Chapter 1: Introduction

Albert Einstein should have had more faith in his own conclusions.

In physics, it was a heady time. Special Relativity had, quite literally, stood the scientific community on its head. Centuries of accumulated thought had been rendered outdated and incomplete. And soon after that, Quantum Mechanics would be born; another new conceptual description of matter engendered by Dr. Einstein’s breakthrough thinking. And yet, he stopped just a little short.

Einstein’s great postulate, the one that got everything started and the basis for the stunning revelation described in his famous 1905 paper entitled “Special Relativity” was this:

“The speed of light in a vacuum is constant.”

On the surface, the statement seems pretty tame. In fact, everyone reading this has probably heard and knows that statement, and knows that we have designated the letter, small “c” as representing that value which is:

c = 186,000 miles per second

= 299,800,000 meters per second

= 5.86 * 1012 miles per year

But the implications were enormous. Suddenly, the concept that light must be a wave and only a wave, was completely thrown out the window, and it was the window of a speeding train.

The truth of this assumption was clearly verified by Sir Eddington in May of 1919 in his famous observation of the bending of the light from a star during an eclipse of the sun behind the moon that occurred on the island of Principe near Africa. You see, gravity bends the paths of objects (not massless waves) that go speeding by. So if the speed of light is a constant, it must conform, at least slightly, to the gravitational fields through which it travels. Otherwise, it would be speeding up (by accelerating against gravity). Sure enough, Sir Eddington saw the light from a star that was in fact, behind the sun at the time. It was a stunning triumph of thought and verification through observation, and yet…

Just before the time of Dr. Einstein’s discovery, physicists thought that they had this ‘light’ thing pretty well tied up with a bow. James Clerk Maxwell’s 1864 treatise on the link between the magnetic and electric forces had brought about an unprecedented understanding of not only the electric field and magnetism, but had been extended to describe the behavior of light. It had all become very clear. Light was transmitted in the form of a wave. It was a massless pulse of energy, transmitted across space and time in an undulating fashion, controlled and described by the interaction of the electric and magnetic forces that made it up. A wave with starting and end points, but a continuous stream in between, not unlike the ripples on the surface of a pond into which a pebble has been dropped.

Unfortunately, for transmittance, a wave requires a medium, like sound in air. Since a wave must have no mass, the energy must be transmitted through something. Apparently however, in space there was nothing. If there was nothing out there, it meant that there could be no transmittance, no way that light could move from one place to another because there would be no medium through which the light could propagate.

Therefore, in order to rationalize the fact that we could see stars that were very far away, the clever physicists invented the ‘Aether’. The Aether was the postulated medium that filled the heavens and the cosmos. It was thought to be a vast unmoving ‘gelatin’ of sorts, that allowed frictionless transmittance of both the energy from the stars, the stars themselves and the planets. And it was completely transparent. It was pretty tricky stuff.

But logic said that if the Aether was motionless, and the Earth was moving through it, then there must be a relative velocity between the Earth and that medium. And it was finally surmised that that motion could be detected by splitting a single beam of coherent light into two and sending the daughter beams in perpendicular directions with mirrors; then reuniting them at a target to see if they were still in phase. The concept was that if the Earth did have a velocity through the Aether, the relative motion would make the path of one beam slightly shorter than the other and that they would arrive back at the target out of phase with respect to each other.

Michelson and Morley, in a very famous experiment performed in a basement of the Case University in Cleveland, Ohio, did just that. And they found that, to an extremely high level of precision, the relative velocity of the Earth with respect to the Aether was….zero. Not just almost zero, not infinitesimal, but zero. Totally zero.

It was quite a quandary. At that time there existed a very large volume of testing and scientific data proving that light, beyond a shadow of a doubt, was a wave, and suddenly it wasn’t. Then along came Dr. Einstein with a radical suggestion:

“The speed of light in a vacuum is constant.”

The rest is history, which will be discussed in later chapters. But, as bold as it was, as truly radical as this postulate was shown to be, Dr. Einstein himself never fully realized the sweeping and thought changing implications that are provoked by these nine short words.

“The speed of light in a vacuum is constant.”

“The speed of light in a vacuum is constant.”

Before discussing the more fundamental aspects of the interpretation of this assumption, some historical background information is required. One must fully understand how we came to interpret our physical world the manner in which we have before we can redefine it. To do that, we must start back with the Greeks, and work our way back up to the present.

What follows is a series of discussions of some of the important aspects of the milestones in the development of geometry, number theory, physics and the related historical events that have led up to this point in our knowledge base; and then in subsequent chapters, a new explanation, a different language if you will, that can be used to describe the universe around us. Since the emphasis herein will be on interpretation and general knowledge rather than a historical dissertation of specific acts and events, this book will not be footnoted or otherwise referenced.

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