Relativity and Cosmology


How Michelson's 1881 Miscalculation of the Expected Fringe Shift Helped in the Demise of the Ether

Authors: Henok Tadesse

We will see how Michelson's original error in calculation of the expected fringe shift in the 1881 experiment and its subsequent correction by Potier and Lorentz led to hastening of the abandonment of the ether. In an effort to increase the sensitivity of the experiment, Michelson and Morley considerably increased the arm length of light in the 1887 experiment, and by doing so, they ended up in building an instrument that ruled out the ether even more decisively than the 1881 Michelson experiment. All their efforts to detect the ether unexpectedly played out against the ether, not in favor of it. The reason why the 1887 experiment was much less sensitive than the 1881 experiment, despite the fact that the 1887 experiment used a considerably longer arm length, has always remained a mystery that no one has ever viewed it as such. By continuously increasing the arm length in subsequent experiments, physicists unknowingly ended up in setting up and repeating experiments that were much less sensitive to absolute motion than the 1881 Michelson experiment.

Comments: 6 Pages.

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[v1] 2018-11-29 06:22:32

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