Wednesday, 29 April 2009

I found this on the web, though I'm a little unsure of it's exact relevance, but there is something about it.... kinda reminds me of a three-phase electricity distribution system:

"Early in July some experiments were conducted at Strasburg by Dr. Ferdinand Braun with a system of directed wireless telegraphy which he has invented. The results seem to him very promising, for he was able at will to direct the waves so as to actuate the receiver at the receiving station or not. Dr. Braun in several German journals discusses his experiments and points out the probable usefulness of his developments.

Since electric waves are governed by the same laws as light waves, it should be possible to throw a beam in one direction by means of a parabolic reflector, but the practical difficulties in the way seem to be insuperable. It occurred to Dr. Braun, however, that he could construct a system of sending wires which could be made to intensify the wave in one direction and interfere with it in another. If two sending wires are tuned to exactly the same pitch and are operated by the same exciting apparatus, but are so arranged that one of them will be set in vibration a small fraction of a second later than the other, it should be possible to obtain interference. The difficulties encountered in doing this are those of tuning two oscillators to the same pitch, and of producing the desired difference in phase. "

Not only, but also:

"The fundamental principles are that induction travels at right angles, 90°, to the direction of the current. For an illustration, if a person standing on a bridge should drop a pebble into the water below, after contact he would note circles radiating out over the surface of the water. These circles, being at right angles, 90°, to the direction of the force that caused the circles, are analogous to the flow of induction, and hence the aerial line, being vertical, transmits signals horizontally over the earth's surface."

I thought it was a nice way of putting it. Mind you, I'd be very weary of doing that other stuff he says with a lightbulb.....

Wednesday, 22 April 2009


I wonder then, what is taking place in the aether around the north and south poles of a bar magnet? What impression does our watermelon make upon the aether? In the previous post, we've discussed the aether flowing through either end of a bar magnet - just like a two way tunnel of moving traffic. The bar magnet appears to strain under the influence of the aether streaming through. The tensions surrounding the bar magnet convey something rather familiar; tensions perhaps, that are recognisable in other places, and different situations. Maybe there are clues to be found elsewhere, like in the pond at the bottom of the garden.

Some insects spend their entire lives on the surface of a pond. These insects, such as a water strider, are able to manipulate surface tensions in water. If you look at the impression made on the surface of the water by the leg of a water strider, you can see that the tension appears as circlular around the leg. The apparent sphere of influence starts and ends with the length of the foot. I'm not sure about you, but to me, those tensions around the leg of the water strider could look, with the right amount of imagination, a bit like a coffee bean. (?)

There is no great mystery about what holds the water strider up. The legs are bent in such a way that a long piece, called the "tarsal segment" rests on the surface of the water. It is the curvature force resulting from surface tension, which makes the surface behave like a trampoline. But getting around on the surface of the water is another problem. How can you walk on a surface that is practically frictionless? Nature has come up with a few remarkable solutions, which, strange as it may seem, may also be relative to magnetism. I found the following site excellent for a bug's eye view of the surface of a pond:

The meniscus presents something of an obstacle to most insects which inhabit the surface of a pond. The word meniscus is taken from Greek, meaning "crescent". The meniscus is a curve in the surface of the water, and is produced in response to an object or land. The effect is barely noticeable to us, but for an insect, it's a little bit daunting. I guess it's like trying to climb the ramp of a skatepark half-pipe - covered head-to-toe in butter. The larva of pyrrhalta - the waterlily leaf beetle - demonstrates the solution to the meniscus-climbing problem by arching its back, and pulling up on the free surface with its head and tail (pictured above). In this way it is able to climb the meniscus, and board land. So, is a bar magnet, in some way, arching its back in the fluid of the aether?

The pyrrhalta larva is compressing itself to deform the water surface. The insect is converting muscular strain to the surface energy that powers its ascent. The larva does not need to envoke propulsion - she glides in - she comes into port like the QE2 - but fast! The larva no longer plays the part of the boat, the water itself becomes the mode of transport; the boat IS the water! The water strider uses the same solution, except that it plucks the water surface upward with its forelegs, and hind legs, while pushing down with the middle legs. The following site is just brilliant, and explains all this far better than I. It also uncovers a surprising relationship between the flight of birds, and the motion of water striders....

This site is great, and has lots of colourful snaps of the water strider's ethereal motion...

The water strider is also seen to manipulate the meniscii it generates, in order to propel itself across the surface of the water. The study of water striders by Bush et al, MIT, revealed their legs to be like the oars of a rowboat, creating swirling vortices that carry momentum beneath the surface of the water, which propel the insect forward. The strider thus generates thrust by rowing, using its legs as oars, and the meniscii beneath its driving legs as blades. The vortices are not spirals though, but instead are made up of an unusual U-shape; a horseshoe shape; half a bundt cake (in the picture below); (and for those who have a taste for something a little more mathematical) half a toroidal vortex ring in which the ring has been sliced parallel to its axis of symmetry (I prefer cake). Of interest perhaps, in the realms of polarity, these vortices created by the water strider are dipolar; one vortice turns in a clockwise direction, and the other turns counter-clockwise.

The water strider is doing something to the surface of the water, where it's legs, in some manner or other, are simulating the core of a torus. In my world, a bar magnet is the core of the torus. The bar magnet transfers its' "muscle strain" to the fluid of the aether, and inviting this fluid to flow through at a rate both persistent, and consistent. When we apply iron filings to a bar magnet, it feels like we are seeing the outside of the magnetic field, or the skin of the watermelon. Is it possible that the horseshoe created by the water strider gives us an opportunity to glimpse the inner workings of a torus which represents the magnetic field? Basically, are we seeing the watermelon chopped in half?

I wonder if it is possible that the legs of the water strider are imitating the behaviour of a bar magnet. The legs might be designed in such a way as to generate a change in pressure on the water's surface; a change in pressure which helps create tensions, perhaps. Could the construction of the water striders' foot reveal a way of inducing the aether to flow? Is it the case that the water strider is not just simply pushing water backwards - perhaps there is something else, another force at work, which pulls the insect forward?

Many thanks:

Monday, 20 April 2009

Sunday, 19 April 2009

The Watermelon And The Coffee Bean

Now when I look at a bar magnet, I can't help but feel as if it's floating on the surface of some imperceptible liquid. Those iron filings which expose the magnetic flux, are more of a revelation about the surface tension they create in the fluid; like a frog on the lily of a pond; like an iron bar in a bathful of treacle. The fluid I speak of though is the aether. A perfect fluid, made imperfect by tensions which are generated by matter. We can sometimes 'see' these tensions, as when they arise around electrical conductors and bar magnets, and take the shape of magnetic fields.

We've seen how an AC circuit creates tension in the aether field, by generating a repulsive wave, a shockwave, which rips the tranquility of the aether apart, initiating polarity, and exposing electricity as the very life blood of the aether. The air being a good insulator, the repulsive wave grasps the more ideal route through conductors. At the end of the repulsion, the aether folds back into the gap to restore balance. In an AC circuit, this cycle of shockwave and then collapse, takes place 100 times a second on a 50Hz supply. The question that arises is: how does a permanent magnet maintain the tension in the aether field? If an AC circuit uses a generator to drive the tension, perhaps we could say it does so by vibrating the polarity of the magnetic field. What, if any, vibrations take place in the magnetic field of a permanent magnet?

I have come to view the magnetic field around a bar magnet somewhat differently than most textbooks. I have a 3-dimensional image of the bar magnet as if it is stuffed inside a watermelon. The watermelon being the magnetic field between the north and south poles only. The north and south poles are exactly at the top and bottom of the melon. There's other stuff going on outside the bar magnet, but for the moment, we're focused on what's happening between poles. The bar magnet thus physically represents the straightest line, the shortest line, the most direct route from north to south poles, inside the magnetic field. This straight line represents the very centre of the electromagnetic field. A hole now appears at the top and bottom of the watermelon and it takes on a much more toroidal shape. Our watermelon starts to look more like an apple.

Toroids are rotating, not along their outer circumference like a steering wheel, but they're rolling such that their centres 'turn inside out' and move to the outer edge, then roll back into the centre. Well, that sounds very much like how a smoke ring moves through a room. A smoke ring is a vortex ring. If you imagine you were able to ride along side the vortex ring, the fluid at the centre is moving forward, and the fluid at the edge is moving backwards. The fluid near the centre of the vortex circulates faster than the fluid from the centre. The fluid pressure in a vortex is lowest in the centre where the speed is greatest, and rises progressively with distance from the centre. If you're new to the mechanics of smoke rings, or fancied finding out how to make them, this site is mucho cool:

I thought it interesting that the best smoke rings developed when the diaphragm moved from a concave shape - all the way through to a convex shape. Both these shapes are paraboloids. Two paraboloids can be used to create a hyperbole where they face on another. Here though, the paraboloids do not face each other but point away from one another. I might suggest you draw this on a bit of paper. Start with the diaphragm pulled out - a paraboloid with it's centre pointing to the right; then show a straight line as the diaphragm is pushed level with the tube; now the diaphragm is pushed even futher down the tube so it forms another paraboloid, but this time it's centre is now pointing to the left; put this all together and you get something like an oyster with it's mouth clamped shut; a coffee bean; and if I embellish a little, a watermelon with a straight line drawn down it's centre.

Smoke rings don't push their way through the air as you might expect, but rather, we are told it is friction which causes the torus to tractor itself forward. I'm not so sure. Is it possible that there is another unseen force pulling the smoke ring forwards? When the air exits the hole, friction with the rim retards it, causing the air in the centre to move forward faster than the air at the edge. Smoke is caught up with the slower moving outer layer of air that is being dragged backwards. The centre "blob" of air is still moving forward faster but the smoke is not highlighting it. Eventually, air friction eats away all the energy stored in the vortex and the smoke ring drifts to a stop (however, in a frictionless fluid, a vortex ring could go on forever). This movement of current moving out from the centre to the sides, plus the mention of some type of suction force at the core, reminds me of solenoids, and ultimately, magnetism.

Both poles of a magnetic field of a solenoid, or bar magnet, both suck and blow. For me at least, it is not as simple as following convention and saying magnetic flux flows from the north pole to south. Like poles repel, and unlike attract. Surely, both poles act out both forces of attraction and repulsion. The mouths of the north and south pole both exhibit centripetal and centrifugal forces. The centripetal force, the force of attraction, works not only on attracting opposite poles, but also on some metals for example. The centrifugal force though, the force of repulsion, appears to work only on other magnets.

When we put a plunger in the opening of a solenoid, forces of attraction try to suck it down. The core is sucking down something which passes through the iron-core of the plunger. It's not so much sucking down the plunger, but rather, it is trying to suck something down through the plunger. The plunger has simply got in the way. The plunger is a hapless canoe drifting down the rapids. This would appear to indicate that the plunger's iron-core allows the aether to pour through its substance, at a rate which is higher than most substances, and in so doing, pressure forces thus become visible. I shall return to these forces of pressure in later posts.

How is it possible that both poles of the magnet exhibit both centripetal and centrifugal forces? This differs from a smoke ring, which can only be described as having one pole, but, does exhibit both centripetal and centrifugal forces. The centrifugal forces we see, but the centripetal forces remain hidden ... for now. Is the smoke ring therefore behaving like a monopole? For a bar magnet to exhibit both centripetal and centrifugal forces at either pole, the fluid of the aether would have to enter the magnet from both poles. It could look something like two vortex rings, back-to-back, one feeding the other.

I don't think there is any vibration, as such, at work in maintaining the tension in the aether around the bar magnet. The bar magnet acts as a conduit for the aether to flow through - in both directions. The bar magnet allows the stuff to just keep on flowing. The aether is funnelled through the bar magnet. Is the bar magnet describing surface tension, where its centre is lower than the two poles? Is the bar magnet simply acting as a cold energy sink?

For those who seek eccentricities in nature, I would suggest slicing an apple in half, but do so around its equator. When you open it up, what you get is a five-pointed-star. A pentagram. A clue perhaps?

Many thanks

Friday, 17 April 2009

Square Nebula

A nebula in the form of an almost perfect square that surrounds the hot, massive, highly evolved star MWC 922 in the constellation Serpens. It is similar in appearance but even more symmetric than the Red Rectangle. The Red Square was discovered in 2007 by astronomers Peter Tuthill of the University of Sydney in Australia and James Lloyd of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, using the Hale Telescope at Palomar Observatory and the Keck II telescope in Hawaii.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Pinball Wizard

Go on..... go here.... look around. It's always nice to find out I'm not going completely mad, and that there are others who also "think outside the box". I sometimes get the feeling that if this box was in a room in a house, in a street somewhere, then I would probably find myself in a different town.

What is a soliton? You might ask.

"In mathematics and physics, a soliton is a self-reinforcing solitary wave (a wave packet or pulse) that maintains its shape while it travels at constant speed."

And there's a lovely description of the phenomenon of a soliton, as given by John Scott Russell (1808 – 1882) who observed a solitary wave in the Union Canal in Scotland. He reproduced the phenomenon in a wave tank and named it the "Wave of Translation".

"I was observing the motion of a boat which was rapidly drawn along a narrow channel by a pair of horses, when the boat suddenly stopped - not so the mass of water in the channel which it had put in motion; it accumulated round the prow of the vessel in a state of violent agitation, then suddenly leaving it behind, rolled forward with great velocity, assuming the form of a large solitary elevation, a rounded, smooth and well-defined heap of water, which continued its course along the channel apparently without change of form or diminution of speed. I followed it on horseback, and overtook it still rolling on at a rate of some eight or nine miles (14 km) an hour, preserving its original figure some thirty feet long and a foot to a foot and a half in height. Its height gradually diminished, and after a chase of one or two miles (3 km) I lost it in the windings of the channel. Such, in the month of August 1834, was my first chance interview with that singular and beautiful phenomenon which I have called the Wave of Translation".

Now there's something about the description of how the boat sets-up the wave - it sounds a bit like a plunger being pulled on a pinball machine; better yet, the rubber diaphragm at the back of a box which creates smoke rings. Smoke rings are great for school experiments. I am quoting from an amiable site which promotes school experiments:

"The box is placed on its side, and the side with the sheet is given a tap with the hand as one would beat a drum. A smoke ring vortex should be emitted from the hole and travel across the room. The process can be repeated as often as desired so long as some smoke remains. After a while the whole room becomes smokey, and visibility is impaired. The first few rings are usually the most dramatic. A fast-moving ring can be produced immediately after a slower one so that it catches up and overtakes the slower one. Two such vortex generators can be constructed and the rings projected toward one another to study their interaction. It should be pointed out that the vortices are there even in the absence of the smoke, whose sole purpose is to render them visible. This can be illustrated by blowing out a candle from across the room.

The mechanism whereby the vortex ring is generated is easy to understand. When the air exits the hole, it is retarded by friction with the rim of the hole causing the air in the center to move forward faster than the air at the edge. If you imagine riding along with the vortex, the air at the center is moving forward and the air at the edge is moving backwards. This leaves a region of reduced pressure in front of the ring at the edge and behind the ring in the center. The extra air in the center front curves outward, and the extra air at the edge in back curves inward to equalize the pressure thus forming the ring.

Vortex rings are quite a common occurrence in nature. Flowing liquids form vortices when they flow too fast down a narrow channel as can be seen by watching a fast-flowing river. Vortices off the wing tips of fast-moving aircraft are a hazard to other planes that inadvertently fly through them. Most people have seen someone who smokes make vortex rings by shaping the mouth in the form of a circle and exhaling gently. It was once thought (incorrectly) that the interaction of atoms and their spectral emission could be understood in terms of vortex motion inside the atom."

It was Helmholtz who first started to experiment with smoke rings. He was interested in how they might explain the behaviour of vortices in the aether. Thomson, Maxwell and Tait all took an interest in further trying to understand vortex rings, and their infinite mathematical ramifications:

"In 1858 Helmholtz published his important paper in Crelle's Journal on the motion of a perfect fluid. Helmholtz's paper Uber Integrale der hydrodynamischen Gleichungen, welche den Wirbelbewegungen entsprechen began by decomposing the motion of a perfect fluid into translation, rotation and deformation. It was this aspect which first interested Tait who saw that by using Hamilton's quaternions he could express the fluid velocity as a "vector function". However the ideas in the paper which eventually led the Scottish mathematical physicists to topological considerations concerned vortex lines and vortex tubes. Helmholtz defined vortex lines as lines coinciding with the local direction of the axis of rotation of the fluid, and vortex tubes as bundles of vortex lines through an infinitesimal element of area. Helmholtz showed that the vortex tubes had to close up and also that the particles in a vortex tube at any given instant would remain in the tube indefinitely so no matter how much the tube was distorted it would retain its shape. "

And you just know that this all has something to do with electricity, and matter, and electromagnetic radiation.... and everything else. Indeed, it appears we could relate a pinball machine plunger to an AC circuit, where the generator is compressing, and expanding an electric grid to create shockwaves in the aether. A U-shaped pinball machine plunger; a plunger with no ball and two ends. I thought the timing of the next paragraph impeccable (If it was a cowboy in a movie it would be swinging those saloon doors wide open, right about now):

"By 1839 Faraday was able to bring forth a new and general theory of electrical action. Electricity, whatever it was, caused tensions to be created in matter. When these tensions were rapidly relieved (i.e., when bodies could not take much strain before “snapping” back), then what occurred was a rapid repetition of a cyclical buildup, breakdown, and buildup of tension that, like a wave, was passed along the substance. Such substances were called conductors. In electrochemical processes the rate of buildup and breakdown of the strain was proportional to the chemical affinities of the substances involved, but again the current was not a material flow but a wave pattern of tensions and their relief. Insulators were simply materials whose particles could take an extraordinary amount of strain before they snapped. Electrostatic charge in an isolated insulator was simply a measure of this accumulated strain. Thus, all electrical action was the result of forced strains in bodies."

Many thanks also:

Makin' Waves

Right now, in this very moment, you and I are immersed in an electric fluid that has been known throughout the ages as the fifth element - the aether. If you look around you though, you might be disappointed to find that there is no obvious sign of it. The Ancient Greeks believed the Universe to be made up of four primary elements - earth, wind, fire and water. These elements the eye can see, but they are nothing but manifestations of the invisible aether. In a funny kind of way, we are surrounded by the most obvious example of the aether. It's in our homes, on our streets, and all around the places in which we work; it's found on airport runways, and on boats out at sea, and it also resides in our brains and central nervous system - I am of course referring to electricity.

An electrical conductor can be thought of as a sponge which absorbs electric fluid straight out of the aether. The magnetic field which surrounds a copper wire carrying an electric current, is really indicative of the stress, or tension, that the wire is generating in the aether. The wire is only able to generate this tension with a power source (either an AC or DC supply). I think this tension arises out of a distortion of the aether. The power source is able to drive a force of repulsion through the aether, like the wake of a speeding boat, it tears a path through the aether. The nature of the aether is balance, the nature of electricity is balance, the electric fluid seeks to restore balance. So the aether folds in to relieve the tension. Once a state of perfect equilibrium is attained around the conductor, then no current will flow. A further inbalance, an increase in tension, is needed to induce the current once more.

This is how an AC supply works - it alternates between generating tension in the electric fluid, which we 'see' as an expanding magnetic field, and also as an expansion in potential difference (voltage), before it collapses into a state of equilibrium(zero point energy). In the UK, AC has a frequency of 50 Hz, therefore the magnetic field associated with the alternating current is expanding, collapsing and changing its polarity 100 times per second. The generator is sucking and blowing 100 times a second. This continual cycle, in an AC circuit at least, generates electric current.

Normal household electricity is a single-phase AC supply. (I will discuss 3 phase-systems in later posts, but the basics given here are still relative). Power stations produce electricity with the aid of a generator. A basic electric generator consists of a square loop of wire on an axle and two magnets. The axle is made to turn by falling water, wind or by steam from the heating of water by burning coal or oil or the heat from nuclear reactions. Spinning the axle moves the loop in the magnetic field, creating an electric current. To maintain a steady flow of current, the polarity of this loop is also alternated. Essentially, it is the number of times the wire loop rotates inside the generator, which designates the frequency of the supply. In the UK, the polarity of the loop of wire inside a generator is alternated 100 times a second. This site provides an excellent working illustration of a basic electric generator:

We are taught that power stations 'pump' the charges that are inside conductors, and it's this wiggle which gives us electricity in our home. I'm pretty sure this idea is wrong. Certainly for an AC circuit, I think the truth is far more stunning. I don't think it's as simple as saying that a turning generator produces electricity. I think of it more as the generator forcibly rotating the polarity of a magnetic field which induces electricity. It just so happens that this magnetic field belongs to an entire electric transmission system - the electric grid.

I think the grid acts as one enormous loop which induces the aether to condense at conductors. Try to think of the grid as being a U-shape, a bit like a skipping rope. The ends of the rope are held inside the power station, while the loop goes out, through the countryside, and into cities, and feeds our homes, and then returns to the power station. The generator is dictating the polarity of the skipping rope. In this way, the grid makes some semblance of being a U-shaped solenoid.

A basic solenoid is a coil of wire, usually in a cylindrical shape. A magnetic field is created by passing an electric current through it. A solenoid behaves like any other electromagnet; by changing the direction of the current the position of the north and south poles can be switched. When the coil is energized it pulls (or sometimes pushes) a metal rod called a plunger. Switching off the current to the coil releases the plunger to do mechanical work. The solenoid works by monopolising on the attraction that exists between unlike poles.

Inasmuch as unlike poles attract, the plunger is attracted toward the hole in the solenoid coil. This attraction tends to pull the plunger into the coil. The coil is sucking the plunger down. As the plunger is pulled into the coil, the magnetic field becomes increasingly shorter and the magnetic lines of force travel the shortest possible distance when the plunger centres itself in the coil. It is here, at the shortest distance between poles, the aether condenses. It is the very tip of the north pole reaching out for the very tip of the south pole, and vice versa, in the aether's desperation to realign itself, and restore equilibrium. It does so with such ferocity, it appears to squish the very fabric of space.

So, think of the electric grid as a solenoid in the shape of a U. The entire network of cables and conductors throughout the system represent the plunger. This obviously makes the plunger immobile, but you can start to imagine the strains, stresses and tensions taking place, as the in-rush of aether begs the conductors to move. At this stage we have an overall impression of compressive force, of suction, of constriction, perhaps. One also has to wonder at the impact from the demand for energy from every load on the grid - from factories, to office blocks, to every appliance in the home - it all needs a piece of the pie.

I picture an iron bar being bent into a U-shape (not by me! I can barely carry a bag of groceries), and seeing the tension and compression taking place throughout the bar. This might seem like a moot point, but the tension and compression are not actually taking place in the iron bar, they take place in the aether. It is the same thing with our grid - tension does not happen in the conductors per se, it all takes place in the aether. The aether prefers balance, and folds in to relieve the tension.

Either pole, north or south, both harness the forces of attraction and repulsion; both poles suck and blow. When the generator dictates a new polarity where the poles are unlike, and there is this fervent attraction for the opposite pole, it appears to suck the aether into conductors. As the generator turns it shall then reach a point where the polarity of the grid is held between two like poles. Two like poles repel. The natural balance of the aether is deformed and disturbed. Something moves out from the generator, and through the conductors, which drives the aether apart.

Magnetic attraction is nature's strong tendency. It can be achieved with only one magnet acting on any ferromagnetic body. As for the repulsion, two magnets are absolutely required. We could say that the magnetic repulsion is just an attempt of the magnets overturn the forces of repulsion into attraction. Is the electric grid being over-turned by a repulsive force to achieve an attraction? A repulsive force which moves out from the generator like a speeding boat, could look something like a shockwave, or even a "soliton". Waves are being made in this fluid in which we are immersed to create energy. Surf's up, dude.

This is something of an aside, but it has been said that an alternating current alternates not only the polarity of the magnetic field, but also the electric field. From experience though, I know that a live cable retains its polarity all the way from the transformer. The live conductor remains 'live' (that's the bloody cable we get a shock from), and the neutral conductor remains 'neutral'. These conductors do not swap polarity. I would summise that current moves out from both poles. It is only the polarity of the magnetic field which is alternated to produce electricity.

Many thanks:
Industrial Electricity and Motor Controls By Mark R. Miller

Sunday, 5 April 2009


Wow. Amazing. Bubble ring. Dolphins. What more can I say?

Thursday, 2 April 2009


On the 13th november, 1845, Faraday wrote: "It was only on the very strongest conviction that Light, Mag & Electricity must be connected that could have led me to resume the subject & persevere through much labour before I found the key. Now all is simplicity itself."

Maxwell's theory showed electricity and magnetism to be so tightly, and symmetrically interrelated as to constitute different facets of a single entity. It's quite a trick to divide the two, isn't it? I've so far worked with the aether being a latent magnetic field, which produces an electric field. After reading more about the notions concerning the aether held by Volta, Maxwell, Franklin, Thomson and Rankine, amongst others, I feel more comfortable imagining the aether as being an electric fluid, which then produces magnetic effects. These magnetic effects amount to the forces of attraction and repulsion. Also, when I observe the properties of hydrogen and helium near absolute zero (such as being a frictionless, super-conducting liquid metal), then working with the aether as an electric fluid seems to make more sense.

A magnetic fluid is almost indescribable. An electric fluid is a bit more manageable. It feels like magnetism describes something of what the aether does, and less about what the actually aether is. It appears then that tensions, or strains, or stress, within the electric fluid generate what we observe as a magnetic field.

In 1861 James Clerk-Maxwell (1831-79) published a mechanical model of the electromagnetic field. Magnetic fields correspond to rotating vortices with particles acting as idle wheels between them. Maxwell summised that these idle wheels "play the role of electricity". In a wire, the particles are free to flow and form an electric current. In space, they serve as counter-rotating idle wheels between vortices to make successive ones turn in the same direction. Maxwell understood that the particles which made-up the idle wheels, did not physically exist as particles. He had simply used them to describe the mechanics of an electromagnetic field. Once he had his calculations of EMR, Maxwell dropped the mechanical explanation, and stuck to the maths. Did Maxwell understand that it was the electric fluid that played the role of everything, both vortices and idle wheels, in the electromagnetic field? Certainly, the aether being an electrical fluid was neither a new or unknown idea.

Already by the 1730s, some natural philosophers began to concieve of the electric fluid as the most essential substance, that which bound all the Universe together in the sense of an aether. William Watson (1715-87) in the late 1740s introduced the notion that the electric fluid was an elastic fluid like air, and he strongly implied that it could have different degrees of compression within a conductor. Concepts of a pressure within the electric fluid became widespread in the 1770s.

In a dissertation written in 1766, Franz Mesmer had propounded the widely accepted theory that a "subtle fluid ...pervades the Universe, and associates all things together in mutual intercourse and harmony." In 1779 Allesandro Volta (1745-1827) through experimental studies, introduced his concept of the experimental studies, introduced his concept of the "degree of electric tension". He concieved the electric fluid to have a "greater tension when it comes to be concentrated in a smaller bulk."

A fluid helps explain the force of attraction. Surface tension is an attractive property of the surface of a liquid. Surface tension is caused by the attraction between the liquid's molecules by various intermolecular forces. In the bulk of the liquid, each molecule is pulled in all directions by neighbouring liquid molecules, resulting in a net force of zero. At the surface of the liquid, the molecules are pulled inwards by other molecules deeper inside the liquid, and are not attracted as intensely by the molecules in the neighbouring medium (be it vacuum, air, or another liquid).

William John Macquorn Rankine (1820-72) had schematized a mechanical theory of the relation between radiant and bodily heat. He supposed that the bare atomic centres, possessing very small mass and exerting attractive forces on one another, constituted the elastic solid aether, whose vibrations propagated waves of light and heat. Normal matter, with its atomic centres dressed in atmospheres of self-repulsive fluid, absorbed radiant energy by somehow converting the wave vibrations of its atomic centres into thermal rotations in the atmospheres.

William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin (or Lord Kelvin) (1824-1907) supported the theory that heat was a form of motion. Electricity he tended to concieve as a fluid, whose accumulations produced tensions in aether and air and currents of which produced the rotational strains of magnetism. He regarded heat, Davy's "repulsive motion", as electricity in motion. Indeed, Thomson was anticipating the arrival of "...a complete theory of matter, in which all its properties will be seen to be merely attributes of motion." Thomson once wrote:

"The explanation of all phenomena of electro-magnetic induction, is to be looked for simply in the inertia and pressure of the matter of which the motions constitute heat. Whether this matter is or not electricity, whether it is a continous fluid impermeating the spaces between molecular nuclei, or is itself molecularly grouped; or whether all matter is continuous, and molecular heterogeneousness consists in finite vortical or other relative motions of contiguous parts of a body; it is impossible to decide, and perhaps in vain to speculate, in the present state of science."

Michael Faraday (1791-1867), unlike his contemporaries, was not convinced that electricity was a material fluid that flowed through wires like water through a pipe. He thought of electricity as a vibration or force that was somehow transmitted as the result of tensions created in the conductor. Faraday's conviction that an electric current gives rise to lines of magnetic force arose from his idea that electricity was a form of vibration and not a moving fluid. A current thus appeared to be the setting-up of a state of tension in the wire, OR the collapse of such a state. Faraday christened this special state inside the wire, the "electrotonic state". In his worldview, space was occupied by fields comprising "lines of force".

Faraday saw the "lines of force", which are revealed by sprinkling iron filings on a sheet of paper held over a magnet, not only as geometrical lines but also as physical lines stretched elastic bands with an extra sideways repulsion. For him, these physical stresses could be used to explain magnetic force. The idea of magnets inducing some kind of strain in their surroundings was of great importance.

Sometimes, as much as Faraday did not want to use the term 'aether', it appears that the aether is exactly what he is describing. It's almost as if he is aware that space is an electric fluid, but refuses to use the words 'aether', or 'electric fluid' to illustrate his ideas. Later, Maxwell argued that the fluid would flow from source to sink precisely the same lines as Faraday's "lines of force". In fact, the "lines of force" (or rather the space between the lines) could be considered exactly as thin tubes of steadily-flowing, continuous, incompressible fluid.

In 1855, when Faraday was sixty-four, he told his niece, Constance Reid, "How few understand the physical line of force! They will not see them, yet all the researches on the subject tend to confirm the views I put forth many years since. Thomson of Glasgow seems almost the only one who understands them. He is perhaps the nearest to understanding what I meant. I am content to wait, convinced as I am of the truth of my views."

Tellingly, it was Thomson who went on to create a hypothesis based on the aether. In April 1867, in a formal paper 'On vortex motion', Thomson began to publish mathematical foundations for "...the hypothesis, that space is continuously occupied by an incompressible frictionless liquid acted on by no force, and that material phenomena of every kind depend solely on motions created in this liquid".

Perhaps Faraday was influenced in his thinking by time served under Davy. Sir Humphry Davy (1778-1829) supplied the argument that heat is not matter, but "repulsive motion". He recognised that heat was behind the repulsive force "which prevents the actual contact of the corpuscles of bodies". Davy's wrote: "The phenomena of repulsion have been supposed, by the greater part of chemical philosophers to depend on a peculiar elastic fluid; to which the names of latent heat, and caloric, have been given." He was able to summise that the "motion or vibration of the corpuscles of bodies must be necessarily generated by friction and percussion. Therefore, we may reasonably conclude that this motion or vibration is heat, or the repulsive power."

At first it might appear that Davy was trying to dispel all notions of the aether. I don't think this was quite the case. His biographer, Dr J A Paris, attributes Davy as saying "The electric fluid is considered as light in a condensed state" and "that the great quantity of this fluid almost everywhere diffused over our earth..."

Maybe Davy was resolved to dispel ideas about heat being a material thing. In doing so, it removes all possibility that heat has any potential energy. Indeed, if heat is not matter, where then is matter gaining its energy from to generate heat? I think "repulsive motion" can quite easily slip into being one of the properties of an electric fluid. If anything, I think Davy was trying to confirm that heat was brought from outside the material world, through vibration, from the aether.

It could be said that Davy and Faraday share similar notions about the importance of vibration, and its impact on the material world. Faraday believed that these vibrations were responsible for electricity, and Davy thought them responsible for heat. For those that have held a cable which feeds an over-loaded electric shower, and had that awful whiff of burning rubber, will be all too familiar with the reality that electrical resistance creates heat.

I shall end this post with a question posed by Thomson, which was enough to raise both my eyebrows (Roger Moore stylie) and that is, "What is centrifugal force but a repulsive motion?" So, if the 'cold' electric fluid acts out centripetal forces as it enters the vortex, it then appears to be heated as it exits as a centrifugal force. Heat... vibration... repulsion..... hmmmm.

Many thanks:
Great Physicists, By William H. Cropper
The Life of Sir Humphry Davy, By John Ayrton Paris

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Around A Corner

Been out hunting on the web, and found this wabbit...

History of Science, by Henry Smith Williams (1863 - 1943)

"In the early days of his discovery Young thought of the undulations which produce light and radiant heat as being longitudinal - a forward and backward pulsation, corresponding to the pulsations of sound - and as such pulsations can be transmitted by a fluid medium with the properties of ordinary fluids, he was justified in thinking of the ether as being like a fluid in its properties, except for its extreme intangibility. But about 1818 the experiments of Fresnel and Arago with polarization of light made it seem very doubtful whether the theory of longitudinal vibrations is sufficient, and it was suggested by Young, and independently conceived and demonstrated by Fresnel, that the luminiferous undulations are not longitudinal, but transverse; and all the more recent experiments have tended to confirm this view. But it happens that ordinary fluids - gases and liquids - cannot transmit lateral vibrations; only rigid bodies are capable of such a vibration. So it became necessary to assume that the luminiferous ether is a body possessing elastic rigidity - a familiar property of tangible solids, but one quite unknown among fluids.

The idea of transverse vibrations carried with it another puzzle. Why does not the ether, when set aquiver with the vibration which gives us the sensation we call light, have produced in its substance subordinate quivers, setting out at right angles from the path of the original quiver? Such perpendicular vibrations seem not to exist, else we might see around a corner; how explain their absence? The physicist could think of but one way: they must assume that the ether is incompressible. It must fill all space - at any rate, all space with which human knowledge deals - perfectly full."