Some notes on the transfiguration of energy, aether and dark matter
H.P. Lovecraft lived through an incredible period of history relative to the development of modern science, particularly within the fields of physics. The end of the 19th century saw Michael Faraday’s experiments establishing relationships among light, magnetism and electricity, which allowed for the development of the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation, as well as providing evidence toward the concept of lines of forces, later defined as a “field.” James Clerk Maxwell would build on this work in order to develop a broad definition and understanding of the electromagnetic spectrum, all of which (light, radio waves, X-rays, etc.) can be described as waves traveling at the speed of light in the vacuum of space.
Into the early 20th century Albert Einstein would revolutionize our perspective of space-time and our universe. In 1905 he published his paper on the Special Theory of Relativity, which states that space and time are relative to the observer. Later, Einstein would publish his paper on the General Theory of Relativity, which states that mass creates disturbances or distortions in space-time; larger the mass, the larger the distortion in space-time (Farndon, 2007). The fact that space and time are not absolute had a profound impact on H.P. Lovecraft and his philosophy of materialism, which can be seen through the progression of his stories. Initially Lovecraft was skeptical of Einstein’s ideas citing lack of proof (Joshi, 2013). However, proof was provided in 1919 when Sir Arthur Eddington photographed a star whose light passed very close to the Sun and actually shifted position (Farndon, 2007). Thus, by 1929 Lovecraft utilized Einstein’s work to support his modified version of materialism (Joshi, 2013). Toward the end of his life Einstein worked on the Unified Field Theory, which was an effort to integrate all of the forces of nature into one equation.
Meanwhile, Max Planck and later Werner Heisenberg would develop quantum theory to obtain a better understanding of subatomic particles, Marie Curie would isolate elements such as polonium and radium in order to study the properties of radioactivity and Ernest Rutherford (sometimes known as the father of particle physics) would provide the modern theory of the atom. The collective work of all of these scientists during this period of time was moving toward the Unified Field Theory, which was largely based on the discoveries made through the sub-discipline of high-energy particle physics. This merging of late 19th and early 20th century physics would also weave its way into the tales of H.P. Lovecraft. Additionally, some of the more recent findings of late 20th and early 21st century almost seem to “justify” situations and circumstances experienced in Lovecraft’s tales. This article is a brief examination of some of the unique concepts and ideas founds in Lovecraft’s stories and how they relate to modern physics.
One of the first of Lovecraft’s tales to refer to some of the concepts associated with modern physics is “Beyond the Walls of Sleep,” where a resident from the Catskill Mountains is being periodically “possessed” by a non-corporeal extraterrestrial entity. In the tale the protagonist invents a “cosmic radio” which allows him to directly communicate with the entity. The idea behind this mode of communication is conveyed through this passage: “It had long been my belief that human thought consists basically of atomic or molecular motion, convertible into ether waves or radiant energy like heat, light and electricity” – “Beyond the Wall of Sleep.”
At the time Lovecraft wrote this story, comparing the transmission of human thought to the conveyance of heat (molecular motion), light (photons) and electricity (electrons) may have seemed very unlikely. However, by treating human thought like another form of “energy conveyance” Lovecraft was thinking of matter and energy in a similar frame of mind as Albert Einstein. That is, unifying all of electromagnetism and gravity into a single theory as the Unified Field Theory. Indeed, although Lovecraft was skeptical of Einstein’s theory of relativity at the time he wrote “Beyond the Wall of Sleep” in 1919, he would later mention the physicist’s work in a number of stories as a means of describing our space-time to clearly identify entities or forces that are not native to our reality.
Prior to some experiments conducted in the late 1800’s, known as the Michelson-Morley experiments, it was thought that light (a form of electromagnetic radiation traveling as a wave) needed some type of substance, called ether, to move through the vacuum of space. The Michelson-Morley experiments, coupled with Einstein’s special theory of relativity, essentially demonstrated that the undetectable ether was not required to explain the movement and speed of light in space. By the early decades of the 20th century, the concept of ether in space was largely discredited as a viable hypothesis. However, Lovecraft still utilized the concept of ether or aether (Lovecraft used both words) in a number of stories including “Beyond the Wall of Sleep” and “The Whisperer in Darkness.”
While the concept of aether was a hypothesis developed to explain something in the universe for theoretical reasons, no experimental data could be found to support it. Thus, the idea was largely discarded. This is how science works; hypotheses are developed to explain something in the natural world and are thrown out or modified due to a lack of empirical evidence. However, in the case of dark matter (and dark energy as well) the exact opposite occurred; through the accumulation of observational data that could not be explained in any other manner, the concept of dark matter was forced to be recognized and studied by physicists (Sean Caroll, Dark Matter vs. Aether — “Science Friday”).
It has been demonstrated that given the influence of gravity, the calculated amount of mass in our galaxy and the observable universe is underestimated. In fact, it appears that more than 90% of the matter that should exist is non-detectable. More specifically, ordinary matter (which is all of the “stuff” we can see or perceive directly) accounts for only 5% of the universe. Another 25% of the universe is dark matter, which is matter that we cannot detect or perceive. The remaining 70% of the universe is dark energy. This is a type of energy that is smoothly distributed throughout the universe. It should be noted that dark matter and dark energy are inherently different from ordinary matter and energy. While we cannot detect or perceive dark matter and dark energy there is a substantial amount of evidence to support this idea that 95% of the universe is “dark.”
Bringing the discussion back to Lovecraft’s discoveries, the Mi-Go were said … “to live in interstellar space and fly through it on clumsy, powerful wings which have a way of resisting the aether but which are too poor at steering to be of much use in helping them about on earth” – “The Whisperer in Darkness.” While the concept of the aether in space has been largely discarded, the fact that the Mi-Go can easily sail or voyage through interstellar space but have a difficult time flying in Earth’s atmosphere indicates they may utilize dark matter or dark energy to travel the universe. The Mi-Go are adapted for intergalactic, and possibly inter-dimensional travel, so it stands to reason that they would have a difficult time moving in Earth’s atmosphere where ordinary matter dominants or overwhelms existing dark matter. This is another case where extra-dimensional Lovecraftian entities may appear to be “weak” to some capacity in our Earth-bound environment.
Lovecraft mentions a number of times that the Mi-Go are entities from outside of our space-time. Thus, our space-time is an “alien” environment to the Mi-Go. In addition the Mi-Go are far more “alien” relative to humans when compared to the Elder Things, which are known to originate from another world within our space-time. The Elder Things are essentially composed of the same ordinary matter that we are, while the Mi-Go are said to be… “composed of a form of matter total alien to our part of space – with electrons having a wholly different vibration-rate.” This is why, as Lovecraft describes, the Mi-Go cannot be photographed with standard camera films and plates and why their bodies cannot be preserved once they die. Based on the data provided by Lovecraft the Mi-Go may be composed of a fundamentally different form of matter. While it is unlikely they are composed of antimatter, they may actually be composed of a form of dark matter and thus originate from a very different “part” of our universe or possibly from a parallel universe / dimension as suggested by string theory. However, that subject is left for a future conversation.
To conclude, although Lovecraft used the antiquated and largely discarded hypothesis of aether to explain how the Mi-Go travel through space, he may have inadvertently provided evidence of how inter-dimensional entities may actually utilize dark matter and/or even be composed of it. In turn, such evidence may lead humans to actually detect and directly quantify the dark matter and dark energy, which accounts for 95% of the “stuff” in our universe.