Nobel Prize-winning physicist Philipp Lenard (image above, hopefully) did not agree with Albert Einstein’s (temporary) abandonment of The Ether. At first the two Nobel laureates respected each other. However, over time, as Nazism crept into the milieu, Lenard began to attack Einstein’s relativity theories on political and anti-Semitic grounds. (Einstein was a Jew.) (Further background: Our Friend, The Ether (Part 10), Ersjdamoo’s Blog entry of October 30, 2013.)
The politicization of science in a battle over The Ether brings to mind the same politicization of science over the issue of “global warming.” In both cases, pure science has been harmed.
The politicization of science during the bitter fight over The Ether eventually led to a split in physics, whereby a “German physics”, distinct from other physics, came into being. Followers of the “German physics” unfairly called the other physics, “Jewish physics.”
Another prominent physicist, Hendrik Lorentz, although he did not sink to the level of anti-Semitism, nonetheless defended The Ether for all his life.
Albert Einstein and Philipp Lenard had at first admired each other. But then, on June 4, 1910, Lenard delivered a paper, “Ether and Matter”, in an address at a scientific convention in Heidelberg. The Ether, said Lenard, was necessary to explain electro-magnetism and gravity. As for the principle of relativity, Lenard scoffed that it had already long-since appeared in the works of Galileo.
An example of Galileo’s relativity involves a person inside a ship which is sailing on a perfectly smooth lake at constant speed. This passenger is in the ship’s windowless hull and, despite it being a fine day, is engaged in doing mechanical experiments (such as studying the behavior of pendula and the trajectories of falling bodies). A simple question one can ask of this researcher is whether she can determine that the ship is moving (with respect to the lake shore) without going on deck or looking out a porthole. Since the ship is moving at constant speed and direction she will not feel the motion of the ship. This is the same situation as when flying on a plane: one cannot tell, without looking out one of the windows, that the plane is moving once it reaches cruising altitude. Lacking a stable point of reference, such as The Ether, what then is motion?
“Relativity” seemed to be nothing new! Galileo had already pondered the subject centuries ago!
As for the famous Michelson-Morley experiment, Lenard asserted that Hendrik Lorentz had explained away its results as due to contraction of bodies in the direction of their motion when they move against The Ether. I myself, admittedly a layman, believe the results of the Michelson-Morley experiment were wrongly interpreted. Contrary to prevalent opinion, the Michelson-Morley experiment did not disprove the existence of The Ether. (Background: Our Friend, The Ether (Part 6), Ersjdamoo’s Blog entry of October 19, 2013.)
Albert Einstein “reacted violently against [Lenard’s address at Heidelberg]… In his [Einstein’s] violent criticism he used words hardly translatable into English.” (Source for this and much of the above: Einstein and the Ether, by Ludwik Kostro. Montreal: Apeiron, 2000)
Do not be intimidated by “science.” Science is only a way of knowing (besides other ways, such as Jungian intuition). “Science” comes from the Latin word scio, meaning “to know.” You use science at times in your everyday life, for example, whenever you use a process of elimination to solve a problem. There has been a lot of politicization and humbuggery attached to “science” at times. Do not let the various pomposities, including sometimes mathematical gobbledygook, turn you off to the overall subject.