The Concept of an Ether in Contemporary Physics

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Scientific Paper
Title The Concept of an Ether in Contemporary Physics
Author(s) Philip J Lawson
Keywords {{{keywords}}}
Published 2008


The existence of a material medium or ether for the propagation of electromagnetic waves was an essential requirement for the acceptance of Maxwell?s theory in its early days. However, a series of observations culminating in the Michelson-Morley experiment lead to the abandonment of this hypothesis, and its replacement by the special theory of relativity. This forced Newton?s ideas of the absolute nature of space and time to be set aside and in the process showed that Maxwell?s equations for the electromagnetic field retained their covariant transformation properties under the new dispensation. In this paper we revisit the notion of an ether within the context of our exposure over a period of 100 plus years to evolving notions of the physical universe. The ether is assumed to consist of monopoles and is modeled by a plasma subject to the laws of statistical mechanics governed by a modified version of Maxwell?s equation to allow for the existence of free magnetic poles created from a single primordial nucleus at the time of the big bang. We leave unanswered for the moment, the issue of the derivation of Maxwell?s equations from the equations of fluid dynamics. In subsequent presentations, we will demonstrate, how this approach enables Maxwell?s equations to be derived from the hypothesis of a monopole plasma. We believe, the present paper lays the foundation for this more ambitious project.