Ultima Thule

In ancient times the northernmost region of the habitable world - hence, any distant, unknown or mysterious land.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Ether returns to oust dark matter

By Aussiegirl

An interesting article on the reemergence of the ether, once banned from civilized discourse, and the threat it poses to Einstein's special theory of relativity.
The Wikipedia article on dark matter describes dark matter thus: In astrophysics, dark matter refers to matter that does not emit or reflect enough electromagnetic radiation (such as light, x-rays and so on) to be detected directly, but whose presence may be inferred from its gravitational effects on visible matter. Among the observed phenomena consistent with the existence of dark matter are the rotational speeds of galaxies and orbital velocities of galaxies in clusters, gravitational lensing of background objects by galaxy clusters such as the Bullet cluster, and the temperature distribution of hot gas in galaxies and clusters of galaxies. Dark matter also plays a central role in structure formation and Big Bang nucleosynthesis, and has measurable effects on the anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background. All these lines of evidence suggest that galaxies, clusters of galaxies, and the universe as a whole contain far more matter than is directly observable, indicating that the remainder is dark.

Ether returns to oust dark matter

Ether returns to oust dark matter
Author: Zeeya Merali

From his office window, Glenn Starkman can see the site where Albert Michelson and Edward Morley carried out their famous 1887 experiment that ruled out the presence of an all-pervading "aether" in space, setting the stage for Einstein's special theory of relativity. So it seems ironic that Starkman, who is at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, is now proposing a theory that would bring ether back into the reckoning. While this would defy Einstein, Starkman's ether would do away with the need for dark matter.

Nineteenth-century physicists believed that just as sound waves move through air, light waves must move through an all-pervading physical substance, which they called luminiferous ("light-bearing") ether. However, the Michelson-Morley experiment failed to find any signs of ether, and 18 years after that, Einstein's special relativity argued that light propagates through a vacuum. The idea of ether was abandoned – but not discarded altogether, it seems.

Starkman and colleagues Tom Zlosnik and Pedro Ferreira of the University of Oxford are now reincarnating the ether in a new form to solve the puzzle of dark matter, the mysterious substance that was proposed to explain why galaxies seem to contain much more mass than can be accounted for by visible matter. They posit an ether that is a field, rather than a substance, and which pervades space-time. "If you removed everything else in the universe, the ether would still be there," says Zlosnik. This ether field isn't to do with light, but rather is something that boosts the gravitational pull of stars and galaxies, making them seem heavier, says Starkman. It does this by increasing the flexibility of space-time itself . "We usually imagine space-time as a rubber sheet that's warped by a massive object," says Starkman. "The ether makes that rubber sheet more bendable in parts, so matter can seem to have a much bigger gravitational effect than you would expect from its weight." The team's calculations show that this ether-induced gravity boost would explain the observed high velocities of stars in galaxies, currently attributed to the presence of dark matter. [....]

Both Bekenstein and Albrecht say Starkman's team must now carefully check whether the ether theory fits with the motions of planets within our solar system, which are known to a high degree of accuracy, and also explain what exactly this ether is. Ferreira agrees: "The onus is definitely on us to pin this theory down so it doesn't look like yet another fantastical explanation," he says.

However, physicists may be reluctant to resurrect any kind of ether because it contradicts special relativity by forming an absolute frame of reference . "Interestingly, this controversial aspect should make it easy to test for experimentally," says Carroll.



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