Water waves move as fast as the elasticity of the water medium allows and the same is true of every wave in every physical medium. So at the end of the nineteenth century it was expected that light, as a wave, would move at a speed defined by the elasticity of an ether that fills all space. As the earth orbits the sun at 108,000 km per hour and orbits the galaxy even faster, we can’t be stationary in such an ether (Figure 1.4), so the speed of light should vary with direction but in 1887 Michelson and Morley found that it was the same in every direction, so there could not be a physical ether.
Einstein then traded Newton’s absolute space and absolute time for an equally absolute space-time:
“…absolute space-time is as absolute for special relativity as absolute space and absolute time were for Newton …” (Greene, 2004, p51)
He changed the issue from how light vibrates empty space to how it vibrates a space-time matrix, but the latter gives no basis for elasticity either. So in the usual reverse logic, the speed of light is now said to define the elasticity of space, i.e. the wave defines the medium it passes through! This readiness to apply logic in reverse to fit the facts is why modern physics is in a rut.
Consider the logic of a space that contains things as an ocean contains fishes:
1. Any object in that space needs a not-that-object boundary to exist.
2. Unless a world is entirely objects, it must contain a “not-any-object”, i.e. space.
3. If that space is nothing at all, the world is only objects and so has no basis for movement.
4. If that space exists as objects do, the logic returns to #1, so it needs another “space” to exist in.
A thing needs a not-itself boundary to exist but if that is also a thing then nothing can move. The buck of “thingness” must stop somewhere and for us space is it. It follows that space cannot exist as the objects it contains do but neither can it be nothing. Space isn’t a physical thing so in a purely physical world it is “nothing” but both Einstein and Newton saw that space must be something for objects to move in it:
“According to the general theory of relativity space without ether is unthinkable; for in such a space there would not only be no propagation of light, but also no possibility of existence for standards of space and time …” (Einstein, 1920, in May 5th address at the University of Leyden)
His term “ether” isn’t the physical ether that Michelson and Morley dismissed but a way to describe that which acts like nothing. So while a physical ether has been discredited, a non-physical one has not:
“Since 1905 when Einstein first did away with the luminiferous aether, the idea that space is filled with invisible substances has waged a vigorous comeback.” (Greene, 2004) p76
The paradox is that while space physically acts like nothing, it must actually be something. Oddly enough, the finding that our space exerts a “pressure”, called the Casimir effect, supports this.
In quantum realism, space occurs when the quantum network is null processing. When a computer processor has nothing to do it doesn’t sit idle but runs a null process. If one isn’t pressing keys or moving the mouse, a 4GHz computer still processes about 4,000 times a second, so “empty” space could be null processing not nothing. Null processing is nothing only in the sense that it has no output but it is something because it is an activity. Such a space doesn’t need to exist in another space because it is something itself, namely quantum processing.
In this view, empty space is a quantum processing output that only differs from an electron or a photon in that it happens to be null. As a fundamental quantum entity, space is the null element. Whether quantum processing outputs an electron or space is like whether a point on a screen is a pixel or blank. Even if the entire screen is blank, with no images on it, it still refreshes at some cycle rate and so is not nothing. If one turns a screen off, to see it in itself, that destroys the images upon it, in this case our bodies. If the quantum screen turned off, the physical universe and its space and time would disappear instantly.