by Kirsten Weiss
In the wacky world of Victorian science fiction, aka steampunk, machines are typically powered by steam. But the fictional Victorians discovered an alternate power source: aether.
Because seriously, powering a ray gun with steam is just ridiculous. 😀
But what exactly is aether? It depends on who you ask.
~ Ask an ancient philosopher, and he’ll tell you the matter of the universe is divided into four elements (much like this post): earth, wind, air and fire. Everything in creation was composed of different combinations of these elements.
The concept of the elements as building blocks for matter really got going in the 3rd century, when Plato proposed a fifth element: aether. He considered it the material filling the region of the further reaches of the cosmos.
Aether as an “in between” element was used to explain several natural phenomena, such as gravity and the movement of light.
~ Ask an alchemist, and they’ll tell you that aether is the substance which pervades all matter – sort of an animating spirit, the anima mundi. This fifth element is an incorruptible substance that activates the other four.
For example, the Philosopher’s stone, of Harry Potter fame, is a magical substance which can transform lead into gold and is composed of aether.
~ Ask a Victorian-era scientist, and he’ll theorize that aether is a hidden, dark energy in space. So empty space isn’t actually empty – there’s an energy within it that, according to the Victorians, can’t be detect yet.
~ Ask a modern physicist, and she’ll tell you that in the 20th century, scientists discovered the universe was expanding. This expansion must be driven by some sort of energy.
Could it be… aether?
We also know that atoms aren’t “solid” per se – there is space in between them. Is it aether?
Which of these theories about aether makes the most sense to you?
Aether plays a major role in my new pre-Steampunk novel of suspense, OF MICE AND MECHANICALS, now available for pre-order on Amazon and Kobo.
Mechanicals, Mayhem, and Murder.
All Sensibility Grey wants is to tinker in her new laboratory in boomtown San Francisco. A stranger in a strange land, she is finally making a life for herself as a purveyor of mechanicals to eager miners. But a pair of government agents have other things in mind.
Loves and loyalties fracture, and mysterious forces threaten to destroy Sensibility and her clockwork secrets. Tangling with occultists, aether gone wrong, and a local vigilante group, Sensibility must decide where her allegiances lie, and whom she can trust.
OF MICE AND MECHANICALS is book two in the Sensibility Grey series of pre-steampunk, paranormal suspense set in the wild west of the California gold rush.
Posted by Kirsten Weiss. Kirsten has worked overseas, on the fringes of the former USSR and deep in the Afghan war zone. These experiences gave her glimpses into the darker side of human nature and sparked an interest in the effects of mysticism and mythology, and how both are woven into our daily lives. Now based in San Mateo, CA, she writes paranormal mysteries, blending her experiences and imagination to create a vivid world of magic and mayhem. Kirsten is the author of the pre-Steampunk novels, Steam and Sensibility and Of Mice and Mechanicals, and the Riga Hayworth series of paranormal mysteries/urban fantasy.
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K.B. OwenApril 7, 2015 at 7:53 am
Cool post, Kirsten! I love how you use aether in your upcoming book. And I agree: a steam-powered ray gun would be kind of silly! 😉 Good luck with your launch!
shannon espositoApril 7, 2015 at 9:42 am
Well, considering modern day scientists have figured out the observable universe only contains about 5% ordinary matter and the remaining 95% is made up of mysterious dark matter and dark energy, proves there is definitely some unknown energy phenomenon going on. Whether it’s labeled “aether,” dark energy or something else, it’s still fascinating!
Can’t wait to read this one, Kirsten & best of luck with the launch!
Kassandra LambApril 7, 2015 at 10:42 am
I had the privilege of proofreading this book. It is excellent! But I thought you had made up aether, Kirsten. Turns out people have been theorizing about it since Plato.
Since i believe the human body has several kinds of energy, I have no problem with the theory that there are other kinds of energy in the universe that we don’t yet understand.
Vinnie HansenApril 7, 2015 at 11:26 am
I love learning something new! Thanks for the post, Kirsten.
Kirsten WeissApril 7, 2015 at 12:12 pm