THE NATURE OF SPACE


Lambert Dolphin a retired physicist has some very useful insights into the nature of space which are well worth considering.

" Aristotle (384 - 322 BC) taught that the physical world was made up of four elements: air, earth, fire and water. Tying these all together so that the "elements" intercommunicated was a "subtle" medium, a fifth element: the aether -- later to be known as the vacuum. (The Latin root vacuus means "empty"). In a sense the aether was the substratum of the material world. The Greeks believed that "nature abhors a vacuum" so they could not imagine space as being totally empty.

The Greeks believed the stars were suspended from, or attached to, a rotating crystalline shell at a fixed distance from the earth. When some of the "stars" (planets) were observed to be moving with respect to the "fixed" stars, a series of rotating crystal spheres was postulated. The earth was believed to be fixed, immovable, and at the center of the creation. Not until the 16th Century were these Greek (Ptolemaic) ideas challenged by the Copernican revolution. One of the most mysterious concepts in western physics since Aristotle's day is the concept of the vacuum. Until Galileo Galilei (1564 - 1642) challenged the notion, the velocity of light was assumed by most everyone to be infinite, so the nature of the space between the earth and the crystal spheres was not of great concern.

Space

Rene Descartes (1596-1640) championed the theory that the aether was a plenum, from the Greek word meaning "full." Because it was so difficult for the scientists of that era to understand "action at a distance," Descartes imagined that a very dense medium of very small particles pervaded everything. This medium was capable of transmitting force from one object to another by collisions. The aether "particles" were in constant motion and there were no spaces between the particles. In a sense the aether was more solid than matter, yet invisible. Descartes universe was a purely "mechanical universe" and his theories were soon superseded.

Galileo's former secretary, Evangelista Torricelli filled a long glass tube with mercury in 1644. Inverting the tube into a dish of mercury he observed that the mercury dropped some 30 inches at the closed upper end of the tube, thereby creating what was obviously a vacuum. Blaise Pascal (1623 -1662) took this work even further and soon everyone was convinced that the vacuum of space was empty after all.

If light were corpuscular in nature as some believed, it was not difficult to imagine that light "particles" (we now call them photons) could traverse a pure vacuum without the necessity of a real medium pervading all of space. But other experiments soon began to show that light was a wave phenomenon. Of course waves could travel through the plenum aether by collisions, however at the time only compressional waves were imagined. [Sound waves or seismic waves are compressional in nature, for instance, but light waves proved to be transverse]. In parallel with all these growing controversies, the velocity of light was finally measured by Olaf Roemer in 1675 and found to be finite, although the values he obtained were a few percent higher than the present value, 299,792.4358 km/sec.

By the time of Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) the aether was believed by many scientists to be "luminiferous." That is, the aether was said to be more fluid than solid, though it was elastic, and therefore it was a medium which would support waves. James Clerk Maxwell (1839 - 1879) enjoyed great success when he found a set of equations which beautifully described how light waves could travel through such a luminiferous aether. He showed that light waves are composed of oscillating electric and magnetic vectors in an x-y plane for a wave traveling in the z-direction. For a waves to exist at all, it is natural to suppose that there is some sort of supporting medium. Such a medium must possess elasticity (a spring like property) and also inertia, (a mass like like property). In fact, the velocity of a wave in any medium is equal to the square root of the stiffness divided by the density of the medium.

In the case of electromagnetic waves (gamma rays, x-rays, radio waves, heat, and light of various wavelengths), Maxwell found that the aether possessed an electric field scaling parameter, called "dielectric permittivity," and a magnetic field scaling parameter, called permeability, such that the velocity of light was equal to one over the square root of permeability times permittivity. In support of the notion that the aether was a real medium it was observed that empty space behaved like a transmission line with a "characteristic impedance" of 377 ohms, (which is the ratio of permeability to permittivity for "free space.")

This new theory also explained how light slows down in glass, in gases, in water -- because media other than the vacuum had a different permeability and permittivity. The aether was once again thought of as a very real medium which could be stretched or compressed -- it had resilience or compliance, and inertia. Yet no known physical substance had a stiffness to mass density ratio anywhere near 9 x 1016 which was required of the aether as a medium. The aether appeared to possess elasticity but negligible inertia.

Space and Time

The idea that some kind of aether medium existed prevailed until 1887 when Michelson and Morley utilized the Michelson interferometer in an attempt to detect the relative motion of the earth and the aether. According to 19th Century preconceptions the velocity of the earth going around the sun should be about 30 km/sec. Yet when the measurements were made no motion of the earth relative to the ether could be detected at all. In other words, the aether apparently did not exist.

For many scientists the notion that an aether existed was simply discarded. Yet the apparent non-existence of an aether raised many problems and the Michaelson-Morley experiment is not the end of the story.

Until Einstein's Theory of Relativity was published in 1905, the negative result of the Michaelson-Morley experiment baffled scientists. Einstein showed that the velocity of light has the same value in all reference frames, whatever their velocity may be relative to other frames. From this point modern physics took off in the direction of Special and General Relatively Theory, and Quantum Mechanics.

One of the major efforts of modern physics is the search for the "Unified Field Theory". This is an attempt to condense all the known "field" like forces of gravity, electromagnetic phenomenon, weak and strong nuclear forces into one single equation. The results of this search have lead to a concept of the universe which require multiple dimensions of existence.

By assuming that time was a mysterious "fourth dimension" of 19th Century science fiction speculation, Einstein was able to show that we live in a space-time continuum where ordinary dimensions are both elastic and interrelated. Mass and energy are two different forms of the same thing, the speed of light is the top limiting velocity in the physical world, space is curved, and gravity affects the curvature of space. Einstein's legacy was extensive and sweeping in its consequences. His Special and General Relativity theories have been well established by many experiments.

In 1919 Einstein received a letter from an obscure mathematician, Theodr Kaluza, who suggested that he could tie together electromagnetism into a simpler theory if he assumed there were five dimensions -- four spatial dimensions plus time. Bernard Rein's power tensor mathematical notation made dealing with N dimensions ("Hilbert space") easy. Four dimensions required a matrix of four rows and four columns. It was simple to add a fifth dimension.

The Kaluza-Klein theory in effect replaces points, P, on a line with tiny circles on a hose (diagram below). Later on when more dimensions were added, the minute circles were replaced by very small vibrating strings.

When higher dimensions are added, the new dimensions are found to be curled "compactified" into a very small "space" whose size is of the order of the Planck length, = 10-35 meters.

If five dimensions are better than four, why not add more? (The whole point of additional dimensions in hyperspace is that the Laws of Nature become simpler when higher dimensions are added). The behaviour of the universe can now be described by a ten dimensional matrix.

The existence of higher dimensions can not be proven at this point in time --the required atomic accelerator energy levels are well beyond present technology. Therefore we can not be sure that they are really there. "Elegance" and "beauty" and "simpler equations" are attractive reasons for favoring a new theoretical model but they are not infallible guidelines. Not everything that meets these aesthetic criteria describes the world as it really is.

Detailed analysis of the mathematics behind the Theory of Relativity and its extensions (String Theory) show us that space, time, matter and energy are all essentially the same and that, at the very beginning, the universe consisted of "nothing". The universe has a finite history and came into existance suddenly.

The logical Conclusion

We must now reconsider our understanding of how the universe works. We may live in a world where what we see and observe around us is only a very small portion of what exists. If these higher dimensions do exist, then it is possible that they are inhabited by various beings. These beings would have un-imaginable power compared to our simple four dimensional existence. More importantly, one of our four dimensions is time. These beings would be "immortal" (i.e.. totally beyond time). In fact it could be argued that we would appear to be a fleeting shadow to these extra-dimensional beings. Our existence in only four dimensions would seem short and futile to such beings.

The interesting thing about this is that the Bible does give us very clear insights into the existence of these extra-dimensional realms.

Firstly, the Bible is the only holy book which speaks of a creator who is totally beyond the realms of time and space. Many holy books speak of creation, but always in the context of our own dimensions. These accounts speak of a god or gods who use pre-existing materials in a pre-existing space - time continuum to create this world. The Bible on the other hand boldly declares that "In the beginning (of time) God created the heavens (multi-dimensional space) and the earth (physical matter)" (Genesis 1:1).

The Bible also implies the existance of God outside our normal stream of time. For example, the Bible clearly declares the truth of both "predestination" and "free will". Our paths were laid out by God prior to the beginning of the universe, yet according to the same scriptures we are responsible before God for all our actions and are without excuse. How can we be both predestined and have a free will at the same time. In our stream of time this is impossible, but for our Creator, who established our dimensions of time and stretched them out at the beginning of the universe, this is quite natural.

Secondly, the Bible shows us that God created the universe in "two stories", the "heavens" and the "earth".

Let us take a small leap of faith at this point. Assuming the universe is indeed "two storied" as the Bible teaches and not "one storied" , then surrounding us there exists a real and "substantial" spiritual world. Our material world is in fact embedded in the spiritual. The two realms are coupled, and the Source of all things is in the spiritual world,
"By faith we understand that the world was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made out of things which do not appear." (Hebrews 11:3) "...we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." (2 Corinthians. 4:18) "

(Dolphin 1990)

The bible speaks very clearly about Angels who inhabit the realms of heaven.


Created: 23 - Jan - 1997.
Last modified: 18 - Sept - 1998.
Copyright 1998, Graham Brodie.

Maintainer: Graham Brodie, Email