understood that gravitational force was not actually explained by Einstein’s theories, and they only put it into a context that made it somewhat easier to understand in familiar terms. That Einstein’s theories still require an etheric substance in order for them to make sense has been ignored or overlooked, and although the theories might be used to describe aspects of physical reality in a way that does not mention the concept of an ether within that description, this does not change the necessity of an ether, but only obfuscates the fact. We must ask ourselves why the scientific establishment has been so reluctant to incorporate this concept into its understanding of physical processes.
1 The quantum effect of entanglement does not seem to explain this gravitational effect.