Modern Aether concept has begun by Rene Descartes, who proposed in 1644, that no empty space can exist and that space must consequently be filled with matter. The parts of this matter tend to move in straight paths, but because they lie close together, they can't move freely, which according to Descartes implies that every motion is circular, so the aether is filled with vortices. These ideas were extended later by more specific vortex model of Christian Huygens (1669 -1690) and by Newton's Aether flux model and gravity theory in particular (Principia ~1686, Opticks).
Modern textbooks often claims, Newton believed that space and time were absolute and inviolable - but Newton was a strong proponent of wave/particle duality and he published a variable-density Aether model, in which light and matter trajectories were either bent or deflected by an Aether density gradient. This can be compared to Einstein’s "refractive approach" to gravitational light-bending (1911), which was abandoned by Einstein himself on behalf of formal space-time curvature based description of gravity. Madame Blavatsky, in 1888, predicted that the ether would soon be rejected. She was right. It was rejected officially by wast majority of scientists in 1905, when Albert Einstein first dispensed with it. Einstein half-rejected the aether, he did not reject it in the sense of action by contact or instantaneity.
These trivial and quite natural models were never refuted in fact! Modern physicists never realized, Aether environment cannot be observed by its waves like every else environment - so they misinterpreted negative result of Michelson-Morley experiment (and many others) by the same way, like virtually every other aspects of Aether hypothesis toward less complete and intuitive space-time concept. Particle model doesn't explain, what the space-time really is, but it explains fractal foam nature of space-time curvature and the gradient driven symmetry of space and time . At Einstein time, scientists were not aware of another subtleties (Lens-Thirring effects, connection of QM and Lorentz symmetry violation, etc.), which are forming the motivation of AWT by now.
Believe it or not, neither AWT is completely new. It seems, the original author of dense Aether concept was Sir Oliver Joseph Lodge, who published in Harper's Magazine in 1904 his "Electric Theory of Matter", which is basically the electromagnetic theory of Aether. The dense Aether concept was mentioned even in some textbooks after then (1908).
The fundamental mistake of another well known Aether proponent T.J.J.See was, he didn't understood the dense Aether concept like others, albeit Lodge has explained it to him explicitly. From the above discussion it's evident, the conceptual father of AWT was rather Oliver Lodge, not T.J.J.See, albeit the later had published a lotta articles about Aether (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) later. But his Aether Wave Theory has only few common points with Lodge's concept, for example the assumption, all forces are mediated by Aether waves.
From AWT follows, era of formal and nonformal approach alternates in science in less or more apparent waves, the density of which increases, because of increasing information density. Intuitive plenum concept of ancient Greeks was replaced by abstract Newtonian concept of absolute space and time. With better understanding of wave nature of light at the beginning of 19th century Aether theory was revived, but it was replaced by formal combination of relativity and quantum mechanics in 20th century. Now we are facing Aether concept again, because contemporary system of formal dualities has reached its limits in many aspects, the complexity in particular.
"Variations in the speed of light"
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