Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Aether

What is The Aether?

Plato's Timaeus posited that a fifth element must exist, corresponding to the fifth remaining Platonic solid, the dodecahedron. He called it "Quintessence", the stuff of which the entire cosmos is really made of, deep down.

Aristotle included a concept of The Aether in the system of the classical elements of Ionic philosophy as the "fifth element" (the Quintessence), on the principle that the four terrestrial elements were subject to change and moved naturally in straight lines while no change had been observed in the celestial regions and the heavenly bodies moved in circles. In Aristotle's system aether was devoid of qualities of its own - in other words, it was neither hot, cold, wet, or dry.

In the late 19th century, the "Luminiferous Aether", or "Ether", was the term used to describe a hypothetical medium for the propagation of light. It signifies a mysterious all-pervasive substance - and even can be thought of as a place where one goes during astral projection or after death - which was thought in ancient times to contain the key to everything in our universe. Devices, such as the one pictured above, were created to attempt to record and measure this elusive substance.

Einstein's Special Relativity was formulated without needing a concept of an Aether. Albert Michelson called it "one of the grandest generalizations of modern science". Today the idea of The Aether is considered a laughably outmoded concept of the past.

Or is it?

1 comment:

  1. Holy mackerel! I found this post incredibly beautiful for myriad reasons. Odd how one may use a term ('quintessence') for so long without knowing its origins. I am glad I do now.

    Merci mille fois!