As of this writing it has been made clear to me that classical physics' Luminiferous aether was a terriblly poor discriptor of space. With the advent of Special Relativity and General Relativity, that aether ceased to be applicable. Today I began reading on the Higgs boson, and the Higgs field. How are those theories different from or similar to the seemingly irrational Luminiferous aether?

P.S. I am a first year student at Bakersfield Community College. If this question seems naive, you now have an explanation.

(EDIT) To me the similarity rests upon their fundamental influences regarding static positions in space. I currently only accept models in which static spacial positions are impossible. Contrastingly relative positions seem quite reasonable. In my humble opinion my naivatisms inhibit me from absorbing and understanding the Higgs boson. If they actually are similar, public protest would probably be more apparant. However, I have put forth my best effort to pose an direct question here.

P.S. The questions Where does space go when it falls? and What happens to time lost when matter accelerates? come much earlier in my studies, and they seem relevant.

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    $\begingroup$ could you maybe add what makes you feel that the Higgs field is similar to the aether? And what you think makes it different from other (e.g. electromagnetic) fields. $\endgroup$ – luksen Jun 24 '11 at 6:57

Here comes a simple minded answer by an experimentalist.

The luminiferous ether was discarded because it violated special relativity. It presupposed a fixed reference frame of the ether against which everything moved. In special relativity there exists no absolute frame of reference, and special relativity has been vindicated many times experimentally.

The Higgs field, as also the vacuum sea in general, comes from quantum field theory formulations of the interactions of elementary particles. All quantum field theories are consistent with special relativity , and thus the Higgs field is also consistent with special relativity. It therefore cannot play the role of the luminiferous ether, and also the same holds for the vacuum sea, which is seething with virtual pairs of particle/antiparticle.

At the level of your studies this should suffice.

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    $\begingroup$ Definitely seems the right level here, +1. I'd add, for this level, that the distinction of the Higgs field being consistent with special relativity means that the Higgs field does not cause any resistance to motion at constant velocity, whereas the Aether did and that was, in essence, its downfall. $\endgroup$ – Peter Morgan Jun 24 '11 at 12:01
  • $\begingroup$ By "vacuum sea" are you referring to the predicted quantum foam? Meaning the spontaneous generation particles/anti-particles as well as the continuous bubbling and warping of space-time in supersmall scales? Granted... there are non-trivial problems with correspondence with relativity, but I thought that like 99% of physicists at least thought that such a thing exists. $\endgroup$ – Alan Rominger Jun 24 '11 at 14:30
  • $\begingroup$ @ Zassounotsukushi I just was pointing out that it is not only the Higgs field that is permeating everything and might mistakenly be thought as a resuscitation of the ether. One could think the same about the Dirac sea. $\endgroup$ – anna v Jun 24 '11 at 16:14
  • $\begingroup$ isn't it possible that different observers observe different properties of the Dirac sea, which is allowed by quantum mechanics anyway? Isn't the existence of these temporary particles subjective until they interact with something, at which point correspondence between reference frames would be demanded? I always thought that this, in particular, was something that appeared to be like an aether, but then gets around the problem. I mean, somehow or another, a full quantum gravity theory is going to stretch our imagination. $\endgroup$ – Alan Rominger Jun 24 '11 at 16:32
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    $\begingroup$ @ Zassounotsukushi The reason it gets around the problem is that also the Dirac sea, by construction, is consistent with special relativity transformations. This means no absolute reference frame, not classical ether properties. A full quantum theory with general relativity in is another story, but really inappropriate to discuss at the level of this question. In any case experimental data show that to all intents and purposes we are in a quantum mechanical world where Lorenz invariance holds. $\endgroup$ – anna v Jun 25 '11 at 4:13

Actually, the luminiferous ether was a very good idea which turned out to be wrong. The Higgs field (or at least the Higgs boson) is another very good idea that may or may not turn out to be wrong. In this sense they could be similar.
Lots of very smart people believed in the luminiferous ether for many years. The difference between an ether and a field is fairly subtle. The difference in Maxwell's theory before and after Einstein is even more subtle. Maxwell's equations did not change, but the prediction (retrodiction) for the Michelson-Morley experiment did change, because other equations did change (Shift from Galileo transform to Lorentz transform.)
The luminiferous ether was a perfectly good mathematical theory. The Higgs field is also a perfectly good mathematical theory. In this way they are similar. I am not sure about your idea that they both represent some kind of fixed point or maybe an absolute rather than relative spacetime.

  • $\begingroup$ The lumineferous ether was not a good idea, it was just accepted because people couldn't understand waves without a medium. The main problem is that it assigned induction with a moving magnet and induction with a moving wire to different sectors of the theory, when the EMF only depends on the relative motion (to first order). This was Einstein's motivation for relativity, but it could have been done by Maxwell just as easily. $\endgroup$ – Ron Maimon Apr 22 '12 at 1:42

The Higgs field doesn't interact with photons so it can't be the aether. In fact, the Higgs field has no effect on the theory of relativity.


Quote: "How are those theories different from or similar to the seemingly irrational Luminiferous aether?"

The Higgs Field attempts to be founded in Relativity.

I propose the Higgs Field is a product of a foundation that is supported by Extreme Relativity; formed by Quantum Entangled Systems of causality.

This perspective formed not from an aether point of view, but one of Relativity, I've been coordinating relationships that have the potential of unifying physics without contradictions. To include instantaneous, gravity, electromagnetism, force, energy...

Rather than produce a blog, I chose to create an online live document that I could update and store my reference materials. A public access cloud-based document.


I was posed with a question last year: "What is Nothing?"

I was not looking for anything substantial, but I began thinking through the concept of nothing and found "Nothing" could only exist with contradictions. So nothing does not exist.

The result of a great deal of reflection and research is Quantum Entangled Systems (QESdunn).

My problem with Albert Einstein's E=mc^2 is that c is fixed, while we know that the speed of light changes through anything including a vacuum in proximity to other energies; i.e. relativistic. So special rules of relativity were set up to compensate. Basically applying scalar compensation to the universe one relationship at a time; i.e. c multiplied by some function.

The Standard Model is a tentative proof that all of existence is causal; otherwise the Standard Model would not be repeatable. Relativity associated with any one component causally requires all of the observable universe to be relativistic.

From my perspective we seemed to be trying to model our visual perspectives instead of system perspectives. Moderating our observables with relativity.

How do you see observables from a System of Relativity perspective?

The result of my living document is my present TOE+ which models the foundation in which to build Extreme Relativity. A place to build the Standard Model, my work is not the Standard Model itself; rather its foundation.

The result has been a potential pathway leading to the control of time and space, and other alternate dimensional spaces of our design.

The resultant relativistic aether is formed by non-relativistic quantum entangled systems of causal connectedness.

I interactively relate, therefore I am.

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    $\begingroup$ Is this snake oil? WTx is Extreme Relativity? Someone pls educate me. Is this something new? Am I outdated? I am still trying to understand m-theory. $\endgroup$ – Cynthia Avishegnath Aug 22 '12 at 3:27

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