Return to GRS index page Return to Research Papers



Barry Setterfield, January 18. 2010

[this paper was written as part of a response during an ongoing discussion with a group of physicists]


Two Illustrations
Why Relativity was Introduced
Further Developments in Physics
The Zero Point Energy
Motion Through the ZPE is Undetectable
The ZPE and the Speed of Light
The ZPE Replaces the Old Ether
Effects of Special Relativity and the ZPE Compared
That Famous Equation
Problems with General Relativity
The ZPE and Gravity
The Slowing of Light in Gravitational Fields
Einstein’s Two Postulates for Relativity
Relativity and Varying Constants



Mathematics is an interesting field.  It allows one to construct a completely imaginary model, totally divorced from reality, yet internally consistent within itself.  It is the current mood in science to accept a mathematical model provided it demonstrates this internal consistency. In some cases is it true that mathematical modeling has produced some predictions that have later been verified. This tends to give credibility to the model.  However, some have cautioned that mathematical modeling is only legitimate if it is firmly anchored in physical reality and data. This is because mathematical models, divorced from physical reality, are nothing more than elegant mathematics.  There are also instances where, despite apparent verification of the mathematical approach, it was later demonstrated that the model itself was incorrect and out of touch with reality.

Two illustrations:

One example of this is Dirac's mathematical model in which the quantum vacuum was composed of a "sea" of electrons. From this model, presented in 1929-1930, Dirac predicted the existence of the positron. The existence of the positron was then experimentally verified in 1932, and Dirac received a Nobel Prize as a result. However, his mathematical model of the vacuum was later abandoned because other physical evidence – reality – proved it to be incorrect, despite its correct prediction of positrons and the resulting Nobel Prize.

Today, the Big Bang is in an even worse situation. The mathematical model contains over a dozen free parameters each of which have to be adjusted to obtain the correct results. Under other circumstances, this procedure would result in the rejection of the model. In an open letter to the scientific community, published in New Scientist, May 22, 2004, over 400 scientists have pointed out some of the numerous failings of Big Bang cosmology. They stated, along with cosmologist Eric Lerner, that:

Contradictions between observations and Big Bang predictions are 'resolved' by the introduction of such entities [as dark matter and dark energy], entities that we cannot or do not observe.

On the other hand Big Bang cosmologists persistently fail to acknowledge the data that are contrary to their position. These data include quantized redshifts, quasar distribution, and the failure of the gravitational model to account for the filamentary structure of the universe except under extremely special conditions.  Astronomer Halton Arp has pointed out a long list of data that has been ignored in order to maintain the popular theory. In frustration, Arp has stated:

It seems the toughest thing for scientists to grasp—that a cherished paradigm like the big bang can be wrong. ... I gloomily came to the ironic conclusion that if you take a highly intelligent person and give them the best possible, elite education, then you will most likely wind up with an academic who is completely impervious to reality.

[Emphasis in the original. Full quote in context here]

Why Relativity was introduced:

Einstein’s theories of relativity may be in a similar position.  At the beginning of the twentieth century, it was assumed that there had to be a medium filling the vacuum of space so that light waves could be transmitted. This light carrying medium was called the ether or aether. It was assumed that the ether was universally at rest. As a result of the orbital motion of the earth through this stationary ether, it was then thought possible to detect the "ether drift" past the earth. The simplest way of doing this was to send beams of light in different directions and measure the difference in light speed as it traveled either with or against the ether drift by using fringe shifts in an interferometer.  This experiment could be performed since the orbital speed of the earth is about 30 km/s, and this velocity difference was measurable by the proposed interferometer fringe shifts. Michelson and Morley (M-M) performed this experiment in 1881 and the only drift recorded, about 8 km/s, was considered by most to be near the error limits of the equipment. As a consequence, the official position has been that no drift was recorded.

In order to account for this lack of motion through the stationary ether, a number of proposals were made by a variety of physicists, including Fitzgerald, Lorentz and Einstein. Indeed, even as late as 1929, Einstein was stating in his lectures that, though the ether was still considered to exist, the theory of relativity explained why no "ether drift" was detected. He proposed that there were changes in space and time, and that there was no absolute frame of reference against which anything could be measured.  That was the prime reason for his special theory of relativity, which later opened up the way for the general theory of relativity.  Historically, we know that Einstein's theory was accepted as the explanation.

Further developments in Physics:

However, other developments have occurred in physics that have a bearing on that decision. In 1911, Planck published his so-called 'second paper' in which the existence of an all-pervasive vacuum Zero Point Energy [ZPE] was shown to be the reason why quantum uncertainty exists. By 1925, Einstein & Stern, Nernst, and others had examined the proposition in detail and found it very attractive. The presence of the ZPE was also verified experimentally by Mulliken in 1925.  However these concepts were ignored for a number of years as papers were being written and published using Planck’s first paper which presented a purely theoretical concept (which Planck himself was unhappy about from the beginning). Planck’s first theory, and these resulting papers, led to the birth of Quantum Electro-Dynamics (QED), or Quantum Physics.

Then, in 1962, de Broglie, who had written one of the early papers which gave rise to quantum physics, suggested that, after all, physics had perhaps missed something.  He  suggested re-examining the material in Planck’s second paper which stated that the Zero Point Energy was the agent that was giving rise to the observed quantum effects. This re-examination is now ongoing and has produced the branch of physics known as Stochastic Electro-Dynamics (SED). This approach to quantum phenomenon holds the promise of explaining all quantum effects via the action of the ZPE.  It should be noted that it has also produced results that unify the four forces of physics.

The Zero Point Energy (ZPE):

The Zero Point Energy exists as all-pervasive electromagnetic waves of all wavelengths throughout the universe.  The ZPE exists, independently of any thermal radiation, even at zero degrees Kelvin.  However, the higher frequency waves are much more numerous than the longer, or lower-frequency waves.  The ZPE intensity has a frequency cubed spectrum.  To get a picture of what this means, suppose you have just one wave at one cycle per second.  Then at two cycles per second you would have 2 cubed, or 8 waves.  At three cycles per second you would have three cubed, or 27 waves.  This means that at 1000 cycles per second, there would be one billion waves. The smallest of these more numerous waves approaches what is called the Planck cut-off length.  That is the smallest length possible in our universe, beyond which vacuum itself breaks down and assumes a granular structure, like a fabric. The energy density of the ZPE is enormous, and this leads on to a discussion of its intensity distribution. 

Every source of radiation has a characteristic intensity distribution with frequency. That is to say, every radiation source will have its intensity (the number of waves) rising to a maximum in a given frequency range, producing a characteristic curve. In discussing this, Timothy Boyer in his article, “The Classical Vacuum” (Scientific American, August 1985, pp70-78), has this to say about the ZPE:

It turns out that the zero-point spectrum can only have one possible shape…the intensity of the radiation at any frequency must be proportional to the cube of that frequency.  A spectrum defined by such a cubic curve is the same for all  unaccelerated observers, no matter what their velocity; moreover, it is the only spectrum that has this property.

Motion through the ZPE is undetectable:

In discussing motion through the ZPE, it must be remembered that such motion produces a genuine Doppler shift. Because of this, radiation will appear shifted towards the blue end of the spectrum for an approaching observer, or towards the red end of the spectrum for a receding observer. Here is what Boyer goes on to say:

The Zero Point Spectrum is independent of the observer's velocity because of compensating changes in frequency and intensity. When an observer is approaching [any] source of radiation, all frequencies are shifted to higher values [that is become bluer] and all intensities increased; moving away from any source has the opposite effect. Thus a spectrum that has a peak in the green region for a stationary observer has a larger blue[r] peak for an approaching observer and a smaller red[er] peak for a receding observer. The cubic curve that defines the zero-point spectrum balances the shifts in frequency and intensity. Light that appears green in the stationary frame of reference becomes blue to an approaching observer, but its intensity matches that of the blue light seen by an observer at rest. By the same token, green light is shifted to red frequencies for a receding observer, but its intensity is diminished accordingly.

In this way, the distribution of intensity with frequency for the ZPE remains the same no matter what velocity you travel at. In other words, because of this frequency cubed distribution, the ZPE is said to be Lorentz invariant so no velocity through the ZPE can be detected. In an examination of this, Davies and Unruh found that, while velocities through the ZPE cannot be detected, acceleration can be detected, but that acceleration has to be of the order of 1021 times that of earth’s gravity before the effect becomes significant enough to observe. This is called the Davies-Unruh effect. Thus, for all practical purposes, the motion of the earth, or any other body, through the ZPE cannot be detected.

The ZPE and the speed of light:

This is the same with regard to the speed of light.  Its speed in any direction through the Zero Point Field is always the same, as indicated by the M-M experiment. 

Because the ZPE is made up of electromagnetic waves of all wavelengths going in all directions at once, the points where these waves intersect results in a concentration of energy. This energy concentration allows the formation of pairs of virtual particles, such as electron-positron pairs. These virtual particles snap into and out of existence almost, but not quite, instantaneously.  During their existence they can absorb a light photon, and when the positive and negative of each pair snap back together, the photon of light is released to continue on its way.  Even in a very small volume of space, the number of virtual particle pairs is enormous. From the "jiggling" of electrons (detailed later), it can be deduced that one cubic centimeter contains 1036  virtual particle pairs. Photons of light must interact with these particles in their path. Thus, the greater the strength of the Zero Point Energy, the more virtual particles in any given volume of space at any given time. As a result, light photons are slowed further because space has become ‘thicker’ with virtual particles. Thus, in a manner similar to light slowing in water compared to air, light will also slow with a stronger ZPE. However, since the ZPE is uniform through all space at any given time, the speed of light will also be uniform throughout all of space at any given time.  It is changes in the strength of the ZPE which will affect the speed of light, not direction of travel.

The ZPE replaces the old ether:

So the ZPE provides the all-pervasive 'ether' whose properties are vastly different from those imagined by physicists when the Michelson-Morley experiment was done. Indeed, this is the light carrying medium or 'ether' that actually exists in reality. The ZPE is Lorentz invariant, simply meaning you cannot distinguish motion through it.  If it had been known that the ether existed in the form of the ZPE, with these properties,   the results of the M-M experiment could have been readily explained.  But this also means that the necessity for Einstein's theory of relativity would have been eliminated.

Effectively, then, there were three choices when the M-M results came in.

1.  The results can be explained by changes in the properties of matter, so that a moving object undergoes length contraction, mass increase and time dilation. This was the approach of Fitzgerald and Lorentz.

2.  Einstein proposed that, instead of physical changes in matter, these same effects were due to changes in the properties of space and time. This meant that the absoluteness of space and time introduced by Newton had to be discarded.

3.  This option was to conclude that the ether had entirely different properties than those imagined by scientists when the M-M experiment was done. Its frequency distribution made it Lorentz invariant, so motion through the ether could not be detected. In addition the speed of light depended only on the energy density of the ether, which was independent of the direction of travel.

Although the Fitzgerald and Lorentz propositions (1) were complicated, Einstein’s solution to the problem (2) was even more complicated and esoteric.  The third option was, and is, far simpler than either of the other two.  History, experiment, data and theory have all shown that the third option would have been the simpler, better way to go.  The mathematical models proposed by Fitzgerald, Lorentz and Einstein were unnecessarily complex. For that reason alone, they should have been regarded with suspicion and the third option given some serious thought. The existence of the Zero Point Energy gives good physical reasons why these things happen, without resorting to esoteric mathematics which are not connected to reality.  

It will immediately be objected that Einstein's relativity has made predictions that proved correct. But it is important to note that all the major predictions of relativity also follow naturally and intuitively from the ZPE approach and use very much simpler mathematics.

Effects of Special Relativity and the ZPE compared:

Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity has to do with the effects of velocities on moving objects. These effects include increases in atomic masses as velocities become high, as well as the resulting slowing of atomic clocks. We have observed that the acceleration of an electron through a linear accelerator results in an increase in mass of the electron. This has been hailed as proof that relativity is correct. However, the SED approach predicts exactly the same effect as a result of the existence of the ZPE.

Using the SED approach, it has been shown that the masses of sub-atomic particles all come from the "jiggling" of these particles by the impacting waves of the ZPE. This "jiggling" imparts a kinetic energy to these mass-less particles and this energy appears atomically as mass. An increased "jiggling" occurs when a particle is in motion, because more ZPE waves are impacting the particle than when it is at rest. An increase in particle mass is then the result.  The higher the velocity, the more "jiggling" occurs and the greater the resulting mass. This has been mathematically quantified.

As the mass increases, it can be shown that the rate of ticking of atomic clocks slows down since kinetic energy is conserved.  Atomic clocks are based on the rates of atomic processes.  Atomic processes are governed by the atomic masses which, if they increase, require either more energy for the same amount of speed, or less speed for the same amount of energy.  Since one of the basic laws of nature is that energy is conserved, then the atomic particles must move more slowly as they gain mass.  This, in turn, would mean that atomic time varies with changes in mass, and that any increase in mass would result in a slowing of the atomic clock.  This has been experimentally demonstrated by accelerating a short half-life radioactive particle.  As the mass has increased with the speed, the rate of decay has slowed down.  This experiment has been used to show Einstein’s theory of Special Relativity is right, but the same result is predicted from SED physics with acceleration through the ZPE. 

That famous Equation:

Perhaps Einstein is most famous among the public for the equation E=mc2.  But this equation does not depend upon any of the theories of relativity or relativistic concepts. This proof has been given, for example, by Alfred O'Rahilly in "Electromagnetic Theory: A Critical Examination of Fundamentals," pp.304 ff. (Dover, 1965), as well as by others such as T.G. Barnes, late Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of Texas at El Paso in the CRS Quarterly 14 (March 1978), p. 211.

Problems with General Relativity:

Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity (GR) concerns the effects on objects in gravitational fields.  Einstein considered gravity as a bending of space-time, and this is still the standard theory today.  His theory is used to explain how the Global Positioning System clocks work in the gravitational field of the earth.  However, GR requires complex mathematics and equations using 4-dimensional geometry to describe how a clock will slow in a gravitational field. Furthermore, while it may be correct to state that GR is a good mathematical model, that is not the same as explaining how gravitational forces originate. The GR model is often presented using the "rubber sheet" analogy. In this analogy, the picture is often given of a heavy ball-bearing, that represents a massive body like the earth or sun, which deforms the surface of a rubber sheet (space-time) and causes it to curve. The problems with both the mathematics and the analogy were mentioned in 2002 in Pushing Gravity, edited by Matthew R. Edwards [Apeiron] and described as follows:

In the geometric interpretation of gravity, a source mass curves the ‘space-time’ around it, causing bodies to follow that curvature in preference to following straight lines through space. This is often described by using the ‘rubber sheet’ analogy ... However, it is not widely appreciated that this is a purely mathematical model, lacking a physical mechanism to initiate motion. For example, if a ‘space-time manifold’ (like the rubber sheet) exists near a source mass, why would a small particle placed at rest in that manifold (on the rubber sheet) begin to move towards the source mass? Indeed, why would curvature of the manifold (rubber sheet) even have a sense of ‘down’ unless some force such as gravity already existed? Logically, the small particle at rest on a curved manifold would have no reason to end its rest unless a force acted on it. However successful this geometric interpretation may be as a mathematical model, it lacks physics and a causal mechanism. [p. 94, emphasis added]

The ZPE and gravity:

On the SED approach, the effects of a gravitational field are more simply explained than in relativity. The jittering of sub-atomic particles by the ZPE results in these charged particles sending out a secondary electromagnetic field.  This is predicted by classical physics and verified experimentally.  This secondary radiation boosts the strength of the ZPE locally. Thus, an adjacent charged particle will experience two driving forces:  First are the driving forces of the ZPE causing it to oscillate, and second are the forces due to the secondary fields produced by the ZPE-driven oscillations of the first particle. Similarly, the ZPE-driven oscillations of the second particle will cause their own secondary fields to act back on the first particle.

The net effect is an attractive force between the particles. The sign of the charge does not matter; it only affects the phase of the interactions. This net attractive force between the particles has been shown by Haisch, Rueda and Puthoff to be identical to gravity. Thus, where there are many particles, there are many secondary fields which manifest as gravity, and which, at the same time, boost the ZPE strength locally, so that it becomes significantly greater. This local increase in ZPE strength around a large collection of particles results in the slowing of atomic clocks as does any increase in ZPE strength. Further details are in “General Relativity and the Zero Point Energy:”   (This paper also shows that the perihelion advance of Mercury is predicted by SED physics. Earlier, this had been one of the strongholds of Einstein’s theory).

The slowing of light in gravitational fields:

However,  in this context we can go further. As early as 1920, Sir Arthur Eddington in his book Space, Time and Gravitation, page 109, Cambridge University Press (reprint 1987) had this to say about GR:

Light moves more slowly in a material medium than in a vacuum, the velocity being inversely proportional to the refractive index of the medium.... We can thus imitate the [GR] gravitational effect on light precisely, if we imagine the space round the sun filled with a refracting medium which gives the appropriate velocity of light. To give the velocity c(1-2μ/r), the refractive index must be 1/(1-2μ/r). …Any problem on the paths of rays near the sun can now be solved by the methods of geometrical optics applied to the equivalent refracting medium.

Since then, others have discussed this proposal. De Felice mentioned nine authors who have looked at this similarity between gravitation and an optical medium [Gen. Rel. & Grav. 2:4 (1971), pp.347-357].  In fact, Hayden of the University of Connecticut (Physics) pointed out that the GR results of the bending of starlight in the gravitational field of the Sun can be derived, and derived exactly, by this method “with a few lines of high school algebra” [see context at]. It is important to note that the ZPE, and the secondary fields near massive bodies induced by atomic particle "jiggling," have been shown to be the precise optical medium required [see for example “General Relativity and the Zero Point Energy” ]. In other words, the presence of the ZPE and its effects fulfills the requirements as the actual physical mechanism which replaces the purely mathematical modeling of relativity.

Einstein's two postulates for Relativity:

Einstein's basic postulate, from which the theory of relativity takes its name, is that there is no preferred frame of reference. In other words, there is no absolute reference frame anywhere in the universe. This appeared to be true for some time.  However, in 1964 the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMBR) was discovered by Penzias and Wilson.  In contrast with relativity theory, the physical reality of the CMBR has provided an absolute rest frame against which the actual velocity of the solar system, our galaxy, and our Local Group of galaxies can be measured. In his book "Astrophysical Concepts," page 178 (Springer-Verlag, 1988), Harwit says:

Current observations indicate that the universe is bathed by an isotropic bath of microwave radiation. It is interesting that the presence of such a radiation field should allow us to determine an absolute rest frame on the basis of local measurement." Harwit then goes on to salvage what he can for relativity by saying "...the establishment of an absolute rest frame would emphasize the fact that special relativity is really only able to deal with small-scale phenomena and that phenomena on larger scales allow us to determine a preferred frame of reference in which cosmic processes look isotropic.  

Harwit is correct. The work based on the ZPE shows that Einstein’s equations may be valid in the atomic frame of reference, but not in the larger world.

There is another problem with relativity. The second basic postulate, stating that the speed of light is an absolute constant,  is also called into doubt.  An entirely different approach, based on Galilean concepts, shows that there is indeed an upper maximum speed for the cosmos, but it need not be the current speed of light. This approach received prominence in "New Scientist" for 1 November 2008. The cover page read "Why Einstein was wrong about relativity: the speed of light is nothing special." The article on pages 28-31 carried the bolded comment "Not only is light not necessary in relativity - there's no room in the theory for it." Then it goes on to state: "Light's special position in relativity is a historical accident." Thus the second basic postulate has also been shown to be problematical. It is entirely possible that this upper maximum speed for the cosmos was the original speed of light, which has slowed afterwards as the ZPE strength increased.

Relativity and varying constants:

Equations in relativity are consistent internally. That is not the issue here.  There are also predictions which have come from these equations which are correct.  That being said, two things must also be mentioned.  The first is that, as stated above, SED physics combined with the real Zero Point Energy similarly accounts for all these phenomena in a far more intuitive way described by simple mathematics. The second thing which is important, however is this:  in relativistic physics and the equations based on them, the speed of light is made equal to Planck’s constant and the Newtonian gravitational constant and all are put equal to 1, so that their papers state c=h=G=1.  This may be convenient, but it does not mesh with the reality of the fact that both Planck’s constant and the speed of light have been measured as changing.  If c and h and G changed proportionally, the equations would still work. But the fact is that c and h have been measured experimentally as changing inversely, so that hc is invariable. The equations of relativity are not designed to cope with this.  In fact, these data render them invalid. There is also the problem that c=h=G=1 obscures the colossal mis-match in the magnitudes of these quantities and also makes it impossible to track any changes they might undergo in reality. Therefore, relativity is not designed to function in the real world. In contrast, SED physics with the real ZPE produces results that accord with physical reality, while at the same time producing all the major predictions of relativity. This makes it a far more useful approach than relativity with its limited application.


In summary, all this indicates that, as seen from the atom, the physical constants will appear to be constant and the Einsteinian derived equations will hold there. But this is not true macroscopically. Rather, the mathematical concepts that flow on from the ZPE approach predict that changes in those constants will occur, changes which the relativistically derived equations do not and cannot predict. The ZPE approach from SED physics is therefore more in touch with the observational reality. This is the case because the physical constants have been measured as changing with time, and there is an entirely logical reason for them to do so. Dirac and Einstein both got some predictions correct. However, reality itself has essentially invalidated both of their mathematical theories. In the case of Dirac, the theory has indeed been abandoned in favor of that reality. It is to be hoped that the same process will occur with relativity, since the ZPE-based approach is a better physical description of the real world. The conclusion is that the restrictions which Einstein's relativity places on our thinking should be relaxed and a new look taken at the ZPE alternative.

De Broglie put the issue at stake somewhat more forcefully in 1962 in his book "New Perspectives in Physics" which started the SED branch of physics. He said:

Thus with every advance in our scientific knowledge new elements come up, often forcing us to recast our entire picture of physical reality. No doubt, theorists would much prefer to perfect and amend their theories rather than be obliged to scrap them continually. But this obligation is the condition and price of all scientific progress.


Return to GRS index page Return to Research Papers