I'm reading the entire 20-volume set of the 1941 edition of the Book of Knowledge, published by the Grolier Society, Inc., and as of this writing am halfway through Volume 8, on page 2874. And here on this page is a wonderful example of why I am reading and enjoying this whole set. By the way, the contemporary editions of the Book of Knowledge are alphabetical and not as interesting as the 1941 edition. The writing is dryer and it, like everything else, now bows to political correctness. If you read about the ether in most any recent sources, it will just confuse you. But the 1941 edition explains it simply and honestly:
"Ether is the chemical name of a sweet-smelling liquid, made of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, which, like chloroform, produces a kind of sleep for surgical operations. But when we speak of the ether we mean something different. Of course we should have two different words for the two things, but we have not.
"The word has been used to mean the blue heavens or the upper air. But now it is known that the term has a wider meaning. In fact, we could say with truth that air is ether and spaces we have called empty are really filled with ether.
"If we understood the ether, we should have the key to almost every puzzle we find in nature. We know very little about it, but we are sure of certain facts. The ether is everywhere. It cannot be seen, yet we may say that we see nothing else, for light is a state of the ether, and light is the only thing we can see.
"Light and heat travel in waves, so there must be some medium in which such waves can travel. Scientists call this medium ether, but in recent years, especially many have come to believe that there is no such thing at all. Radio waves are also supposed to travel through the ether.
"The ether has no weight, yet it is the cause of weight; for weight is due to gravitation, and it is through the ether that gravitation acts. And some believe that matter is really made of the ether--that the electric particles, or electrons, of which the atoms of matter are composed, consist of things in the ether which we can only dimly picture to ourselves as knots or lumps of ether. Though we do not know how, it is possible that the ether is the mother of all matter and we cannot pierce behind it to anything except the Author of all that is."
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