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It became clear to our predecessors that a new era of physics had emerged when Max Planck, Hendrik Lorentz, Albert Einstein, Niels Bohr, and others established the two new branches of physics called quantum mechanics and relativity.
These two giant theories which turned out to be the two pillars of modern physics were borne as a result of the failure of classical physics to explain the emerging anomalies of the universe.
One of such anomalies was with black body radiation. To explain, a black body is an idealized body that absorbs and emits all frequencies of light energy.
Now, Classical physics, that is Rayleigh-Jeans law – which showed the relationship between radiation intensity and frequency – had predicted the emission of a continuous spectrum of energy from a black body.
As a result, it was discovered that at lower wavelengths or at higher frequencies, a black body would emit infinite energy.
This result was referred to as the ultraviolet catastrophe because it occurred at the higher energy spectrum of ultraviolet waves.
So, this result violated the law of conservation of energy and a solution was immediately needed. It was at this point that Max Planck rose up to solve the problem in 1900.
Max Planck, against his natural belief in the continuity principle, reluctantly proposed that the black body radiation can be explained if we assumed that matter or black bodies absorb and radiate energy in discrete amounts and not in continuous amounts.
With this suggestion, Planck introduced what would become known as the Planck’s constant (h = 6.626 × 10−34 J s) to explain black body radiation at all frequencies and wavelengths.
Though Planck’s idea proved to be successful, the physics community was reluctant to accept the idea of discrete energy radiation until Einstein applied Planck’s idea to explain the photoelectric effect in 1905.
It was for this reason that Planck was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918 “in recognition of the services he rendered to the advancement of Physics by his discovery of energy quanta.”
And Einstein in 1923 “for his services to Theoretical Physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect.”
The second of such anomalies was with the nature of light as it was observed by experimentation and against the notion of classical physics that it had no medium for motion. This famous experiment is referred to as the Michelson-Morley experiment, conducted in 1887.
Relativity was born to explain the result of this experiment, and as a result of this experiment, the classical aether which was taken as the medium for the propagation of light waves was dismissed.
So, the discussion so far importantly informs us that the aether problem led to the creation of relativity while the black body problem or the ultraviolet catastrophe led to the creation of quantum mechanics.
Both problems could not be explained by classical physics and they led to – as at then – the new era of modern physics.
And as quantum mechanics and relativity arrived the scene of physics, it became clear that physics had diverged from its classical foundation, though not completely, as this article will discuss.
So, quantum mechanics progressed from Planck’s initial input and Planck’s idea of the quanta was applied to explain photo-electricity, the structure of the atom, laser emissions, and the whole world of atomic phenomena.
And relativity also progressed not only to explain the underlying relationship between light and uniform frames but also that between light and accelerated frames, even though post-modern physics refutes the latter.
But the latter led to general relativity which is Einstein’s unique contribution and which was to be distinct from his earlier theory of special relativity that had the same mathematical formalisms as those of Poincaré and Lorentz.
So, it wasn’t long before the foundation of modern physics was laid, but this article seeks to inform us that modern physics is only just a transitory phase and is not expected to continue into the future.
With the current conceptual problems facing physics, it is obvious to those of us concerned about the foundation of physics that modern physics is not the final say about the true nature of reality.
Not only do we have to look at the conceptual conflict between relativity and quantum mechanics to arrive at this, but we also have to look again at the origins of these two great theories to understand what was missing.
So, this article, I want us to have a look at the foundation of modern physics as it was laid down by quantum mechanics and relativity in order to understand why from its inception, modern physics was bound to only be a transition phase to a new era of physics called post-modern physics.
And as a result of the intricate connection the founding of quantum mechanics and relativity respectively has to the black body problem and the aether problem, we would be looking at the two reasons why modern physics was bound to be a transition phase in our understanding of the universe.
Modern Physics and the Black Body Problem
The foundation of quantum mechanics really disturbed our predecessors, some of whom were bothered that quantum mechanics had no real foundation.
We could not really explain why the atom would accept only certain energy values and reject others.
But some physicists like Bohr, who may have, at first, been bothered about this later embraced the discrete behaviour of the atom and they took that quantization had no underlying reason, that it is just the fundamental behaviour of the atom.
This view forged what later became known as the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics.
But Einstein disagreed. In a letter to Max Born on 12th December, 1926, he said:
“Quantum mechanics is certainly imposing. But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory says a lot, but does not really bring us any closer to the secret of the Old One. I, at any rate, am convinced that He does not throw dice.”
As the foremost champion of realism in scientific history, this quote sums Einstein’s view of quantum mechanics.
But Bohr on the other hand said:
“There is no quantum world. There is only an abstract quantum physical description. It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics concerns what we can say about nature…”
The above sums Bohr’s view of quantum mechanics as the foremost champion of instrumentalism in scientific history. Bohr and Einstein were on opposite sides in their opinions of quantum mechanics.
But this article simplifies their different views as such: Einstein was a realist who felt that quantum mechanics was not complete, or at least not yet established, until we can say why quantum mechanics is the way it is: discrete, weird, and probabilistic.
But Bohr felt that quantum mechanics was complete and that there was no further need to establish quantum mechanics. The whole discreteness, weirdness, and probabilistic nature of quantum mechanics were all that exist without any underlying cause or reason to be discovered.
So, if we go by the instrumentalist view, then we have nothing against quantum mechanics. But if we go by the realist view, then we have to ask once again like Einstein would have done: what is the underlying nature of quantum mechanics?
Why did Planck reluctant suggestion of the quanta seem to apply to the atomic world? Until we can answer these related questions we cannot say quantum mechanics is complete or firmly established.
This should not be taken as a biased effort to uphold or support realism, rather this is a result of the current stagnation in fundamental physics and the lack of any real progress towards unifying physics.
If after this much time, quantum mechanics and relativity cannot be unified, then we have to question both theories and drop whatever allegiance we hold towards either.
Something is fundamentally wrong somewhere and it would not hurt physics if we, like Einstein did, scrutinize the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics.
We should ask again, what is the foundation of quantum mechanics? Quantum mechanics has been without foundation since its inception! This is a crucial flaw that disturbed its early founders.
I believe Planck was reluctant about the discrete nature of quantum mechanics because it was not backed by any real principle. It was just like an ad hoc provision but which turned out to become one of the cornerstones of physics.
This is where post-modern physics comes in, to inform us of the core principle of quantum mechanics and where the discrete nature of quantum mechanics comes from.
This is why modern physics was bound to be a transition phase, for it did not present to us the foundation of quantum mechanics.
The Copenhagen Interpretation or the instrumentalist view of quantum mechanics was just a clever attempt to avoid the real problem.
Now, post-modern physics did not, at first, set out to present to us the core principle of quantum mechanics. Rather, post-modern physics found this core principle as it proceeded to firmly establish accelerated motion on its own core principle.
That is to say that the missing foundation of quantum mechanics was related to the missing principle of accelerated motion, the latter which has been an unidentified problem since classical physics!The missing foundation of quantum mechanics was related to the missing principle of accelerated motion.Click To Tweet
So, this exposes what some of our predecessors might have known, which is that modern physics does not really identify the fundamental flaws in classical physics and why it could not really explain the nature of black body radiation.
Now, classical physics could not explain the black body radiation not because it did not identify or take into account the discrete nature of matter, but because it failed to present or give account of the core principle of accelerated motion.
Classical physics had attempted to present the core principle of uniform motion as the principle of inertia. But it failed to present the same for accelerated motion.
This oversight was what really led to quantum mechanics and not anything else, not even Planck’s discovery of the quanta.
Now, classical physics missed this underlying principle of accelerated motion, modern physics missed it, so inevitably, modern physics was bound to be a transition phase in our understanding of the universe.
This core principle of accelerated motion is the principle of non-inertia. And it is a profound principle that re-establishes the continuous nature of reality and places discreteness only as an apparent observation of the former.
The principle of non-inertia which modern physics missed is the true cornerstone principle of quantum mechanics. It is what has been missing all this while in our understanding of the atomic world.The principle of non-inertia which modern physics missed is the true cornerstone principle of quantum mechanics.Click To Tweet
So, post-modern physics is informing us, that at its core, quantum mechanics is a continuous theory.
I know that this goes strongly against the established conception of quantum mechanics, but I must let you know that in post-modern physics, relativity and not quantum mechanics is what is used to describe the atomic world.
As a consequence, quantum mechanics is now used not only to refer to a theory but also to the general atomic world.
But nevertheless, in post-modern physics, relativity is the single theory used to describe both the atomic world and the non-atomic world, and we all know that relativity, unlike quantum mechanics, is based on the continuity principle.
So, the failure of modern physics to identify the core principle of the atomic world is the first reason why modern physics is a transition phase in our understanding of the universe.The failure of modern physics to identify the core principle of the atomic world is the first reason why modern physics is a transition phase in our understanding of the universe.Click To Tweet
And in this section, we have explained why by returning once again to the foundation of quantum mechanics as it was prompted by the black body problem.
The second problem would be the aether problem which the historical Michelson-Morley experiment exposed.
Modern Physics and the Aether Problem
It is at this point that we look at how post-modern physics resolves the aether problem and further place modern physics as a transition phase in our understanding of the universe.
In 1887, after the Michelson-Morley experiment failed to discover the classical aether, a number of physicists arose to explain why, and in their effort to do this, they presented a radical theory of relativity.
Two of the earliest physicists to discover this theory were Henri Poincaré and Hendrik Lorentz, but they presented their theory in a manner that still permits the existence of the classical aether.
So, they explained that the classical aether was not observed because time dilates and space contracts due to motion.
It would be Einstein who would later, in 1905, dismiss the classical aether completely and proposed the relativity theory based on the independent existence or propagation of light in the universe.
So, Einstein presented a different version of relativity that takes the time dilation and the space contraction as an inherent result of the principle of relativity and not as phenomena that hide the classical aether from observation.
Einstein’s own version of relativity became what was generally accepted and it became the other pillar of modern physics beside quantum mechanics which he had also help to establish.
But once again, we have to revisit the foundation of relativity and ask ourselves: what did we really miss?
Relativity was created to explain the result of the Michelson-Morley experiment just as quantum mechanics was created to explain the black body experiment.
So, as this article shows, both experiments are crucial in unravelling why modern physics is a transition phase in our understanding of the universe.
And it is quite interesting to see how the modern idea of the absence of the aether clashed with the classical idea of the aether, and how the modern idea of discretion clashed with the classical idea of continuity, yet modern physics did not accomplish the complete conceptual breakaway from classical physics.
And it is quite interesting to find Einstein at the intersection of both conflicts. It is for this reason he is widely regarded as the greatest modern physicist.
So, just as post-modern physics restores back the continuity principle in order to explain why modern physics is a transition phase, so does it restore back the old notion or concept of the aether.
And just as post-modern physics redefines the continuity principle to accommodate or give account of the new modern mysteries, so does it redefine the classical aether and both can be clearly seen in The Treatise.
Post-modern physics is informing us that relativity was wrong or too quick to dismiss any notion of the aether. The aether exists but not as classical physics informs us.The aether exists but not as classical physics informs us.Click To Tweet
Now, a new reason that has raised the need to uncover the aether or to suppose it exists is because of the mismatch in the energy density of the universe between its theoretical prediction and practical observation.
This is why we cannot explain galaxy orbital rotations and we proceeded to suggest the existence of dark matter.
Now, despite the need to revisit the foundation of modern physics, the observation of a huge form of energy that contains 95% of the universe calls for much concern as it brings us to once again consider the existence of the aether, and there is no better way to do this than to revisit the historical point that it was abolished from physics.
All these mysteries are indicating to us the existence of the aether and how something is fundamentally wrong with the foundation of relativity.
It is no longer about discrediting the aether and proposing some sort of space-time aether like Einstein did. Rather, we are talking about the existence of a real non-mechanical wave in the universe just like light.
Now I have spilled it out, so let’s continue. Yes, Einstein was right to dispel the aether as the medium for the propagation of light and he was right to have shown us the connection between light and uniform frames.
However, relativity is wrong to have applied the same thinking or idea to accelerated frames without showing the fundamental difference between the relativity of uniform and accelerated frames.
For the relativity of accelerated frames, we need another non-mechanical wave that is uniquely connected to accelerated frames just like light is uniquely connected to uniform frames.
We did not need to extend light to the relativity of accelerated frames, but a second non-mechanical wave in the universe.
This second non-mechanical wave is referred to as the gravi-electromagnetic wave and it is what constitutes the aether of post-modern physics.This second non-mechanical wave is referred to as the gravi-electromagnetic wave and it is what constitutes the aether of post-modern physics.Click To Tweet
It is called the aether in post-modern physics not just because it is connected to the more dominant accelerated motion in the universe, but because it is the very origin of all matter.
This is exactly as the ancient philosophers had conceived of the fifth element and of its relation to matter.
However, relativity’s interpretation of the Michelson-Morley experiment remains true, but it erred by dispelling the idea of the aether completely.
The Michelson-Morley experiment only showed that the aether is not the medium for the propagation of light and not that it does not exist. The aether exists though in a different description than classical physics had presented.The Michelson-Morley experiment only showed that the aether is not the medium for the propagation of light and not that it does not exist.Click To Tweet
So, the failure of modern physics to discover the aether is the second important reason why modern physics is a transition phase in our understanding of the universe.
Ann Einstein somewhat realized after presenting the theory of general relativity the need for the aether and he proposed the idea of the space-time aether.The failure of modern physics to discover the aether is the second important reason why modern physics is a transition phase in our understanding of the universe.Click To Tweet
But this only emphasizes the failure of modern physics, because the real non-mechanical aether was absolutely necessary to understand the relativity of accelerated frames. Modern physics missed this.
Something beautiful and unifying is clear in how post-modern physics resolves the fundamental problems that modern physics failed to resolve.
And this something is in how post-modern physics does by no focusing on the two presented experiments, but by simply presenting the missing components in our understanding of accelerated motion.
Post-modern physics, first of all, identified the core principle of accelerated motion and this explains adequately why the atomic world appears discrete.
Then it proceeded to show us how the gravi-electromagnetic wave, the second non-mechanical wave in the universe, underlies all accelerated frames. This is what has led to the re-discovery of the aether.
The focus of post-modern physics was on illuminating us about the true nature of accelerated motion in the universe, and in doing that, it inadvertently solved the foundational problems of modern physics.
And a quick thought shows that the more important accomplishment of post-modern physics is that it explains what classical physics failed to explain about accelerated motion.
This is not to say that classical physics adequately explained uniform motion, but there is more missing in its description of accelerated motion than that of uniform motion.
It can even be said that classical physics failed to lay any foundation for our understanding of accelerated motion and it cost classical physics as much as the rest of physics.
It led to the lapses in classical physics and to the complicated crisis in modern physics today.
Now, we tend to think of quantum mechanics as a progress in our understanding of the universe. And that is because it introduced us to the discretion principle against the classical continuity principle.
And we went further to erroneously think that even gravity would fall in line and ultimately be described by the discretion principle.
This is why an article like this is important for physics. It is prompting us to think again about the foundation of modern physics and where we all got it wrong.
It is prompting us to question our convictions and bias about the universe and about the laws and principles that we hold dear.
So, I understand how mentally discomforting this can be, but we should also look at the joy of knowledge and the deep desire for truth.
We must not discard the classical continuity principle and even the notion of the aether. Our predecessors may have been wrong about the nature of these things. We must rise to the occasion.
The universe is a subtle reality, and some of what our predecessors hurriedly discredited may actually exist but on a finer level of reality that they could not stumble upon or conceptualize.
This is why we all must look at post-modern physics realizing that modern physics is just a transition phase.
However, I must say that there is something underlyingly special and purposeful about modern physics and it is in how it has made clear and obvious the foundational problem of physics.
Modern physics made the first breakaway from classical physics by introducing the discretion principle and by discrediting the all-pervading aether. But this new journey has become less adventurous and promising than we thought.
Today we have come to compound physics and even the long-sought unity of physics has remained beyond reach.
All these are indicating that there is something wrong with the path away from classical physics that modern physics has taken.
We have to once again retrace our steps back and realize that some concepts in physics are sacred like the continuity principle and the all-pervading aether. These concepts among other define physics and they are the elements of truth.
So, modern physics provides us with a short break to look again, from a distant point, at what is wrong with classical physics and why it failed to explain atomic physics and the true nature of the aether.
But this short break is over. It is now time to return to the truth and correct all that is wrong with physics.
With the new insights we now have from post-modern physics, we are seeing how these classical concepts have become redefined to address the deep fundamental problems of physics and that led to the creation of modern physics.
The right approach is not to dismiss these classical concepts like modern physics did, but to redefine them, for we have to begin to see how the redefinition of a concept can lead to an entirely new worldview.
And in this effort, we realize why modern physics was a transition phase, but nevertheless the necessary path that we had to take in our understanding of the universe.
Until next time,
I will be here.
– M. V. Echa