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Question:
Did the theory of relativity require dropping the concept of Aether, or was Aether simply dismissed as irrelevant because relativity principles do not need an Aether to work? I ask the question because it appears to me that some authors are attempting to re-introduce some kind of Aether concept to explain Quantum "non-local" effects. Is this consistent or compatible with either special or general relativity?



Replies:
Well, the "Aether" that may be reintroduced to explain quantum non-locality is not at all the same "Aether" as that used to explain the propagation of light. The reason the original "Aether" was introduced was because of the wave nature of light, which suggested it was vibrating in some medium (just as sound cannot travel in a vacuum, it was assumed that light could not and would require some medium to travel in). That turned out to be simply wrong - light does not behave like sound, and the vacuum already contains the possibilities of electric and magnetic fields required to propagate light. In fact, the vacuum of quantum mechanics is very far from empty, since anything described by a "field" has constant zero-point fluctuations going on everywhere, including in a vacuum. But quantum mechanics and general relativity have not been completely reconciled, so this "aether-like" nature of the vacuum (even without non-locality) is somewhat hard to reconcile with GR. Basically, general relativity is not that important on the length-scales and energy-scales of interest, and so can be and is being ignored in this kind of theory-making. So, no, the original ether was not compatible with relativity, and nor is the new ether, and nor is quantum mechanics as normally developed...

Arthur Smith



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