This is my last post riffing on Concepts Of Ether edited by G.N. Cantor and M.J.S. Hodge…
I read in the book where Humphry Davy maintained, in the days before the Theory Of The Electron achieved supremacy over all other electricity theories, that “the electric fluid is probably light-“– condensed light, to be precise. In those days, electricity was often visualized as a fluid moving through, or along the surface of, matter.
I find this notion intriguing. I have always wondered about the relationship between electrons and light (basically the field of Quantum ElectroDynamics, or Q.E.D.). Intuitionally, I feel that light and electrons share something special that light does not share with other particles.
To give just two examples: 1) Electromagnetic waves (in the form of high-powered magnets) can, indeed, effect the course of Electrons, according to modern interpretations of experimental results; and 2) also according to modern theory, light and electrons interplay at the atomic level, with lightwaves of certain wavelengths causing electrons to shift orbits instantly in the so-called “quantum leap;” additionally, when electrons switch shells, they can emit tiny pulses of light.
William Whewell long ago thought that there existed a relationship between the energy and methods that our brain uses to move muscle (the “vital phenomena”) and electricity. He further contended that both the vital phenomena and electricity were related to chemical bonds– and all this to light. Perhaps he was even more right than we give him credit for.
Putting all this together, it is quite easy to imagine a situation wherein light contributes to the creation of electrons, and electrons (sometimes interacting with light) then drive the chemical activities of the Universe, including all the complex stuff going on inside our own bodies.
Maybe it’s really true: we are of starstuff made.