Hydrogen From Space - The Aether 'Comes Alive'
In a recent article published in Infinite Energy magazine, Paul E. Rowe asks the question, whether hydrogen, which can be produced from the vacuum of space by electrical discharge, might become an unexpected source of clean energy. See An Unexpected Source of Clean Energy? as well as a more recent addition not yet in print An Unexpected Source of Clean Energy? Part II.
Rowe, a chemist who has done much work with explosives, noted that hydrogen gas kept being produced in some of his experiments involving explosives and aluminium powder detonated in vacuum. A literature search then revealed that the effect had been observed before, but apparently scientists did not want to touch or deal with that anomaly, for fear of "losing it" with their colleagues.
There were some exceptions: Surprise hydrogen was found and reported by Nobel laureate Sir J. J. Thomson, by Clarence A. Skinner of the University of Nebraska and of course by Rowe in his own experiments. Once alternative explanations such as dissolved gases in the metal of the cathode or the container, and infiltration of air from the outside were ruled out, the only source of the hydrogen would have had to be the very matrix of space.
Rowe proposes that space may be filled with a dense matrix of electrons and protons, building blocks of matter in a pre-matter state, and that energetic events could precipitate the hydrogen and sometimes other gases found in the experiments.
"I am convinced that hydrogen gas has been created from vacuum. This leads me to suspect that vacuum contains something from which hydrogen can be produced. Other observations led me to suspect that vacuum contains a concentrated matrix of protons and electrons. Such a matrix, the aether, agrees with the ideas of Huygens and Maxwell on the nature of light. The presence of unpaired electrons in the matrix permits simple explanations for the forces between magnets separated by vacuum."
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My first glimpse of the experiments of Paul Rowe was when I read a series of three articles, published in Infinite Energy. (# 17, December 1997/January 1998) and I thought the matter quite intriguing. Now, we have the recent paper An Unexpected Source of Clean Energy? and an autobiographical play Rowe wrote about his discoveries. In the play, he converses in his dreams with several of the scientists who found similar things before him but who are not allowed - by the rules of 'the other world' - to reveal anything they found out after death. I found the play quite amusing, in addition to being a good record of the discovery, so I am posting it here in the second part of the article.
Unfortunately, no more than a few mentions of Rowe's discovery seem to have made it onto the net. I am posting what I have in electronic format, but if anyone has access to one or the other of Rowe's articles and can scan them, please send them along to post here.
Paul Rowe can be contacted by email and he is quite willing to send paper copies of the articles he published, but if anyone has a possibility of scanning and sending them in pdf format, I would be very happy to publish those here to make them more generally available.
In May 2008, Paul sent a shorter version of the play, introducing it with the following words:
In 2004, I wrote a play, "The Fall and Rise of the House of Cards". It included conversations I had (in dreams) with various deceased scientists. The play was so long and so dull that no one could read more than six pages and stay awake. The play suggests the knowable universe is permeated with a concentrated matrix of protons and unpaired electrons, possibly Bose-Einstein condensed hydrogen. Could this be "Dark Matter" and/or the ether of classical physics? This paper My Conversations With Einstein includes the beginning of Act II and my conversations with Albert Einstein.
I hope someone will be able to read this part of the play. If anyone has trouble sleeping, I will send him or her the entire play.
Well, here is the entire play, if you have time and are inclined... you don't need to ask Paul for it.
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The Fall and Rise of the House of Cards
Act I, Scene I
Explosives Laboratory, Hanover, MA, 1959
The curtain parts to reveal an almost empty stage. There is a lab bench at the center of the stage. On the bench is a vacuum pump, which is attached to a cylindrical steel chamber through a valve on the chamber. A mercury manometer is attached to another valve on the chamber.
At the left of the table is a steel plate about 7 feet high and 4 feet wide. Lined up against the back wall of the stage are many 2 5/8 by 3 1/2 foot playing cards.
At the top back center of the stage is a screen on which pertinent information can be projected. The words, “Explosives Laboratory, Hanover, Mass., 1959” are on the screen as the curtain opens. Pertinent information and/or diagrams will appear on the screen throughout the play, as required.
Enter Paul and his boss (Charlie). (As they approach the bench, they put on safety goggles.)
Paul: Last week I performed several experiments in this chamber using 20 mm. rounds loaded with various explosives. Prior to each explosion, I calculated the gas pressure I expected, based on the weight, chemical composition of the explosives and the gases expected. In each case, the pressure, when the chamber cooled,was quite close to the calculated value.
This week I have been testing the same explosives mixed with aluminum flake. Each experiment produced much more gas than is theoretically possible. At first, I employed just enough aluminum to react with the atoms in the explosive. When I reduced the explosive content and increased the aluminum content, I got much more gas. At first, I figured that gas adsorbed in the inside walls of the chamber, prior to the test, was released during the explosion. If this were the case, you’d expect to obtain less and less gas as more experiments were performed in the chamber. That didn’t happen.
Charlie: Obviously there is something wrong with your analysis, Paul. Perhaps the extra gas is air that was adsorbed in the chamber walls between experiments.
Paul: I thought that might be the case, so I repeated one of the experiments but this time I heated the chamber to about 100 degrees C., while it was being evacuated and then evacuated the chamber for another hour as it cooled. This didn’t reduce the amount of gas produced in the experiment.
Charlie: Well there is a simple explanation that has eluded you. Now, let me see if I understand the experiment you are about to show me. You made up three pellets of explosive-aluminum flake mixture and placed them in a 20 mm shell. You made one pellet of pure explosive, placed it on top of the other pellets and applied pressure to the top pellet to compact the assembly by the standard technique. You fixed a blasting cap to the top pellet and attached the blasting cap wires to the inside portion of the insulated electrodes that led through the chamber. The blasting cap wires are of such a length that the round is suspended vertically in the center of the chamber.
Paul: That’s right. The pellets contain much more aluminum flake than should be required to react with all the chemicals in the shell and blasting cap. While the system was evacuating, the chamber was heated for an hour. Evacuation has been continuing as the chamber approached room temperature. You can see that the manometer indicates a perfect vacuum, which actually indicates a vacuum of 1 mm. of mercury or less. The valve to the vacuum pump has been closed for ten minutes and the reading hasn’t changed; so there is very little leakage or out gassing. I am closing the valve to the manometer, to prevent mercury from being shot throughout the lab. (Charlie walks behind the steel barrier as Paul closes the valve). Now I’ll attach this “ten shot”(picture of a ten-shot appears on the screen) to the outside portion of the electrodes. (Paul carries the “ten shot” with him behind the barrier.)
Paul (loudly.) Preparing to fire. (He waits 5 seconds.) Firing: Three—Two—One -- FIRE! (He twists the ten shot). A muffled boom is heard through the theater. (They walk to the bench and each of them carefully touches the chamber with a finger.)
Paul: See, Charlie. The explosion has increased the temperature considerably.
Charlie: Of course it has. I hope you don’t expect me to hang around here while this thing cools down.
Paul: Certainly not! I’ll get you in about a half an hour, when the chamber is cool enough that I can safely open the valve to the manometer.
Charlie: OK. (Charlie walks off left)
Paul: (Turning to the audience.) Charlie’s the boss. I have to be nice to him. I’m sure you can entertain yourselves for the next half hour. (Walks over to the table and starts writing in his notebook. After five seconds. He scratches his head as if thinking. Looks at the audience.)
Paul: I was thinking. Time is supposed to be relative. I guess it is. It sneaks up on you when you least expect it. It’s not so bad though. It never asks for money! (Looks at his watch.) Oh! Look! How time flies. I’ll go get Charlie. (Walks off stage left.) (Returns with Charlie.)
Charlie: It can’t be at room temperature already.
Paul: No it’s slightly warm. It’s safe to open the valve to the manometer, now. The pressure will be just slightly higher than it will be at equilibrium. I’ll take a preliminary reading and the final reading in another hour. (Paul opens the valve and reads the manometer.) See! We calculated that the pressure would be 193 mm. of mercury, but its actually 302 mm. I can’t imagine what the extra gas can be, unless there is a gas containing aluminum that no one has ever heard of.
Charlie: Well I admit to being stumped but I’m sure that you’ve made an error somewhere.
Paul: Most likely. If it’s OK with you, I’d like to send a sample of the gas out for analysis.
Charlie: This project won’t be renewed and there’s very little money left. I can’t let you have a mass spectrograph taken, but I’ll ok a simple gas analysis.
Paul: Thanks. I’ll send out three samples.
Charlie: Fine. (Charlie walks off left.)
Paul: (turns to audience) I suppose you don’t want to wait two weeks; so I’ll relativity up time, again. Oh. Look! The results just came in. (Picks up an envelope from the bench, opens it, removes a sheet of paper and reads it.) The relative quantities of oxygen, water, carbon monoxide, ammonia and carbon dioxide are reasonable. There are tiny traces of some organic compounds but the nitrogen content is way high. What’s this asterisk? Let’s see. (Reading) “We did not test for nitrogen. Any gas which is not among those listed was assumed to be nitrogen”. (To the audience.) This is crazy! I can’t account for much of the gas that they have included under nitrogen. This analysis doesn’t explain the extra gas. I’m going away for a few years. While I’m gone, you try to figure it out. (Paul walks off stage left scratching his head.)
Act I, Scene II
Basement of Victorian House, Sharon, MA 1980
The curtain opens to reveal an almost bare stage. The large playing cards are still in the background. There are just enough props to suggest that the set is in a basement. Paul is sitting at a desk (center stage) entering data in his notebook. A bench (stage left) is set up for experimentation. There is a cot (stage right). Paul notices the audience. He faces the audience.
Paul: Oh! Hi. You missed quite a lot during the last 21 years. I’ll try to bring you up to date on happenings that affect this play. Kate and I had three children. It’s ok. She’s my wife. She’s great (Catherine the Great.) but she’s not at all scientific. You probably won’t meet her. Well, anyway, having children and working with explosives didn’t seem like a good idea. One clue was large extra payments for life insurance. So I changed jobs. The new job wasn’t as exciting but it was lots safer and, to be honest, more interesting. I was involved in products mostly for the electronics industry. We developed plastic and ceramic materials that had special electrical properties. Some of the materials were sold to other manufacturers. We used many of the materials in producing products like radar absorbers or lenses and reflectors for radar. This forced me to learn something about electricity, magnetism, light and other aspects of physics.
I didn’t tell you that my training was in chemistry. It was a great help in developing materials but I had to apply principals of physics to convert the materials to useful products.
I was still intrigued by the extra gas I had obtained in Scene I and wanted to find out what was going on. Since I had some lucky stock investments, I was able to take this year off. I spent part of the year in the MIT Science Library trying to find whether others had reported similar results. I have already learned that after World War II, articles in physics journals became more and more specialized and less and less readable. Luckily, most of the information I wanted was reported prior to World War II. Don’t get me wrong. These articles require considerable study but, with effort, I could study them; sleep on them; read them again and then convince myself that I understood them. Please excuse me. I am about to enter the sleeping mode.
(Paul walks over to the cot. Lies down. Puts his head on a pillow and pulls up the covers.) (After 5 seconds, he lifts his head and turns to the audience.)
Paul: Oh! By the way, Catherine the Great says that I snore. I do not snore. If I fall asleep, I’ll ask you to corroborate that when I awake. (Puts his head on the pillow. Falls asleep. Snores loudly.)
(During dream sequences, Paul may get out of the cot and move around the stage, as required.)
(The lighting on the stage becomes somewhat blue indicating a dream sequence. An early 20 th. century Englishman enters stage left, shakes Paul roughly and says) “Wake up! Wake Up.” (Paul stops snoring and wakes up.)
Paul: What’s the matter?
Englishman: You are snoring so loudly that you’re disturbing the saints in heaven. St. Peter sent me down to shut you up.
Paul: Heaven? Who in hell are you?
Englishman: My name is J. Norman Collie.
Paul: If you were a Fellow of the Royal Society, I recently read a speech you gave to the society in 1913.
Collie: (Brightening up) Really! What did you think of it?
Paul: Well, to be honest. It was very interesting, but strange.
Collie: What did you find strange.
Paul: As I recall, you passed very high voltage electrical discharges through very low pressure gases and reported the appearance of gas atoms and molecules. In some experiments, helium appeared. In others helium and neon appeared. In some cases, hydrogen appeared, and in others disappeared. It was weird.
Collie: Let me point out that Patterson and also Masson reported similar results and we had all worked independently. After hearing about each other’s results we published a paper together summarizing our results.
Paul: Yes I’ve read all those papers. I’ve also read two papers by scientists who were unable to repeat those results.
Collie: That is true. Actually, we reported that we couldn’t always repeat our results. I was convinced that the results were correct but that some unknown variable needed to be controlled.
Paul: I came across those papers while trying to determine the source of unexpected gases I had obtained. For a while, I thought that the medium (aether), in which many scientists, of your day still believed carried light, might be helium. This would mean the whole knowable universe is permeated with helium. It pleased me to think that the most important thing in the universe was capital H small e, which in this form is the pronoun we use for God.
Collie: That’s great! I’ll tell Him! It will give Him a big kick. I have to leave now. Sleep quietly, for heaven’s sake. (Collie leaves as he entered. Paul nods off and starts snoring, loudly.)
(A man walks on stage right. He is dressed like a 1920s professor of science. He walks over to and shakes Paul).
Man: Will you please wake up? (Paul wakes with a start and stops snoring)
Paul: What on earth are you doing?
Man: You mean, what am I doing on earth. Professor Collie sent me with instructions to keep you talking so you will stay awake. My name is Gerald Wendt.
Paul: Were you a professor at the University of Chicago?
Man: That’s right.
Paul: What a coincidence. I recently read an interesting paper of yours in the 1922 Journal of the American Chemical Society.
Wendt: Do you really think that this is a coincidence.
Paul: (In a Loud whisper.) Quiet, I don’t want the audience to learn that this play is rigged. As I recall, you and Clarence Irion exploded tungsten wires in one atmosphere pressure of carbon dioxide using high voltages and currents, in an effort to produce helium. After each explosion, you dissolved the carbon dioxide in a potassium hydroxide solution and collected the gas that remained. You tested the gas for possible decomposition products of carbon dioxide but all the tests were negative.
Wendt: That is correct. We intended to perform further tests on a 20 cc. sample of the gas that we kept, but the sample was lost through accident. We performed 21 experiments. The results were quite erratic because we couldn’t get consistent explosions, but we obtained some of the gas in each explosion. The volume under standard conditions varied from 0.35 to 3.62 cc. The average volume was 1.01 cc., while the weight of the tungsten filament was 0.7 13 milligrams. If all of the tungsten atoms had disintegrated into helium, 4.0 cc. of helium would have been produced.
Paul: You would have an even harder time now, than you had then, convincing scientists that you had converted tungsten into helium. Did you, by any chance, test the gas for hydrogen?
Wendt: Why would we test for hydrogen? There was no hydrogen in the system.
Paul: When I detonated explosives containing aluminum flake in vacuum, I obtained much more gas than was theoretically possible and I am starting to wonder if that gas was hydrogen. There are similarities in our experiments. In each case, fine particles of molten metal were flying through a gas that contained carbon dioxide. Did you perform any further experiments along this line?
Wendt: No. I intended to, but I had some difficulty. Previous to the article being published I had given an oral presentation to a meeting of the American Chemical Society. Regretfully, an exaggerated account of the speech was given wide publicity through the Associated Press. In any case, my health failed and I was told to rest completely for at least a year.
Paul: Yes. You included that information in a footnote. I doubt that you could include such personal information in a scientific article, today.
Wendt: I have to leave now. Professor Collie has been arranging for other visitors to keep you awake. I’ve enjoyed our dialog. Now don’t go back to sleep. (As Wendt leaves another man enters. They nod to each other.)
Wendt: This is George Winchester of Washington and Jefferson College. I’m sure you will find him interesting.
Paul: (to Wendt) Goodbye and thank you. I certainly found your papers interesting. (To Winchester). Good Evening. I studied your article in the 1914 Physical Reviews. This is too strange to be coincidental. I suspect that Professor Collie is trying to help me.
Winchester: Of course, you are right. Since our deaths we have learned the truth about these matters but we are not permitted to tell the living. We can however discuss anything we had published, within certain limits.
Paul: That seems fair. I will describe your experiments and hope you will stop me if I make an error.
Winchester: Go ahead. I’ll enjoy this.
Paul: Here goes. You prepared glass tubes adapted with pure aluminum electrodes. There was a very short gap between the electrodes. While evacuating the system, you heated the tube with a flame to almost the softening temperature of the glass in an effort to remove adsorbed gasses. When the tube cooled, you applied about 100,000 volts across the electrodes. The initial pressure in the tube was about one millionth of an atmosphere. You measured the pressure of the gas in the tube at various times and plotted the results. The pressure increased as the experiment progressed and continued to increase as long as the discharge continued. You analyzed the gas with a spectroscope. Initially the gas contained hydrogen, helium and neon. After a time, however only hydrogen was produced. You pointed out that hydrogen was evolved as long as long as any metal remained in the tube.
Winchester: Correct. Those conclusions were based on the results of several experiments performed under various conditions.
Paul: You suggested that the gases had probably been occluded in the metal electrodes. The helium and neon were probably near the surface of the metal and were released quickly, but hydrogen probably permeated the metal and was released over a longer period.
Paul: Weren’t you surprised at the quantity of hydrogen you obtained?
Winchester: Does it say that in my article?
Winchester: I’m not allowed to comment.
Paul; How about a hint?
Winchester: Collie told you where we come from. Do you think we got there by disobeying the rules?
Paul: I suppose not. I won’t press you further. Can you wait a minute? Nature is calling. (Paul leaves the stage).
(Winchester looks toward the audience)
Winchester: I didn’t hear anything. Did you? Oh. I see! Well it’s a long time since I was a food processor. You know, it is great knowing the answers but it’s frustrating not being able to help Paul more. However, I find that frustration isn’t nearly as unpleasant as it used to be. (Paul returns).
Paul: Sorry to leave you like that. I hope you didn’t give away the plot to the audience while I was gone.
Winchester: Don’t worry. I didn’t. There wasn’t time.
Paul: I’ll give them a clue. I don’t expect you to confirm it.
Winchester: I won’t.
Paul: I suspect that vacuum is not a void and whatever is in vacuum can be converted into hydrogen under surprisingly mild conditions.
Winchester: No comment.
(An English gentleman enters and pats Winchester on the back.)
Gentleman: Hello George. I am here to relieve you.
Winchester: Thank you J.J. Meet Paul. He just relieved himself. (To Paul) This is Sir J.J. Thomson. He can help you if anybody can. (Winchester leaves).
Paul: Thank you George. It was a pleasure.
Paul: (To Thomson). I am honored to meet one of the greatest experimenters in history. Let me tell the audience something about you. (Paul turns to the audience). The 1989 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica describes his work in a long article. It credits him with helping to revolutionize the knowledge of atomic structure by discovering the electron in 1896. He received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1906 and was knighted in 1908. The article lists many other achievements including the fact that he was an outstanding teacher and that his importance in physics depended almost as much on the work he inspired in others as on that which he did himself. Here is a direct quote from the article: (pretends to be reading an imaginary book.)
“Following the great discoveries of the 19th century in electricity, magnetism, and thermodynamics, many physicists in the 1880s were saying that their science was coming to an end like an exhausted mine. By 1900, however, only elderly conservatives held this view, and by 1914 a new physics was in existence, which raised, indeed more questions than it could answer. The new physics was wildly exciting to those who, lucky enough to be engaged in it, saw its boundless possibilities. Probably not more than a half dozen great physicists were associated with this change. Although not everyone would have listed the same names, the majority of those qualified to judge would have included Thomson.”
Thomson: You embarrass me. Are you sure that isn’t my eulogy.
Paul: Yes. I’m sure. I am also sure that your work will continue to affect science for a long time to come. Anyway, you must have heard your own eulogy.
Thomson: No comment.
Paul: We’d better get down to business before you have to leave. I would like to discuss some of your work that led your colleague, Aston, to develop of the mass spectrometer. Here is my simplified description of the process: (Diagram appears on the screen.) You transferred gas at low pressure into an evacuated discharge tube. You increased the voltage between the electrodes until some gas particles in the tube absorbed enough energy to dissociate into positive ions and electrons. Some of these particles recombined releasing energy in the form of light. That caused the tube to glow. This is the principle of the, so-called, neon sign. You employed very low pressure so some of the particles produced did not recombine. Electrons accelerated toward the positive electrode and positive ions accelerated toward the negative electrode where they picked up an electron and formed atoms or molecules. Your negative electrode had a tiny hole that led, through a straight tube, to a second evacuated chamber. A small portion of the positive ions went through the hole in the electrode and headed into the second chamber. These ions passed through electric and magnetic fields that altered their paths. The heavier the ion and the smaller its charge, the less its path was altered. The second chamber contained a carefully positioned photographic plate. Ions that struck the plate caused a chemical change in the emulsion. You developed and analyzed the plate and were able to determine the weight and a rough concentration of each ion by the position and density of its affect on the plate. You referred to the ion stream as a positive ray.
Thomson: That’s a good description. As you said, it was more complicated but that’s the gist of it.
Paul: Thank you. (Takes out an imaginary sheet of paper) I have copied this quote from a 1920 article you wrote for Nature. You had pointed out that you were unable to obtain a plate in which the hydrogen line was absent. Here is the quote:
“I would like to direct attention to the analogy between the effect just described and an everyday experience with discharge tubes — I mean the difficulty of getting these tubes free from hydrogen when the test is made by a sensitive method like that of positive rays. Though you may heat the glass tube to the melting point, may dry the gases by liquid air or cooled charcoal, and free the gases you let into the tube as carefully as you will from hydrogen, you will get hydrogen lines by the positive ray method, even when the bulb has been running several hours a day for nearly a year.”
Thomson: I admit that not being able to eliminate hydrogen bothered me greatly.
Paul: Did you consider that you might have somehow been producing hydrogen in the discharge tube?
Thomson: I am not allowed to answer that. I can say that I considered many causes for the hydrogen and rejected all of them. (A man enters the stage).
Thomson: It must be time for me to leave. Here comes Clarence Skinner. It is his turn to keep you awake.
Paul: Welcome, Professor Skinner. I would like to talk with Professor Thomson for just a minute before introducing you to the audience.
Skinner: If its all right with him its all right with me.
Thomson: Please be quick.
Paul: You found that the mass of the electron is about 1860 times less than the mass of the hydrogen atom.
Thomson. That is true.
Paul: It is believed that the hydrogen atom is made up of a proton and electron. So, the mass of the proton is about 1860 times the mass of the electron.
Thomson: I don’t think any reputable physicist would disagree with that. (Thomson starts to leave.)
Thomson: Goodbye and good luck.
Paul: It was a great privilege discussing these matters with you.
Skinner: There goes a wonderful gentleman.
Paul: I agree, but you are the person I most wanted to meet. (To the audience.) This is Professor Clarence A. Skinner of the University of Nebraska. He performed many very interesting electrical discharge experiments early in the twentieth century. I particularly want to discuss results he reported in the Physical Review of 1905.
Skinner: That article was referred to in many of the papers you discussed previously.
Paul: I know. That’s how I found it. It includes many surprising experimental results. As usual, I will try to summarize what interested me most. (Picks up an imaginary paper.) This is a copy of your paper. I will read the first two paragraphs.
“While making an experimental study of the cathode fall (voltage drop at the negative electrode) of various metals in helium it was observed that no matter how carefully the gas was purified the hydrogen radiation, tested spectroscopically, persistently appeared in the cathode (negative electrode) glow. Simultaneously with this appearance there was also a continuous increase in the gas pressure with time of discharge. This change in gas pressure was remarkable because of its being much greater than that which had been observed under the same conditions with either nitrogen, oxygen or hydrogen. Now the variation in the cathode fall with current density and with gas pressure in helium was found to be so like that obtained earlier with hydrogen that it appeared necessary to maintain the helium free of the latter in order to make sure that the hydrogen present was not the factor causing this similarity in the results. Futile endeavors to attain this condition led to the present investigation, which locates the source of hydrogen in the cathode, shows that the quantity of hydrogen evolved by a fresh cathode obeys Faraday’s law for electrolysis, and that a fresh anode (positive electrode) absorbs hydrogen according to the same law.”
Skinner: Yes. I wrote that, except for your three asides.
Paul: First let’s discuss the effect you noted with the different gases. This quote is from the body of your paper:
“If now hydrogen is liberated from the cathode in all gases we should expect in nitrogen an increase in gas pressure arising from the formation of ammonia, which takes place when a discharge passes through a mixture of nitrogen and hydrogen. In this case the rate of increase in gas pressure, compared with that in helium, is small since six atoms of hydrogen would be required to change one molecule of nitrogen into two molecules of ammonia, while in chemically inactive helium one new molecule of gas is formed from two atoms of hydrogen. Likewise with oxygen water vapor would be formed and absorbed in the dryer, in which case, four atoms of hydrogen would cause a decrease of one molecule in the gas filling.”
Paul: I quoted this part because it confirms that the gas you produced was, indeed, hydrogen.
Skinner: I agree, that is the reason it was included in the article. Why didn’t you finish the paragraph?
Paul: Because I don’t agree with your explanation for the lack of pressure increase in hydrogen. It is my play and I intend to keep control of it.
Skinner: Well, I would like to hear your ideas on this matter.
Paul: I would be glad to discuss this some other time. You must realize that most members of the audience do not have a scientific background. I’m probably losing their attention as it is.
Skinner: All right. It’s your play. Continue.
Paul: The original quote stated that hydrogen was evolved at the cathode and that the initial rate of evolution obeyed Faraday’s law of electrolysis. That suggests that for each electron that leaves the cathode, a hydrogen atom is formed. The same is true when hydrogen is produced by the electrolysis of water. In the case of water, the hydrogen comes from the water. We don’t believe that there was any hydrogen in your tube. If there were free protons in the tube, hydrogen would be produced at the rate you found. Do you have a comment?
Skinner: Only that such an idea would not have been accepted in 1905. At that time, I believed that the hydrogen was present in the cathode and that the electrical conditions caused the hydrogen to be released into the discharge tube.
Paul: My suggestion is not popular today, either. I am surprised that you didn’t stress your observation that tarnish appeared on the surface of all metal cathodes during your experiments. This is further evidence for production of a gas other than helium during discharge.
Skinner: I thought that was quite obvious.
Paul: Here is another quote from your paper:
“An endeavor was made to deplete the metals of their supply of hydrogen by passing from them as cathode a current for a sufficient length of time, but after a time this rate begins to drop off until the pressure appears to have reached a constant maximum value. Silver was depleted in this way giving off about two tenths of a cubic centimeter (measured at atmospheric pressure) of hydrogen. The current was then broken and the hydrogen absorbed by the Na,K (Sodium, Potassium) cathode. After standing in helium overnight then tested again the next morning it was found to have a new supply equal to the one given up the day before. Without allowing it any chance of regaining hydrogen from an external source it was thus depleted six or eight times during the course of two weeks and found to give off at each time about the same amount of gas.”
Did you believe that your silver cathode could have contained that much hydrogen?
Skinner: I’ll admit to having been surprised. I was convinced that the hydrogen was produced at the cathode and that the helium in the tube was pure. It seemed to be the only reasonable conclusion.
Paul: Here is a quote discussing the same experiment:
“Altogether about two cubic centimeters of gas have been given off by this silver disk, which is 15 mm. in diameter and about one mm. thick. It shows no sign of having its supply of hydrogen reduced in the least.”Did you believe that you could obtain an infinite quantity of hydrogen if you continued the experiment indefinitely.
Skinner: No, but I believed that the silver disk contained much more hydrogen than I had removed.
Paul: I can understand that. Let me discuss an article in the 1928 Proceedings of the Royal Society, London. It was written by E.W.R. Stearcie and F. M. G. Johnson of McGill University and titled, “The Solubility of Hydrogen in Silver”. It is an exhaustive study of the subject. Based on their findings, I calculated that you produced thousands of times more hydrogen from that silver cathode than it could have contained.
Skinner: Well that is very interesting. I would like to comment but I can’t. Anyway, it’s getting light out and I have to leave.
Paul: I’d like to make the following comment: You mentioned that, on standing overnight between these experiments, the tarnish fell from the silver cathode leaving a clean metallic surface. Did you know that silver hydride is unstable and soon decomposes into silver and hydrogen.
Skinner: I can’t answer that.
Paul: I am sorry we don’t have more time. Your paper is the most interesting that I ever studied. There is lot’s more in it that I would like to discuss.
Skinner: It will have to wait, unless you are dieing to discuss it.
Paul: I think I’ll wait. Your results have convinced me that there is something in vacuum that can be converted into hydrogen gas.
Skinner: No comment (Skinner leaves and Paul returns to the cot and snores so loudly that he wakes himself. (The light becomes normal again.)
Paul: (To audience, remembers where he is.) See, I told you that I don’t snore. (Curtain closes on Act I, Scene II)
Act I, Scene III
Basement of a new house, Mashpee, MA, 1996
Curtain opens to reveal a basement with two lab benches, a desk, a cot and several pieces of lab equipment. The large cards and the projection screen are still in the background. Paul is sitting at the desk. He scans the audience and appears concerned.
Paul: (To audience) Welcome back. I’m confused! Am I the only one who has aged in the last 37 years. A few years ago, Kate and I moved this new house on Cape Cod. This is my new laborato...
Kate: (off stage) Paul. Mort and his friends are here.
Paul: I knew Kate would work her way into my play, somehow. Excuse me.
Paul: (To Kate) Great! Send them down. (Enter Mort, Curley and Larry). (Mort looks like and is a distinguished businessman. Curly and Larry are also successful but still, somehow, resemble two of the three stooges. They didn’t, but it is time for some comic relief and I forget their real names.)
Mort: Paul, meet two of my college classmates, Curley and Larry Zart. We became reacquainted yesterday at our 50th MIT reunion.
Paul: Pleased to meet you. Where is Moe.
Curley: Hello Paul. Do you know our brother Moe?
Paul: No. I was just fooling. Everyone admires Moe Zart.
Larry: (Grabbing and pulling Curley’s nose with one hand, hitting his own hand with his other hand. This results in a usual 3 Stooges noise). That was a joke, Curley. (Shakes one of his hands in disgust.) Anybody got a handkerchief. (Paul takes a roll of paper towels from a bench, tears off a sheet and hands it to Larry. Larry wipes his hands and throws the paper into a wastebasket). (To Curley) You’re such a slob.
Mort: Stop playing around. If you pay attention, Paul will show you a very interesting experiment.
Larry: I’m already impressed with this laboratory. How did you get all of this equipment?
Paul: I got much of it from sealed bid auctions of Raytheon’s surplus equipment. The bids were quite low on most large complicated pieces of equipment. For example, I got this portable lab bench equipped with a great vacuum pump, two steel vacuum chambers and a large pressure chamber for $212.00. Of course, I had to disassemble many large items to get the gauges, stopcocks, etc., I needed. I got 16 boxes of 4 foot long, 1 inch diameter glass tubing for $22.
Curley: How about all this other stuff.
Paul: Much of it came from Raytheon or Polaroid surplus sales. Some was discarded where I worked. I even got some at yard and estate sales. As a last resort, I paid full price at chemical or electrical supply houses. I almost purchased an old fashioned mass spectrometer from Union Carbide. I bid $ 1000.00 based on a picture and description in their auction catalogue. This was much more than I paid for anything else. They informed me that I was high bidder, asked me how I wanted it shipped from West Virginia and informed me that I would need a crane to remove two extremely heavy electromagnets from the truck. There was no way I was going to get those magnets in this basement. I figured, my car would never be in the garage again. For better or for worse, the Carbide agent called and apologized. When they went to crate the equipment for shipping, they found that it had been savaged for parts and would never be operational. I had mixed feelings but the main feeling was relief.
Mort: You were lucky. Kate would have killed you.
Paul: I doubt it. I’m underinsured.
Mort: Let’s get down to business. Tell Larry and Curley what you’re going to show them.
Paul: Sure. I’ve set up an experiment that will produce considerable hydrogen gas by combusting a mixture of pure aluminum and copper oxide in vacuum.
Larry: Come on, Paul. That’s ridiculous. You can’t produce hydrogen from aluminum and copper oxide.
Paul: I agree.
Larry: But you just said....
Paul: That’s right. I suspect that vacuum is not a void. It must contain something that can be converted into hydrogen, under the proper conditions. That is what I am trying to show you.
Curley: Good luck. You’ll need it.
Paul: Thank you, Curley. Perhaps you will do me a favor. (Hands Curley a video camera) Please record the experiment as we perform it.
Curley: I’ll do my best. Just remember, I’m not a pro.
Paul: I’m sure you’ll do fine. (To the audience) It’s not important. I intended to include detailed verbal descriptions and pictures of me performing this and another experiment but it took too much time. I feared that you would miss the last bus or get in trouble with your baby sitters parents. The screen will show appropriate information for those of you with a scientific background.
Larry: You will have a hard time convincing me that you can produce hydrogen in this set up.
Paul: At least you are giving me the chance. I submitted papers describing this and other experiments to respected scientific journals but they were rejected. The Journal of the American Chemical Society rejected a paper. They wrote that it contained references to old literature and nothing new. I suspect my papers were rejected because they don’t conform to current theories. My thermite type experiment is over here. (Group moves to the lab bench.) Here’s how I set it up. (Appropriate pictures and equations appear on the screen.)
I prepared a glass test tube for the experiment. I added 15.3 grams of cupric oxide. Its purity is better than 98 %. This gives similar results to the CP (chemically pure) cupric oxide I used in earlier experiments but cost much less. I added 8.0 grams of 99.5+ % pure aluminum powder from Alcoa and poured the contents of the tube onto a carefully cleaned, 20 mesh screen which was resting on a piece of white notebook paper. I shook the screen until all of the powder passed through. Using a stainless steel spatula, I blended the powders. The screening and blending procedure was repeated three times to produce an evenly colored mixture. After bending the paper into a trough, I poured the mix back into the tube and weighed the assembly to determine the weight of the mixture by subtracting the original weight of the tube. As you can see by examining the paper that I used, the loss is negligible.
Larry: Don’t you think that some paper might have gotten into the mixture?
Paul: Examine the paper. What do you think?
Larry: It doesn’t look like it but....
Paul: You are right to suggest the possibility. Experiments where I mixed the ingredients on a polyethylene sheet or on glazed ceramic tiles produced similar results.
Larry: Good, but I’ll keep looking for errors
Paul: Please do. That’s the whole idea. I previously prepared a Cromel wire coil, attached copper wires to both ends and forced the coil into the mixture. I fixed the coil in place by bending the lead wires around two glass ears on the side of the glass tube and attached the open ends of the wire to two of the electrodes that pass through the vacuum chamber cover. I had previously attached a similar coil to the two other electrodes in the cover. The cover was then clamped onto the chamber. The glass tube is suspended in the middle of the chamber. The second Chromel coil is inside the chamber, near the cover and will be exposed to any gas that may be produced in the chamber. Chromel is a metal resistance wire that is often used in electrical heaters. It is, likely, used in the appliance you use to keep your remaining coffee warm, while you are having your first cup.
Larry: Are you sure that the gas you produce doesn’t come from the Chromel?
Paul: Almost certain. Varying the length or diameter of the wire has a negligible effect on the amount of gas produced in these experiments. This indicates that the gas doesn’t come from the Chromel wire. The chamber was heated to 80C. for an hour, while being evacuated. This should have removed some of the gas that might have been absorbed in the system. I have found that whether the chamber is heated or not has little effect on the quantity of gas produced in the experiments. As the pressure decreased, the mercury level dropped in the sealed leg of the manometer, and rose in the evacuated leg. The difference in levels is the pressure in torr. Torr. is a unit of pressure formerly known as millimeter of mercury. It is about 1/760th of atmospheric pressure.
Mort: Is this a good time to tell us how you got involved in this?
Paul: Sure. I’ll be brief, since I’m repeating what that the audience was exposed to in the beginning of Act I. After 37 years, a little reminding shouldn’t hurt. I obtained more gas than is theoretically possible, when I detonated aluminum flake containing explosives in vacuum. An exhaustive literature search convinced me that the extra gas was hydrogen. The explosives I used were fairly complicated chemicals that contained some hydrogen atoms. (To audience.) You can pay attention again. Here’s some new information. (To actors.) I found that a simpler combination, Thermite, a mixture of aluminum and rouge produced hydrogen gas when burnt in vacuum. (To audience.) As all you ladies know, rouge is finely powdered ferric oxide. (To actors.) I tested many aluminum-metal oxide mixtures. The easiest to ignite was fine aluminum powder and cupric oxide. A mixture of pure aluminum powder and CP (chemically pure) cupric oxide (Baker Analyzed) produced more hydrogen than any other mix I tested. Mixtures of equal total weight that contained 50 % more aluminum than is required to react with the cupric oxide, produced considerably more hydrogen, than a mixture calculated to give complete reaction between cupric oxide and aluminum. I have performed that experiment many times and found that the results are quite reproducible. Today I am performing a version of the experiment, for you.
I also repeated some of Skinner’s (To audience.) We met him earlier. (To actors.) electrical discharge experiments and convinced myself that he had, as he stated, produced hydrogen in his discharge tubes. The quantities of hydrogen I obtained were many times greater than could have been present prior to the experiments. I even produced hydrogen in clear, evacuated Pyrex tubes that were adjacent to operating high voltage spark coils. This is known as electrodeless discharge. There was no metal in the tubes, only very low pressure gas and Pyrex. Such tubes produced no hydrogen when under extremely low pressure or when filled with helium at low pressure. They produced hydrogen when a trace of oxygen or a gas whose molecules contain oxygen atoms was present in the helium. When very low pressure oxygen was present, the pressure increased during discharge. When the gas produced was exposed to drying agents the pressure fell indicating that oxygen had reacted with hydrogen produced by the discharge to form water.
Mort: Thanks Paul. Enough talk. Let’s see the experiment.
Paul: I’m ready, if you are.
Curly: Go to it.
Paul: First I would like each of you to touch the reaction chamber and tell me how it feels. (They do so).
Larry: It feels quite cool.
Curley: I agree.
Mort: Me, too. It feels just as you would expect. It is at room temperature but feels somewhat cooler because the metal draws heat from your hand.
Paul: The system has been evacuating with the valve to the gauge system open. There are two measuring devises in the gauge system. A McLeod gauge records pressures between 0.001 and 5 torr. The manometer records pressures between 1 and 200 torr. At this time, the McLeod gauge indicates a pressure of 0.260 torr. I will close the valve to the vacuum pump and allow the system to leak and/or outgas for 30 minutes. The audience has allowed me to speed time in earlier. Why not now? Well, it’s time to take another reading. Let’s see. The McLeod gauge reads 1.550 torr., indicating an increase in pressure of 0.042 torr. per minute. In the vacuum business this is quite substantial, but it is extremely small compared to the quantity of gas that will be produced. I am opening the valve to the vacuum pump and evacuating for 4.5 minutes How time flies! Let’s take another reading. The pressure is 0.355 torr. In order to isolate the reaction chamber, I am closing the valve to the vacuum pump and the valve to the gauge system. Now I am applying a current through the Chromel coil with this variable transformer. This causes the coil to become red hot. (A loud puff is heard). That noise indicates that the heated coil has caused a reaction. Now feel the steel chamber. (They do).
Larry: It is quite warm.
Curley: I’d call it hot.
Paul: The reaction of cupric oxide and aluminum to form copper and aluminum oxide produces lots of heat. The steel chamber is quite massive. It’s impressive that such a small quantity of powder can increase the temperature of the chamber this much. Let’s speed time again…. Sixty minutes have passed (Feels the chamber.) and the chamber is cool. Keep an eye on the mercury manometer while I open the valve to the gauge system. (Opens the valve.) See how the mercury level has changed. This indicates that considerable gas has been produced. (reads the manometer) The pressure has increased from less than 1 torr. to 78 torr. (Calculates on a sheet of paper.) Let’s see. The volume of the system is 3 liters: so the gas produced would have a volume of 19.8 cubic centimeters at atmospheric pressure and room temperature. A 25 cent piece has a volume of about 1 cubic centimeter. So the gas produced has the volume of a stack of 20 quarters.
Mort: How much gas would you have gotten if the hot coil had decomposed all the cupric oxide into copper and oxygen gas?
Paul: Good question. It would be of the same order of magnitude. If that had happened, however, there would have been no noise and the chamber would have remained cool. The next step should convince you that the gas in the chamber is hydrogen. I am removing the electrical leads from the electrodes to the used coil and attaching them to the coil near the top of the chamber. (Does so.) Now I am increasing the setting on the variable transformer to a position that will cause the coil to become red hot. Note that there is no noise. Now feel the chamber. (They do.)
Mort: I don’t feel any change.
Curly: I guess this is confirmation that the heat we felt earlier wasn’t from the Chromel coil.
Paul: And that the gas in the chamber does not react further under these conditions. Now I am carefully opening this valve slightly and quickly closing it, to let a small amount of air into the chamber. (Reads the manometer). The pressure in the chamber is now 227 torr. This indicates that chamber contains 78 torr. of the gas we produced and 149 torr. of air. Now I will close the valve to the gauge system (does so.) and turn the variable transformer to the same setting as previously. (Does so. A ping is heard.) That ping indicates that the gas we produced reacted with air. Feel the chamber again. (They do so.)
Larry: It is definitely warm but much cooler than after the earlier reaction.
Curley: I agree. I guess you think that the original gas was hydrogen and that it reacted with air to produce water.
Paul: Exactly. I will calculate what the final pressure should be, on that basis. (Uses a calculator and a piece of paper) According to this there was insufficient oxygen to react with all the hydrogen. The chamber should contain the following:
18.4 torr. of hydrogen, 119.0 torr of nitrogen and 59.6 torr. of water. (Looks in a handbook) According to this table any gaseous water over 23.8 torr. will liquefy at this temperature. The pressure should be 18.4+ 119.0 ± 23.8 or 161.2 torr. Let’s speed up time again while the system equilibrates. The chamber is cool now. I will open the valve to the gauge system and read the manometer. (Does so) The pressure is 163.0 torr., which agrees well within experimental error with my calculated value. The original gas must have been hydrogen. No other gas would give this result.
I should point out that I have performed this experiment in clear Pyrex flasks using less mixture. The conclusions were the same and the gases produced had no color and no odor. This is consistent with the formation of hydrogen.
Larry: What if you added a different amount of air to the gas you produced.
Paul: I’m glad you asked. My technique for adding air is quite crude and, therefore, not reproducible. I have performed this experiment with various excesses of oxygen and various excesses of the reaction gas. The results always led me to the same conclusion. I have no doubt that the gas is hydrogen.
Larry: As you know, our background is in electrical engineering. Our knowledge of chemistry is limited. Your experiments seem quite straight forward and extremely interesting, but I’m not qualified to comment further.
Paul: I understand. Since your background is electrical, perhaps you can explain the forces between these two magnets. Takes a pair of magnets from a drawer and hands them to Larry. Larry manipulates them with interest.
Larry: I believe it has to do with magnetic fields and lines of force.
Paul: Do you really believe that two magnets separated by vacuum can attract or repel each other, if vacuum is a void? Doesn’t that imply that the void in the region of the magnets is different than the void far from the magnets.
Larry: I admit that my explanation doesn’t make sense. I had trouble with it in school, but, at some point, one has to accept such concepts and get on with his education.
Curley: You would have to be an Einstein to understand that.
Paul: Or to convince everybody that you understood it. Let’s go upstairs. Kate has a snack for you. If you agree with my ideas, I’ll get you a drink. (They chuckle and leave the stage.)
Act II Scene I
Same stage setting. (1999)
Curtain rises to show Paul sitting at the desk, writing in his notebook. He turns to the audience.
Paul: Welcome back. Let’s have a show of hands. How many of you are completely confused by this play? Sorry about that! Now, is there anyone here who follows everything, understands completely, and believes every word? Well, are any of you actors impressed? Ok. Perhaps a short summary is in order:
1. I obtained much more gas than was theoretically possible by detonating explosives containing aluminum in vacuum.
2. A literature search revealed that many respected experimenters, some quite famous, reported obtaining surprising amounts of hydrogen gas in their experiments.
3. I produced hydrogen gas by reacting mixtures of cupric oxide and aluminum powder in vacuum.
4. Like Skinner, I produced hydrogen gas during electrical discharge in low, pressure helium. I also produced hydrogen in a fairly good vacuum.
5. I produced hydrogen gas by other techniques, including placing a glass tube containing a fairly good vacuum near an operating spark coil.
This has led me to believe that vacuum is not a void. It contains something that can be converted into hydrogen, under the proper conditions. My best guess, so far, is that the knowable universe is permeated with a matrix of protons and electrons. This may be aether, the light carrying medium, that scientist accepted as fact, in the late 19 th. and early 20 th. centuries. If this is the case, why isn’t it obvious to everyone? How can I move my hand through such a matrix with such little effort?
I performed another literature search in an effort to answer such questions. As usual, I will take a nap and let my unconscious mind work on it. (Paul walks over to the cot and lays on it.) Now I can consider the problem in perfect silence. (Paul lays his head on the pillow, closes his eyes and snores. The bluish light covers the stage indicating dreaming.) (A 17th century Dutch gentleman enters walks over to Paul and shakes him. Paul opens his eyes looks at the gentleman and says)
Paul: I must be dreaming.
Gentleman: Yes, but you are no longer snoring.
Paul: You appear to be from the distant past.
Gentleman: That’s correct. I lived in 17th century Holland. My name is Christiaan Huygens.
Paul: It is a pleasure to meet such a famous scientist. It seems to me your conclusions are much more reasonable than those accepted today. I’m surprised that you speak English.
Huygen’s: Everyone in heaven speaks English, since England conquered heaven under Elisabeth I.
Paul: Did Professor Collie send you?
Huygens: Yes. Both Collie and St. Peter.
Paul: Then, I expect that you won’t stay very long. I’d like to summarize part of one of your books.
Huygens: Fine. Go ahead.
Paul: Your “Treatise on Light” was published in 1690. I read an English translation in “Great Books of the Western World”. You proposed that light (like sound) is a wave phenomenon transported through a medium of material particles. You suggested that an evacuated bell jar does not carry sound because the medium for sound transmission is missing. Since light is transmitted, its medium must still be present.
Huygens: That is what I believed.
Paul: And now?
Huygens: You should know that I may not answer that.
Paul: It was worth a try. You discussed an experiment of Torricelli, a contemporary of Galileo. Both lived in Pisa. I guess they were Pisanos.
Huygens: Are you trying to entertain the Mafia?
Paul: No. Just a few Sopranos.
Huygens: Enough useless banter. Let’s get serious.
Paul: OK. Here goes. Torrecelli filled a glass U-tube with mercury to a sealed end and evacuated it from the open end. He noted that the space that developed between the mercury and the sealed end transmitted light. On this basis, you concluded that the medium for light was still present and that the medium easily passes through spaces between the atoms of the glass and/or the mercury. You pointed out that this indicated that the particles that make up the medium must be very small, indeed. You considered light to be transferred by a mechanism similar to the transfer of energy from ball to ball in a series of suspended metall balls. At any time, all of the energy is on only one ball. Energy is transferred from ball to neighboring ball. The velocity of energy transfer depends on the physical properties of the material of the balls. Here is a quote from your book. (Reading)
“And it must be known that, although the particles of the ether are not ranged thus in straight lines, as in our row of spheres, but confusedly, so that one of them touches several others. This does not hinder them from transmitting their movement and spreading it always forward.”
You assumed that each activated aether particle passed all of its energy to neighboring aether particles. That is, each activated aether particle is the start of a new wave. On this basis, you developed equations that predict observed diffraction patterns. For many years, this was considered strong evidence for a material aether.
Huygens: I believed that my calculations wouldn’t have predicted the various diffraction patterns if such a medium wasn’t present. The scientific community agreed for two centuries.... You should have defined diffraction patterns for the audience. (Faces the audience) When light from a single point source falls on an opaque plate which has small openings, for example, two parallel slits, light that passes through the slits onto a dark plate parallel to the opaque plate and some distance from the slits, forms a series of light and dark lines on the dark plate. I was able to derive a formula that predicts the pattern of lines and how they would vary as the distance between the slits and/or the distance between the plates varies. That is a simple example of a diffraction pattern.
Paul: That was very good. I wish I’d said that.
Huygens: Don’t worry. You will.
Paul: I’ll consider it... Are you suggesting that I reduce your role in this play?
Huygens: Perhaps. Am I being paid by the word?
Paul: We’ll discuss this off stage. Let’s get on with the play... If you had added that each activated particle passed all of its energy to one and only one neighboring aether particle, your aether concept might still be accepted. After your death, more information about light became available. If energy from an active aether particle was passed to more than one particle the frequency of the light would decrease rapidly as the light moved through the medium. This is certainly not the case. If each active particle passed all of its energy to only one adjacent particle the frequency would not change with distance traveled. Each activated aether particle (or group of particles) carrying a given frequency would have the same energy and would produce the same effects, regardless of the distance from the source of energy. That is, each photon transmitting a given frequency would have the same energy. There would simply be fewer photons per volume as the light traveled. This provides a very simple explanation for the photoelectric effect for which Albert Einstein received his Nobel Prize. It would not be possible to predict which neighboring particle would become energized by an active aether particle. This may bear similarity to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle.
Huygens: What is a Nobel Prize?
Paul: A man named Nobel left a fortune to be invested. Each year, outstanding individuals in various fields are given large cash prizes. You would have liked Alfred Nobel. He was a dynamite guy. Fresnel effects, discovered many years after your death, were found to conform to your equations. This was considered further confirmation of your material aether.
Huygens: As you know, I can’t comment. Keep up the good work. Perhaps you will add to my reputation. (A gentleman from the late 19th century enters and taps Huygens on the shoulder.)
Gentleman: Hi Chris. I’m here to send you back. How is it going?
Huygens: Quite well, thank you. Paul this is James Clerk Maxwell. He’ll enjoy discussing these matters. It’s time for me to leave. (To Paul) Good luck and keep the noise down. (Huygens starts to leave.)
Maxwell: (To Huygens.) I’ll try to keep him from snoring. (To Paul.) It’s nice to meet you, Paul. I hear you have some unpopular ideas.
Paul: That’s true. My ideas are not appreciated these days. I think they would have been considered reasonable in your day. Oh! Pardon me. Let me introduce you to the audience. (Turns to audience.) This is Professor James Clerk Maxwell. According to the 1989 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, (Reading.) “He is often ranked with Sir Isaac Newton for the fundamental nature of his contributions to Science”. (To Maxwell) It is an honor to meet you sir. Is it true that you manufactured Jack Benny’s car?
Maxwell: Is this going to be a serious conversation?
Paul: I hope so. I’m sorry, but every once in a while I feel the necessity of waking the audience. We don’t want them to snore.
Maxwell: You’re excused. What would you like to discuss?
Paul: In the late 19th century, you developed the equations we still employ to predict the behavior of electromagnetic radiation of all frequencies and in all materials. In developing the equations, you assumed the presence of a concentrated, material aether. The following three quotes are from your book on the subject: (Reading.) Here’s the first quote:
“In several parts of this treatise an attempt has been made to explain electromagnetic phenomena by means of mechanical action transmitted from one body to another by means of a medium occupying the space between them.”
Here’s the next quote:
“According to the theory of undulation, there is a material medium which fills the space between the two bodies and it is by the action of contiguous parts of this medium that the energy is passed on, from one portion to the next, till it reaches the illuminated body.”
And the third quote:
“Let us next determine the conditions of propagation of an electromagnetic disturbance through a uniform medium, which we shall suppose to be at rest, that is, to have no motion except that which may be involved in electromagnetic disturbances. Let c be the specific conductivity of the medium, k its specific capacity and u its magnetic permeability.”
Paul: So, like Huygens, you believed in a medium of particles that carries light as a wave phenomenon and that the particles of this medium are contiguous, that is, touching. On this basis and using known values, including the speed of light, you calculated the permittivity (e0) and permeability (u0) of vacuum.
Maxwell: You’ve summarized the book very well. Of course, I used some fairly deep mathematics. If you included that, there would have been a chorus of snores from the audience.
Paul: I’m glad you are getting into the spirit of the play. Permeability has to do with magnetism and is now associated with unpaired electrons.
Maxwell: J.J. Thomson determined the mass of the electron soon after my book was published. He greatly advanced science with his discoveries.
Paul: Your wave equations are used today to successfully calculate the behavior of electromagnetic waves of all frequencies, some of which you didn’t know existed. Did you have any doubt that light was transferred through a material medium?
Maxwell: At the time, it was generally accepted that such a medium existed. I considered my equations further proof of the concept.
Paul: I’d like to discuss magnetism. I searched the scientific literature but was unable to find a reasonable explanation for the forces between magnets. To me, such forces require a medium that is affected by the magnets. I have proposed that the medium, aether, for light transfer is a concentrated matrix of protons and unpaired electrons.
Magnetic properties of materials are believed to be associated with alignment of some of their unpaired electrons. A magnet would be expected to cause some of the aether electrons in its vicinity to align. A second magnet would, of course, affect the aether in its vicinity similarly. The magnets would be expected to attract or repel each other through the aether depending on their relative orientations. This concept also leads to very simple explanations for electric motors, dynamos, etc.
Maxwell: I used to wonder how a rotor, which is separated from the rest of the motor by air, could turn with such power that I could not stop it, with my hands. At that time, I considered that as further indication of an invisible material between the rotor and the rest of the motor.
Paul: I won’t embarrass you by asking what you believe now. I am convinced that many experimenters have prepared hydrogen in and from vacuum. If there is a medium for light, it must extend as far as a telescope can see. I suspect that knowable space is a continuous matrix of protons and unpaired electrons. Skinner’s preparation of hydrogen by electrolysis of vacuum tends to confirm this.
Maxwell: The weights of protons and electrons are known and we have a fair idea of their diameters. Your proposed medium would be extremely dense.
Paul: That’s correct, even though today’s scientists are searching for something they refer to as dark matter to account for the stability of galaxies, they are not ready to accept such a medium. They calculate that such dark matter must comprise at least 90 % the mass of the universe. My proposed medium would constitute over 99 % of the mass of the universe.
Maxwell: Doesn’t that bother you?
Paul: It did but I got used to it. Human beings have always grossly underestimated the size and weight of the earth and the universe. It may be because the larger the universe: the smaller we feel. On what other basis does the layman decide on the size or mass of the universe?
Maxwell: That’s an interesting point of view. Let me change the subject. How do you explain the permittivity or, in another words, dielectric constant, of vacuum?
Paul: My answer requires me to address the audience. (To the audience.) Don’t worry. This is relatively simple, if you accept my aether. First, let’s get an idea of relative size in the particle world. Atoms are extremely small even when compared with the smallest object that can be seen with an optical microscope. I searched the literature to get an idea of the relative sizes of atoms, nuclei of atoms, protons and electrons and developed a new standard of length. It is the classical diameter of the electron. I named it the audience or a.. If I can get science to accept these ideas, you will famous. I am going to shrink us all down to a size where we can observe these particles. Don’t be upset. Think what you are going to save on food. You may be surprised at what I am going to tell you. It certainly surprised me and I’m supposed to know this stuff.
At your new stature an electron appears to have a diameter of a dime. That is 1 audience. A proton is similar in size. The nucleus of an average atom has a diameter of about 3.3 dimes, or 3.3 audiences. Here’s the surprise. An average atom has a diameter of 33,000 dimes or 33,000 audiences. That means that the diameter of an electron is to that of a dime as the diameter of an atom is to the length of 6 football fields. There is plenty of room between the atomic nuclei of solids for great multitudes of protons and electrons. In other words, materials, which are combinations of atoms, are open sieves to the aether, I have proposed. If you could, somehow, remove the aether from an evacuated bell jar it would quickly refill with aether from outside the bell jar. It would be similar to pumping water from a cylindrical screen when the screen is immersed in a lake. This agrees with Huygens’ conclusion, earlier in this dream, that the medium for light flows through mercury and/or glass.
Maxwell: That’s very interesting. What has it to do with dielectric constant.
Paul: I’m trying to develop a background to make the concept easier.
Maxwell: Sorry. Go on.
Paul: Flashlight batteries contain reactive chemicals. In reacting they cause electrons to be removed from one of the electrodes, the anode, and amassed on the other electrode, the cathode. A typical cell produces a voltage difference between the anode and cathode of 1.5 volts. At this point the reaction stops. If a copper wire connects the anode and cathode electrons will flow through the wire from the cathode to the anode until the chemical reaction is completed and the battery is “dead”.
Now, let us attach a wire from one electrode of a fresh battery to a metal plate and a second wire from the other electrode to a parallel metal plate. Electrons will build up on the plate attached to the negative electrode and be removed from the other plate, until the voltage across the plates is 1.5 volts. The parallel plates are a form of capacitor. A capacitor stores electricity. If we fill the space between the plates with a material, we will find that the capacitor will store more electricity, at the same voltage.
The relative dielectric constant of a material is defined as the ratio of the amount of electricity (or number of electrons) stored by a capacitor when filled with the material to the amount stored when it is filled with vacuum. A capacitor is believed to work by the following mechanism:
The extra electrons on the negative plate of the capacitor repel negative charges in the material, while the net positive charges in the other plate of the capacitor attract negative charges in the material. This results in an electrical distortion in the material that tends to reduce the voltage across the capacitor and permit more electrons to flow from the negative electrode of the battery to the capacitor and from the positive plate of the capacitor to the positive electrode of the battery. For this reason, a capacitor filled with a material with a relative dielectric constant of two will store twice as much electricity as a capacitor filled with vacuum, which, by definition, has a relative dielectric constant of one. That vacuum is capable of storing electricity suggests, to me, that vacuum contains positive and negative charges. This is expected if the space between the plates of the capacitor is filled with a matrix of protons and electrons.
Maxwell: Why shouldn’t void be able to store electricity?
Paul: Because void contains no charged particles. Wouldn’t you expect air, which contains particles made up of protons and electrons, to have an infinitely greater dielectric constant than void? Their dielectric constants are practically the same.
I have been talking about relative dielectric constant because it is a simpler concept than dielectric constant itself. Your equations require that vacuum have definite values of dielectric constant and permeability. How can void have such properties?
Maxwell: I must plead the Fifth Amendment. (A gentleman enters at the back of the stage. He stacks some of the cards to form the base of a pyramid.)
Paul: That is what I expected. Let’s discuss the effects of alternating current on relative dielectric constant. With normal line current, where the direction of the current reverses 60 times per second, the dielectric constant of most materials is the same as with direct current, where the direction of the current does not change. This is true even at frequencies as high as a billion cycles per second. As the frequency is increased further, many of the effects that contribute to dielectric constant (for example the movement of atoms or ions) are too slow to respond, due to inertia. This causes the dielectric constants of materials to decrease dramatically. At the much higher light frequencies, only electrons have low enough inertia to respond. I consider the observation that the dielectric constant of vacuum does not change with frequency as further evidence of the presence of electrons in vacuum.
Maxwell: Much of your latest statement includes information that was not available to me. I don’t think that I can comment. (The gentleman at the back walks up to Maxwell.)
Gentleman: Hi James. I’ve been sent to replace you for a while. How goes it?
Maxwell: Nice to see you Neils. Meet Paul. He has very interesting ideas. I’m afraid that he thinks more like me than like you. Be ready for an interesting discussion. (To Paul). Give him hell, Paul. It has been fun talking with someone with 100 year old opinions.
Paul: (As Maxwell leaves.) If you had lived to be 200 years old, you could be a great help to me. Thanks for listening.
Gentleman: Hello, Paul. It sounds as if I am going to have to watch out for you.
Paul: And visa versa. Welcome to my dream. (To audience) I’d like to introduce Professor Niels Bohr, from Denmark. Professor Bohr is a Nobel Laureate. He worked under Sir J.J. Thomson and, then, Lord Rutherford, in England before returning to Denmark and is best noted for his structure of atoms. His structure of the hydrogen atom explained the spectral lines of the hydrogen atom. He assumed the electron rotated around the central proton in orbits and proposed that only certain orbits were available. As an electron transferred from a higher energy orbit to a lower energy orbit, a fixed amount of energy was given off in the form of electromagnetic radiation of the appropriate frequency. Each frequency in the hydrogen spectra could be calculated from such a transfer. This was the first important contribution to the field of quantum mechanics.
Bohr: That is a good summary of some of my work. By the way, I hope you don’t mind. While you were talking with Professor Maxwell, I stacked some of the cards back there.
Paul: That’s ok. That’s why they are there. I am highly impressed with your work and have no quarrel with your brilliant mathematics. It seems to me, however, that physicists of your era pointed out that the atom of your model would not be stable. The electron rotating around the proton was expected to lose energy and eventually fall into and combine with the proton at the center.
Bohr: Yes. That kept coming up. It was a good argument that I could not refute. However, as my mathematics kept explaining more and more actual observations, the argument practically disappeared. After all, it is most important that science progresses.
Paul: I have no argument with your mathematics, but correct mathematics may be subject to more than one interpretation. Just because one can’t think of another interpretation, does not mean that the one you can think of is correct. In the middle ages, scientists agreed that the earth was the center of their universe. They had proved it mathematically. When Copernicus showed that the movement of planets could be explained much more simply with a sun centered system, his ideas were rejected. Scientists were able to complicate their mathematics and thus retain their preconceived notions. This did not speed the advancement of science.
Bohr. Do you have an alternate suggestion?
Paul: Yes, but I’m not sure that it is better than yours.
Bohr. I’d like to hear it.
Paul: Here goes. When you were stacking cards at the back of the stage, you may have heard some of my conversation with Professor Maxwell.
Bohr. I couldn’t help but eavesdrop.
Paul: Your one time boss, Lord Rutherford, was the first to demonstrate that the nucleus of an atom is extremely tiny compared to the atom itself. He found that speeding alpha particles (positively charged helium nuclei) easily passed through solids. Only a very tiny percentage of the helium nuclei were scattered back by the positive nuclei that made up the solids. This indicated that the space between nuclei of solids is amazingly larger than had previously been expected. As I pointed out to Professor Maxwell, the spaces are enormous compared to the size of protons and electrons and may be filled with a matrix of protons and electrons. I have been trying to convince the audience that such a matrix is the medium that carries light. Transparent materials like glass transmit light and, therefore must contain the medium that carries light. Even solids that we consider to be opaque to light contain the medium because, if they are thin enough, they transmit light.
Picture a material as being made up of widely separated nuclei surrounded by the proposed matrix or, better yet, look at the screen at the back of the stage. Consider each nucleus as a spherical positive plate of a capacitor. The aether in the vicinity of a nucleus would be distorted in such a way that aether electrons are nearer the nucleus and aether protons farther from the nucleus. The distortion would be less and less as the distance from the nucleus increased. The overall effect would be a decrease in repulsion between adjacent nuclei with separation. At some relatively large separation, the repulsive force may be balanced by an attractive force, for example, gravity.
Bohr: That explains the stability of the atom because there is no orbital motion involved. It doesn’t explain the separate spectral lines of hydrogen.
Paul: You’re right, but let me dig myself into a deeper hole. The electromagnetic spectrum includes radio, radar, infra red, visible and ultraviolet light, x-rays and gamma rays. The difference is simply one of frequency. It is believed that the effect travels as photons. But what is a photon?
Bohr: You really don’t expect me to tell you.
Paul: I understand that would be a no no. There is considerable evidence that the higher the frequency of a photon, the more energy it carries and the smaller it is. As an example, x-rays photons of high enough frequency pass through crystals at some orientations and are reflected at other crystal orientations. They must be smaller than the distance between atoms. This effect is used to determine crystal structure. It is similar to a blind man throwing balls in the Parthenon, in an effort to find aisles through the columns. According to Huygens, light is passed from an activated aether particle to another aether particle. Since electrons are much smaller than x-ray photons, a photon must consist of a series of activated ether particles. Higher frequency photons are made up of fewer and more active electrons. If this is the case, the aether can transmit only frequencies (or energies) whose photons are made up integral numbers of electrons. There are no fractional electrons. That means that there are energies that cannot be transferred through the aether. The higher the frequency, the greater the difference between possible energies. This may be the basis of quantum mechanics.
Bohr: I fear that you are confusing the audience. Can you cut this short?
Paul: I’ll try. Consider the hydrogen atom. Only certain energies can be transferred to the atom through the aether. Any energy absorbed by the atom will change the arrangement of affected electrons around the nucleus and result in a more energetic atom. Schrodinger’s wave equations are believed to describe the orbits of the various electrons surrounding a nucleus. Instead, they may describe a contour map of the effect of the nucleus on the aether in the vicinity of the nucleus.
Bohr: Did you expect the audience to understand that?
Paul: No. I’m not sure I follow it myself, but I like it better than your explanation.
Bohr: Earlier, you suggested that the force holding atoms together might be gravity. Can you elaborate on that?
Paul: Sure, but I’m treading on very thin ice. When I discussed the size of electrons and protons, I purposely compared them to dimes rather than grapes. I picture electrons and protons of the aether as spinning disks much like coins spinning on a flat surface. Nuclei of atoms are made up of protons and neutrons.
I find the descriptions of neutrons in the scientific literature extremely confusing. On one page, I read that the neutron has a half - life of about ten minutes. It decomposes into a proton, an electron and supposedly an antineutrino. Its mass is slightly greater than that of a hydrogen atom, which suggests that it is, likely, similar in size to a hydrogen atom. A few ‘ pages further on, I read that a neutron is absorbed in the nucleus of an atom in about one thousandth of a second. This suggests that the neutron easily fits inside the nucleus. I suggest that the first described neutron is a combination of a proton and electron where both the proton and electron are spinning like coins on a table. The second described neutron may be a much lower energy particle where the proton and electron have lost their spins and come together like two dimes to form a much smaller combination, which fits in the nucleus. If this is the case, all atoms may be made up of protons and electrons and the aether contains everything required to form all existing materials. This leads to a simple explanation for the formation of hydrogen and, therefore, stars in space.
Bohr: Have you convinced any living scientist that this could be the case?
Bohr: Do you expect to convince anybody?
Bohr: Then, why do you persist in this?
Paul: I like puzzles and this is the most interesting puzzle, I have found.
Bohr: That is the response of a true scientist. By the way, you haven’t explained gravity yet. (Albert Einstein enters at the back of the stage and stacks cards above the base that Bohr had assembled.)
Paul: I’ve been trying to build the proper background. I’m happy with the idea that magnetic forces are transferred through the electrons of the aether. I am not as happy with the idea that gravity is transferred through the protons of the ether. However, if one accepts that the neutron is a combination of a proton and an electron, the weight of any material is extremely close to the weight of the protons it contains. If one assumes that there is an attractive force between protons that remains after electrical forces are cancelled by electrons, one can come very close to explaining gravity.
Bohr: You are not happy with that description of gravity?
Paul: Not very. It needs more work.
Bohr: I see that you have a very distinguished visitor. If anyone can pick apart your suggestions, it is Professor Einstein. (To Einstein.) Hello Albert. I assume you are here to take your turn. (To Paul.) Goodbye Paul. I enjoyed your monologue. If you eventually make it to heaven, it will be my turn to do the talking. (As Bohr leaves, he pauses to admire the enlarged house of cards.)
Paul: I’m sorry. Sometimes I get carried away. I look forward to your monologue, but I’m in no real hurry. (To Einstein) It is a great honor to meet you Professor Einstein. I won’t introduce you because your fame has preceded you.
Einstein: It is a pleasure to meet you Paul. You needn’t be so formal. You may call me Albert. In fact, you can call me anything but wrong.
Paul: Well, Albert. I hope you don’t mind if I call you a genius. I have nothing but respect for your mathematics but I would like to discuss some of your interpretations. After all, many of them are close to 100 years old. I have the advantage of the results of many more years of research by brilliant scientists.
Einstein: To prove that I have an open mind on these matters, I will quote from a letter I wrote to a fellow professor in March of 1949:
“You can imagine that I look back on my life’s work with calm satisfaction. But from nearby it looks quite different. There is not a single concept of which I am convinced that it will stand firm, and feel uncertain whether I am in general on the right track.”
Don’t worry about my feelings. Your only goal should be to improve mankind’s understanding of its world.
Paul: I expected you to feel that way. Before we begin, I’d like to ask you a question. Do all great scientists end up in heaven?
Einstein: Of course not. Why do you ask?
Paul: I’ve conversed with many scientists in this play. I assume that they are all in heaven.
Einstein: Not necessarily. If someone from the lower place wishes to be involved in a dream, he may petition St. Peter. If permission is granted, he may enter dreams. There is a problem, however. Their internal thermostats are adapted toward a different climate and they are extremely uncomfortable when away from hell. According to the “Guinness Book of Records” no one from there has been able to last more than 5 minutes in a dream.
Paul: It sounds like death is more complicated than I thought. Let me summarize my position. I am convinced that hydrogen gas has been created from vacuum. This leads me to suspect that vacuum contains something from which hydrogen can be produced. Other observations led me to suspect that vacuum contains a concentrated matrix of protons and electrons. Such a matrix, the aether, agrees with the ideas of Huygens and Maxwell on the nature of light. The presence of unpaired electrons in the matrix permits simple explanations for the forces between magnets separated by vacuum. I do not believe that you explained this effect in your papers. I hope you do not object to my taking advantage of your work in making my case.
Einstein: I would be thrilled, if you present a reasonable case.
Paul: I’ll start by referring to Bose-Einstein condensation. (To Audience) Professor Einstein and Satyendra Nath Bose of India collaborated in developing Bose-Einstein statistics. This led them to conclude that, under the proper conditions, materials may form condensates of particles in their lowest energy states. They may remain in that state at temperatures above absolute zero. Liquid helium below 2 degrees Kelvin has strange properties and many scientists believe that it is Bose-Einstein condensed. It flows as if it were a zero viscosity liquid. For example, once started in motion through a granular material, it will continue to flow at the same speed indefinitely. This may remind you of Newton’s conclusion that a body in motion will continue in motion, until it is affected by an external force. In other words, your hand can move through a Bose-Einstein condensate without restriction. Dr. Einstein explained this approximately as follows:
A Bose-Einstein condensate is at its lowest possible energy state at a temperature above absolute zero. It cannot absorb energy and remain in this state. He developed mathematical formulas that predict the highest temperature at which a material can remain Bose-Einstein condensed. Based on the weights of protons and electrons and their separation in my proposed matrix, aether should remain Bose-Einstein condensed at extremely high temperatures. Such a condensate cannot absorb energy by the usual mechanisms.
The proposed matrix may be considered a polymer of hydrogen atoms that, though made up of charged particles, is neutral, in the sense that chemical salts, which are made up of oppositely charged ions are neutral. It seems to me to have the properties scientists require for dark matter.
Einstein: I admit to being surprised by the conclusions to which our formulae led us and doubted that anything would come of it.
Paul: Recently, scientists have produced Bose-Einstein condensates of rubidium, potassium and sodium. They had surprising difficulty in producing a similar condensate from hydrogen. More recently, a group led by Professor Daniel Kleppner, at MIT, formed Bose-Einstein condensed hydrogen but he had to have all the protons aligned in the same orientation. I suspect that he and other scientists had previously produced the condensate of hydrogen but couldn’t detect it, because they produced aether, which fills space. If you produce a little water in a lake, you have a hard time detecting it. If you formed ice in the summer, you could detect it. The condensate with aligned protons may have been different enough to be detected.
Einstein: And people accuse me of having strange ideas. Let’s see you explain the results of the Michelson-Morley interferometer experiments.
Paul: I’m surprised you mentioned that. (To audience.) In the late nineteenth century the presence of an aether that carried light was accepted as a scientific fact. It was assumed that the earth in its orbit around the sun was moving rapidly through the aether. If this were the case, light moving through the aether should travel at a fixed velocity relative to the aether, but at different velocities relative to the earth, depending on the direction the light traveled, relative to the earth. Their measurements seemed to show that the direction light traveled, relative to the earth, did not affect its velocity, relative to the earth. This was an important event in discrediting the aether concept. In spite of his results, Michelson continued to accept the presence of an aether. In the 1920s and thirties, Sir Oliver Lodge continued to champion the ether concept. He pointed out that the results of the Michelson-Morley experiments are just as would be expected, if the portion of the aether in the vicinity of the earth moved along with the surface of the earth. The matrix of protons and electrons that I have proposed would have mass and would be expected to tend to move with the surface of the earth as do air and water.
Einstein: Why are you surprised that I mentioned Michelson -Morley?
Paul: Page 96 of the book, “Einstein” by Ronald W. Clark refers to statements you made which suggest that the Michelson experiments had little influence on you in developing relativity and that the experimental evidence which had influenced you most were the observation of stellar aberration and Fizeau’s measurements of the speed of light in moving water.
Einstein: That’s sounds like me. Actually, I brought up the Michelson-Morely experiments here, since they are still referred to in your time. Do you have any comment on stellar aberration or on Fizeau’s experiments.
Paul: Yes. It seems to me they tend both to corroborate Lodges point of view.
Einstein: I would like to hear your explanations.
Paul: I’ll discuss stellar aberration first. (To audience) When astronomers on earth try to fix the position of stars in space they correct their measurement for known effects like bending of light as it enters the earth atmosphere. In spite of these corrections, the position of any star seems to change slightly as the earth rotates around the sun. In the northern hemisphere the greatest movement is observed with the North Star, which appears to move in a small circle. The apparent position depends on the date of the year on earth. No one believes the North Star’s actual position is affected by the date on the earth. This effect is called stellar aberration.
(To Einstein.) If the portion of the aether in the vicinity of the earth moves with the earth as it orbits around the sun, light from a star bends as it approaches the earth. A similar effect occurs when a sound wave encounters wind. In the case of starlight, the direction of bending, relative to the star, reverses every six months. In the case of the North Star, one would expect the deviation to be circular. The observed position should be the same on the same date each year.
Einstein: Don’t you think I considered that possibility?
Paul: I don’t know. Did you?
Einstein: Possibly not. How do you explain Fizeau’s results?
Paul: Let me discuss this with the audience. (To audience) Armand Fizeau was a French physicist. In 1849, he determined the first reasonably accurate velocity of light. He also showed that, when light traveled through moving water, its velocity was greater, relative to the earth, when it moved in the same direction as the water, than when it moved in the opposite direction. This suggests, to me, that the aether, which carries light, tends to move with the molecules of water. I consider this as corroboration of Lodges contention that the aether near the earth moves with the earth.
(A man in a state of anxiety runs onto the stage and approaches Einstein)
Man: (In French.) You see. This is what I have been telling you. My experiments were carried out to prove the existence of the aether. Somehow, you used them to discredit the aether concept.
Einstein: (To Paul.) Do you understand French?
Paul: Very little.
Einstein: Then let me talk with Armand and then translate for you.
Paul: Thank you. I would appreciate that.
Einstein: (To Fizeau. In French.) I’m sorry that you find my using your work, bothersome. I assure you that was not my intention. You must appreciate that anything in the scientific literature is fair game. Anyone can interpret it as he wishes. I am sorry that you died 10 years before I published my first relativity paper. I would have been happy to discuss these matters with you.
Fizeau: (In French.) I know that you are correct in this matter, at least. Your misinterpretation of my work has been bothering me for some time. I could not miss this opportunity. I am not feeling well. I have to leave. (Starts to leave. While leaving, mutters in French.) Stupid Kraut.
Paul: Wow! That was strange. What did he want?
Einstein: (in a silly mood). Mostly, he wanted to tell me off for misinterpreting the meaning of his experiments. He felt that they went along with Lodge’s ideas and, of course, yours. I tried to be nice and he cooled down somewhat.
Paul: What was the reference to Kraut?
Einstein: He called me a stupid Kraut, as he left. He wasn’t feeling well. I think it bothered him that he couldn’t stay for over five minutes and get in the “Guinness Book of Records”
Paul: I wish he could have stayed longer. It is nice to find a scientist who agrees with one of my ideas.
Einstein: Perhaps you will meet him again some day.
Paul: If I am interpreting correctly, I hope not.
Einstein: You seem to understand. Is there anything else you wish to mention before I leave you?
Paul: I’d like to consider your ideas on the effect of velocity on mass and your twin paradox. I have much more to discuss with you, but I don’t want to impose.
Einstein: I am enjoying our conversation but I must leave soon.
Paul: I’ll try to be brief. As an airplane approaches the sound barrier, more and more energy is required to impart a given acceleration. The mass of the airplane is believed to remain constant. A greater force is required because the air through which the airplane is traveling increases its resistance to increased velocity. The medium for light may produce similar effects, as a rocket ship approaches the “light barrier”. This is possible if the energy increase is in the material and not transferred to the aether. Huygens believed that matter is an open mesh through which the aether easily passes. However, as an object approaches the speed of light, aether particles may have increasing difficulty moving around the nuclei of its atoms. If so, the energy required for imparting a given acceleration increases with increasing velocity.
If one defines a unit of mass based on a standard that is at rest, relative to the aether, in its vicinity, one expects greater energy to be required to accelerate an object as the resistance of the aether increases. By this definition of mass, the force required to accelerate an object increases as the object approaches the speed of light. Its mass does not change as you have proposed.
Einstein: How about my twin paradox? (To the audience) My mathematics led me to conclude the following:
If one of a pair of twins flew away from the earth at close to the speed of light and later returned at a similar velocity. He would appear to be and actually would be younger than his twin. In other words time slows as velocity increases.
Paul: If materials that make up a rocket ship are porous to the ether, a pendulum clock in a rocket ship moves through the ether at a similar rate as the rocket ship, itself. As the clock approached the speed of light, the resistance of the aether to the swinging of the pendulum would increase. This would cause the period of the pendulum to increase and time, as measured by the clock, to decrease. The same effect would occur with modern time devices that are based on the periods of certain bond vibrations.
In the twin paradox, one twin remains on earth while the other twin rockets away at close to the speed of light, turns around and then returns at a similar speed. The speeding twins clock would run slower in both directions of flight, since in each case, it is moving rapidly through the aether. The earthbound twins clock is comparatively still, relatively to the aether in its vicinity, and would indicate the passage of more time.
I prefer a definition of time based on a clock that is stationary, relative to the aether, in its vicinity. In order to determine the correct time, a factor, based on the speed at which a clock is moving through the aether (or, if you prefer, the aether is moving through the clock) would be applied to the time it registers. Time would, then, be more nearly universal and independent of velocity.
If I am correct, the vibrations of the chemical bonds in the speeding twins body would be slowed dramatically. This would slow all the chemical reactions in his body. If he survives, he may well appear younger than the stationary twin.
Einstein: You covered those subjects in a very short time. You can mention one more topic, if you hurry.
Paul: Great. Let me give you my guess as to the nature of the photon.
Einstein: Go to it.
Paul: When a DC current passes through a straight wire, a compass needle near the wire points perpendicular to the wire. It remains so oriented until the current is stopped. This suggests that moving electrons in the wire cause aether electrons in the vicinity of the wire to orient. When the current is reversed, the needle points in the opposite direction. At extremely low frequencies, the orientation of the needle changes with frequency. At higher frequencies, the needle of the compass cannot reorient fast enough, because of its inertia. Aether electrons have very little inertia and continue to orient with changing current direction, even at extremely high frequencies. Let us consider a half-wave dipole antenna operating at a FM frequency. I understand that the current moves along the surface of such an antenna and at the speed of light. According to Huygens’ principle, each orienting ether electron passes all of its energy to a neighboring ether electron, etc. This effect moves away from the antenna at the speed of light.
As the direction of the current changes, a line of energy starts forming at one end of the antenna. Just as the direction of the current changes again, this line of energy leaves the other end of the antenna. The result is a line of energy moving through the ether at the speed of light (a photon). This line is in a plane of the antenna and at an angle of 45 degrees to the antenna.
When the direction of the current changes again, a similar line of energy (photon) is produced. This photon is also in a plane of the antenna but at an angle of 135 degrees to the antenna. Its aether electrons are orienting oppositely. What we consider one wave in the antenna may produce a pair of photons. Each photon might be considered a mirror image of the previous photon;
At any instant, an integer number of active electrons are involved in a photon (as I pointed out earlier there are no fractional electrons). For this reason, only specific amounts of energy can be carried as photons. As I suggested to Professor Bohr, this may be the basis for quantum mechanics.
Einstein: You know Paul, I am considered one of the most brilliant scientists ever and I can’t keep up with the pace in which you have presented your ideas. Do you think anyone in the audience understands any of this.
Paul: No. If they are interested, I will give them a good deal on a copy of the play. I have to read such proposals a few times and then, sleep, before I understand them. If I made it too easy, there would be no incentive for them to buy a copy of the play. As a bonus, they may have some interesting dreams.
Perhaps, the following summary will help:
Assuming that the knowable universe is permeated with a zero viscosity medium (possibly, Bose-Einstein condensed hydrogen) leads to simple explanations for many, otherwise, difficult to understand phenomena. Such explanations may permit intelligent laymen to achieve a clear understanding of theoretical physics. They may also lead scientists to more efficiently direct their efforts. Acceptance of such aether would require us to reconsider concepts developed based on the absence of an aether.
Einstein: I hope that helps. I will ponder your ideas and hope to discuss these maters with you in the distant future.
Paul: Distant future sounds good to me. See you then. Thanks for listening. You’ve been very kind.
Einstein: Goodbye, Paul. (Walks to go off stages. Paul gets in the cot and pulls up the covers and starts snoring. There is a rumbling sound and things on stage start to shake.)
Einstein: (Shouting.) Neils, come here. I want you. We are having an earthquake. (Professor Bohr runs onto the stage and helps Einstein protect the house of cards.)
(The curtain closes.)
Einstein: (Shouting.) Gott im Himmel! (The sound of falling cards is heard throughout the theater.)
Act II, Scene II
The curtain opens to show Paul sleeping and snoring. The lights are normal, indicating this is not a dream sequence. The cards are a mess.
Kate: (Off stage.) Paul. Are you down there? (Paul stirs and opens his eyes.)
Paul: Yes. I’m here.
Kate: Diner is ready.
Paul: Great I’ll be right up. I had the craziest dream. I’ll tell you about it.
Kate: Was it about the aether.
Paul: (Getting up and walking back stage,) Yes.
Kate: Then don’t bother. I thought you were going to wash windows today.
Paul: Oh! That’s right. I forgot. (Looks at the messed up cards. Scratches his head.
Turns to the audience and shrugs his shoulders.) (To Kate.) I’ll wash them tomorrow, right after I pick up the cellar. (Walks offstage.)
The Curtain Falls
Act II, Scene III
(The same stage setting on the next evening. Paul enters and speaks to the audience.)
Paul: Boy, am I tired. It is been a beautiful day, so Kate suggested that I wash the windows before picking up the cellar. It is always easier to go along with her suggestions than to argue.
Please excuse me. I have earned a little nap before straightening out these cards. (Paul lies on the cot and, after a few seconds, starts to snore. The lights become bluish. Einstein enters and shakes Paul to wake him. (Paul stirs, stretches and yawns. He looks up and sees Einstein).
Paul: Good evening Albert. I thought you left.
Einstein: I did but my conscience bothered me. I decided to return and help you pick up the cards.
Paul: Thank you. I’ll appreciate any help. Before we start, I would like to discuss a dream I just had.
Einstein: That would be fine, but I can’t stay for long.
Paul: I’ll try to be quick. I understand that an important basis of your special theory of relativity was Maxwell’s field equations.
Einstein: That’s true. I may not have conceived of special relativity without them.
Paul: In my conversation with Maxwell, I quoted from one of his books. In developing these equations, he assumed that light was transferred through a medium of touching particles.
Paul: Well, if you employed his equations in developing your theories weren’t you using the same assumptions? I’ve heard that you felt your equations described physical phenomena without assuming a physical medium in vacuum. You have been quoted as saying, “If a thing can’t be observed, why should it be necessary to assume its existence?”
Einstein: You are making me wonder if I should have returned to help you. I wish I were allowed to answer your question. As others have told you, we cannot reveal anything that we have learned after our deaths. I will try to answer questions that don’t fall into this category.
Paul: You probably won’t be able to respond to this, but let me talk to the audience. Albert predicted that light passing close to a large mass is bent toward the mass. Measurements made during a solar eclipse have been interpreted to show that starlight passing near the surface of the sun is deviated toward the sun. More recent measurements indicate that light passing near a galaxy is deviated toward the galaxy. According to Maxwell’s equations, this suggests that vacuum in the vicinity of masses has a higher dielectric constant and/or permeability than vacuum in free space. If there is a medium for the transfer of light, it must be denser in the vicinity of masses and the closer it is to a mass the greater its density. This is also true of gravitational attraction. Could the medium for light also be the medium for gravity? If space is a void, how can it have different properties at various distances from masses?
Einstein: You are right Paul. I may not answer those questions.
Paul: It seems, to me, that present day theoreticians are going to ridiculous extremes to retain their present beliefs concerning relativity and quantum mechanics. They are proposing the need of ten or more dimensions and weird particles that exist for nanoseconds as necessary to explain important phenomena. This reminds me of the long delay in the acceptance of Copernicus’ ideas of the sun-centered solar system, due to so-called, experts using complicated mathematics. Only an elite few appeared to understand the earth centered universe. When the Copernicus sun-centered solar system was finally accepted, intelligent laymen had no difficulty with his concept.
Einstein: Are you saying that I am responsible for delaying the progress of science?
Paul: Of course not. Science has made great strides since you published your relativity theories. I couldn’t have conceived how materials move effortlessly through my proposed medium without knowing about Bose-Einstein condensation. In your lifetime, you pointed out that your theories would probably not stand the tests of time. If my ideas are accepted, they will be disproved or, at least, altered in a few years. Your work has dominated science for a century.
Einstein: Thank you Paul I appreciate your comments. I’m sorry, I can’t help you with the cards, as I must leave now. (Einstein starts leaving.).
Paul: That’s all right, I’d much rather have had this conversation, than your help with the cards. Anyway, I’ve decided to build my own house of cards, but I doubt that it will be a century before the next earthquake. Thanks again for offering to help. I look forward to meeting you in the future. Before you go, I’d like to make a prediction based the density of the medium decreasing with distance from masses.
Einstein: Go right ahead.
Paul: If the medium is denser the nearer it is to a large mass, the speed of light is less near the earth than in the space farther from the earth. It is less in the solar system than it is in the space between the stars. It is less in galaxies than in the space between galaxies than it is in galaxies. Since scientists assume the speed of light in deep space is the same as that in the vicinity of the earth, the distance to other galaxies may be considerably greater than they have calculated.
Einstein: That is very interesting. I had great difficulty in getting my ideas accepted. I would have had much less of a problem, if I could have pointed out some immediate practical application.
Paul: You probably know that there is great concern today about the depletion of the earth’s fuels and the deleterious side effects from our present sources of energy. All of the techniques I have discussed for converting the medium into hydrogen require the input of large amounts of energy to produce comparatively little hydrogen. Conversion of the hydrogen in water into the medium, would release considerable energy. The byproducts would be oxygen and the medium. If one could control the process, there would be no deleterious effects.
Einstein: Have you tried to accomplish this?
Paul: Yes, and I have had some interesting, but not dramatic results. I haven’t been able to convince myself about the source of the energy. I certainly couldn’t convince the scientific community. The source of the energy from lightning remains a mystery. I wonder if it could be the conversion of hydrogen in moist air into the medium.
Einstein: That is just the kind of thing I had in mind. I have time for one more prediction.
Paul: I’ll make it quick. The electron that activates the face of the cathode ray tube may not be the electron that left the cathode. The effect may be passed from aether electron to aether electron until an electron at the face of the cathode activates a molecule on the inner face of the tube. This is similar to the mechanism Huygens proposed for light. The rate of energy transfer increases with the voltage across the tube. The electron microscope works because, on a statistical average, this is a wave phenomenon.
Einstein: (Aping Arte Johnson as a German soldier in, “Laugh In”) Verrrry Interrrrresting, but probably tooooo simple!! Goodbye Paul. I’m off to paradise. I hope to see you there, in due time.
Paul: Auf wieder sehen Albert. I hope so, too. (As Einstein leaves, Paul walks to the back of the stage and starts building his house of cards. He sings)
Paul: I’ll build a stairway to paradise, with a new step every day.
The curtain falls.
Curtain Call (If Required)
Curtain Parts. Paul Walks on Stage and faces Audience.
Paul: I thank you, especially anyone who is not a relative. Oh! By the way, I forgot to ask.
I didn’t snore. Did I?
(The recording of, “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise”, from the Movie, “An American in Paris” is heard throughout the theater. It continues to play as the audience leaves the theater.)
Written August, 2004
Edited June 16, 2006
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See also this article by the same author:
Controlled Transmutation of Elements Under Surprisingly Mild Conditions?
Paul Rowe's latest article, "More Evidence for an Aether of Protons and Electrons". It is based on some correspodence with Linus Pauling
here is a PDF of a historical article by Paul Rowe first published in Infinite Energy magazine in 1998: HYDROGEN GAS FROM VACUUM - Part III