In the following sentence, what is the meaning of 'in the ether'?

Rather than calling some function in the ether and passing arguments, we call a method on one particular object providing arguments for the other information.

I found the sentence in this article:


It's an article on programming but I guess the meaning of it is general.


3 Answers 3


Ether, or æther, was the mysterious substance once thought to suffuse the universe and be the medium that propagated light (and radio waves once they were discovered). Before that, it was the material that suffused the realm of the Gods. So, to say that something is in the ether means that it is something being communicated from place to place; it has no precise location, just as a radio broadcast can be heard from many different places.

The idea of ether as the medium for light and radio died out after the Michelson-Morley experiment's null result.

  • In this specific example, it's the has no precise location bit that is relevant and important. In procedural programming, a function is ‘just’ called—it's not called in relation to anything in particular and thus has no ‘location’, so to speak. In object-oriented programming, you first pull up a specific object, something as ‘tangible’ as you can get in computer code, and then you execute the function based on that object. Procedural function calls are ‘in the ether’ in an abstract sense, whereas object-oriented ones are not. Sep 28, 2014 at 20:40

"Into the ether" means into the void, disappearing.

Example: I can't find my car keys, I guess they've gone into the ether.


Ether and its meaning is dependent on the context and origin of the statment. In the scientific context it refers what we once believed to be a sort of membrane that covered particular elements or particles such as light or a medium in which these particles move about and exist in. In the theological or philosophical sense the ether refers to the essence of the universe. Sort of like the pool of energy from which the universe came from or is feed from. It may also refer to the source of magic, a cure all medicine, the birth place of magical beings such as dragons or fairies. It may also refer to the that which is not of the known, this is not to be confused with that which is unknown or the unknown. The latter two refer to that which we lack knowledge of or are unsure of. For example it is unknown if there is an end to the universe or what that may be. To say that which is not of the known is to say that which surpasses our realm of possible understanding, that which we can not hope to conceive regardless of the passage of time or acquisition of knowledge. For example, what is the beyond of the universe, or what a true God maybe. The experience of these events would be so far beyond any reasonably fathomable conception of human thought or understanding that to be in the presence of would shatter any mind. This is what it means to be that which is of the unknown, to be unknowable. That is what "into the ether" means, to step into the unknowable.

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