[geocentrism] New Scientist Mag. The ether rediscovered!

  • From: "Jack Lewis" <jack.lewis@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <geocentrism@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 4 Apr 2005 23:02:34 +0100

Dear Members,
I have just bought the latest edition of 'New Scientist' magazine because of 
this cover headline:
 'WIND OF CHANGE For 100 years we have rejected the idea that the universe is 
filled with invisible ether. But no longer...' 

This is an article that resurrects the Michaelson-Morley and others, 
interferometer experiments. It is also suggesting that Einstein nicked 
Lorentz's theory. This is a 'must' read for all on this forum. I have already 
spoken to Neville about and he is very interested in it.

I have scanned the article in to my computer and it appears below. This would 
best be read using HTML format setting.

Cover story

Catching the cosmic wind

We killed off the ether a hundred years ago.

So why is the search back on, asks Marcus Chown

TWO hundred thousand dollars seems a small price to pay. If the most famous 
null result in science was right, at least we'll finally be sure. And if it was 
wrong, then Einstein is no longer king of the universe. No wonder Maurizio 
Consoli is keen to get started. This experiment could be dynamite.

Consoli, of the Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics in Catania, 
Sicily, has found a loophole in the 19th-century experiment that defined our 
modern view of the universe. The experiment established that light always 
travels through space at the same speed, whatever direction it is heading in 
and whatever the motion of its source: there is no way to put the wind in 
light's sails.

Einstein used this foundation to build his special theory of relativity, but it 
seems his confidence may have been premature. Consoli's paper, published in 
Physics Letters A (vol 333, p 355), shows that there might be a wind that blows 
in light's sails after all: something called the ether.

Until just over a century ago, most physicists believed that this ghostly 
substance filled all of space. Their reasoning was straightforward enough: the 
prevailing opinion was that light traveled as a wave, just like sound. And just 
like sound waves, light waves would need something to move through. Light, they 
believed, was the result of oscillations in the ether.

In 1887 Albert Michelson, who had recently produced the best-ever measurement 
of the speed of light, teamed up with Edward Morley to design an experiment to 
detect this ether. If it filled all of space, they reasoned, then all celestial 
bodies must have some velocity relative to it. So someone standing on Earth and 
facing in the direction of its motion

through space would have an "ether wind" rushing past their face. According to 
this thinking, a light wave travelling with the ether wind would seem to move 
faster than a light wave heading into it. And Michelson and Morley set out to 
prove this.

They set up an ether detector at the Case Institute of Technology in Cleveland, 
Ohio. Their "interferometer" measured the speed of two light beams travelling 
in perpendicular directions. Any motion relative to the ether would produce a 
difference in the speed of the light travelling down these two arms. The pair 
then recombined the perpendicular light beams in a telescope eyepiece, where 
any speed difference would show up in a striped pattern of interference 
fringes. To make sure they would maximise the effect of a speed difference, 
Michelson and Morley watched the fringes while they rotated their apparatus by 
90 degrees; if the fringes then shifted their position in the eyepiece it could 
only be the result of the Earth's speed through the ether.

The Earth is travelling at 30 kilometres per second around the sun, not to 
mention racing around the centre of the galaxy. So Michelson and Morley 
reasoned the ether wind should reduce the speed of light travelling in the same 
direction as the Earth by at least 30 kilometres per second - 0.01 per cent of 
the speed of light. The experiment was easily sensitive enough to detect an 
effect of this magnitude. To the disappointment of the experimenters, it did 
not, and reluctantly they accepted the conclusion that there is no ether.

Many similar experiments have been performed since then: in every case the 
official conclusion has been the same. But not everyone has swallowed the 
story. In 1902, William Hicks published a study of the Michelson-Morley 
experiment, and claimed the results supported the existence of an ether wind 
blowing over the Earth at 8 kilometres per second. Although the pair had 
carried out their observations over a number of days, they had then averaged 
out their results as if the experiment's orientation to a prevailing ether wind 
had not changed. Hicks pointed out that this would cancel out any effect. Some 
years later Dayton Miller, a former colleague of Michelson's, reworked the 
Michelson-Morley measurements and also came out with a speed for the ether wind 
of about 8 kilometres per second. He then redid the experiment with Morley and 
obtained the same result, but this time with a much smaller error range.

In 1921 Miller took the result to Einstein, who thought there was probably some 
mistake. He suggested that Miller's result might be explained by slight 
temperature differences in the apparatus. "Subtle is the Lord, but malicious he 
is not," Einstein declared. So Miller repeated the experiment 1800 metres up, 
on the snowy summit of Mount Wilson in California. "He got exactly the same 
result as Michelson and Morley in the warm basement of the Case Institute," 
Consoli says.

According to Consoli, many interferometer experiments carried out over the past 
century have shown a measurable ether wind. "The textbooks say the experiments 
produced null results," he says. "The textbooks do not tell the truth."

And that's why he wants to carry out a definitive test, an adaptation of the 
most recent ether-detecting experiments (see Diagram, page 34). These used two 
sapphire cavities oriented at right angles to each other. Laser light bounces 
back and forth inside the cavities; the size of the cavity and the wavelength 
of the light means they resonate at an extremely precise frequency. Left to run 
for over a year, the existence of an ether would create a difference in 
resonance frequency between the two cavities. That's because the Earth's motion 
around the sun, and thus the changing orientation of the ether wind, would 
change the speed at which light

'A positive result would have profound implications for physics''

moved in the cavities. When this was done at Humboldt University in Berlin, 
Germany, the frequency difference at the end of the run -less than 1 hertz - 
was within the experiment's margin of error: the ether was denied again 
(Physical Review Letters, vol 91, p 20401).

But hold on, Consoli says. So far, these sapphire cavity experiments have all 
been \ performed with the light passing through an extremely high vacuum. 
Consoli and his; colleague Evelina Costanzo are now proposing to repeat the 
Humboldt University experiment \ with the cavities filled with a relatively 
dense gas, such as carbon dioxide. This will slow the light, and that could 
make a crucial difference '", to the outcome.

Consoli says any Michelson-Morley type of j experiment carried out in a vacuum 
will show j no difference in the speed of light in different directions, even 
if there is an ether. But he points out that some theories, such as the 
electroweak theory and quantum field theory, suggest that light could appear to 
move at different speeds in different directions in a medium such as a dense 
gas. The size of the effect would depend on the refractive index of the medium 
- and any motion relative to an ether.

With the Earth careering through space into an ether wind, light in one arm of 
the gas-filled interferometer would travel faster than light in the other, 
"just as was seen in the classic non-vacuum experiments of Michelson and Morley 
and others," Consoli says. The 8-kilometres-per-second result for the speed of 
the ether wind relative to the Earth came from using an interferometer filled 
with air, he points out. Experiments performed using helium-filled 
interferometers have obtained 3 kilometres per second and those using a "soft" 
vacuum 1kilometre per second. The more rarefied the medium that light is shone 
through, the smaller the effect of the speed of the Earth's movement relative 
to any ether.

The cavity experiments will be even more sensitive to this. If there is an 
ether, Consoli predicts there will be a large jump in the frequency difference 
between the cavities -perhaps by a factor of 10,000, or even 100,000. The 
experiment will cost about $200,000 to set up and perform, but it will be worth 
it. "This is the crucial experiment," he says. "If such an effect is not seen, 
we will have closed the last experimental window."

It is not a straightforward experiment to perform, though. Experimenters have 
managed to produce a laser frequency stable enough to carry out experiments for 
hundreds of days only by cooling the cavities to close to absolute zero. If a 
gas is introduced at these temperatures it will freeze: it's going to take 
quite some ingenuity to overcome the problem. Nevertheless, a group of 
physicists at Humboldt University are considering taking on the challenge. 
"There is a good chance we will do the experiment," says Achim Peters, one of 
the group. It's going to be a much-watched piece of lab work. "If someone does 
do it, I will be very interested in the result," says Holger Miller of Stanford 
University, California, who was involved in laser cavity experiments at 
Humboldt before moving to the US. Miiller admits that a positive result would 
have profound implications for physics. For a start it would mean that one of 
Einstein's contemporaries, Hendrik Lorentz, has been denied proper recognition. 
Lorentz, not Einstein, would have to be credited with the definitive theory of 
relativity (see "Einstein the usurper", page 34).

Another implication, pointed out by Consoli, is the possibility of signaling at 
speeds that seem faster than light. In special relativity this is forbidden, 
because an object moving faster than light would appear to some observers as 
moving backwards in time. This can make an effect precede a cause, violating 
the principle of causality. If there is an ether providing the universe with an 
absolute reference frame, or "preferred" frame, faster-than-light signaling can 
happen: the view of events in the preferred frame is the correct one and all 
other frames must adjust their interpretation of what they see to fit in with 
it. Consoli suggests that, if there is a preferred frame, that might explain 
why physicists are able to use quantum entanglement to establish a link between 
subatomic particles, then have them influence each other instantaneously no 
matter how far apart they might be (New Scientist, 27 March 2004, p 32). 
Einstein famously rejected this phenomenon as impossible - he called it "spooky 
action at a distance"-but experiments have since shown it to be an entirely 
real and repeatable effect. But, Consoli points out, the effect wouldn't be 
instantaneous - and thus spooky - if measured in the correct reference frame.

Proof of the ether's existence would also mean that one of the most fundamental 
equations in physics needs adjusting. The Dirac equation is our best 
description of how light interacts with matter - it shows how the laws of 
relativity affect the properties of individual electrons. It is crucial because 
the passage of light through any medium other than a vacuum depends on the 
interaction of light with electrons of that medium. It is this interaction that 
slows light down and gives the medium its refractive index. As it stands, the 
equation does not allow a difference in the speed of light beams moving through 
the same medium in different directions. "If the equation broke down, it would 
be very big news indeed," Miiller says.

Consoli's experiment should tell us whether Einstein usurped Lorentz's throne"

He points out that the Dirac equation has already passed some stringent 
experimental trials: this makes him very sceptical that Consoli can truly be 
onto anything. He believes the experiment is misconceived and that Consoli 
ought to have applied the Dirac equation to individual electrons in the gas to 
see what effect there would be, rather than invoking the refractive index of 
the gas as a whole. Do this, and the argument that the light's speed will be 
boosted in one particular direction would fall apart, he suggests.

Robert Bluhm of Colby College in Waterville, Maine, also thinks Consoli is on a 
hiding to nothing. He doesn't even buy the basis of the argument, the problem 
with Michelson and Morley's averaged measurements. "I think it is safe to say 
that the textbooks are correct that the Michelson-Morley experiments gave a 
null result for the existence of an ether drift," he says. And even those who 
think Einstein's relativity does have limitations are not convinced that such a 
straightforward experiment can reveal anything. Researchers looking for a 
quantum theory of gravity - a theory that would unite relativity and quantum 
mechanics - suspect some form of "substrate" might underpin the universe. But 
they also suspect that the quantum gravity effects will only show up in 
experiments that probe matter over extremely short distances or at ultra-high 

Well maybe, Consoli says, but we ought to find out for sure. "All we are saying 
is that these experiments have not yet completely ruled out the possibility of 
a preferred frame. A small experimental window for its existence is left. We 
think it is worth investigating that window." And perhaps not even Einstein 
would argue with that. 

Einstein the usurper

The tenets of special relativity have withstood test after experimental test, 
so why bother searching for an ether again? Maurizio Consoli of the Italian 
National Institute of Nuclear Physics in Catania suggests that Einstein's 
theory could be a special case in a broader theory developed by one of his 
contemporaries. And the only thing that separates the ideas - the one test that 
will bestow the crown of king of the universe - is the question of an ether.

Hendrik Lorenz came up with a description of how light travels through space 
and time before Einstein formulated his special theory of relativity. Lorentz's 
theory is so similar to special relativity that it has passed the same tests. 
Indeed in his 1916 work, The Theory of Electrons, Lorenz commented: "Einstein 
simply postulates what we have deduced."

In Einstein's theory, when two observers look at each other, the intervals of 
space and time they see between them depend only on their relative velocity. 
But in Lorentz's view, the effects - and they look exactly the same-originate 
from the individual motion of each observer relative to an absolute reference: 
the ether.

Though they sound similar, the two theories are equivalent only in a vacuum, 
Consoli says. For the views from all reference frames to be equivalent, as 
special relativity requires, the maximum speed has to be unattainable by 
anything other than light, and that only in a vacuum. Ms gas-filled 
interferometer experiment should tell us whether Einstein usurped Lorentz's 

Read previous issues of New Scientist at http://archive. new/scientist.com


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