Why discuss Aether?
Because the electric universe proponents try to dismiss special relativity by trying to
claim aether does exist therefore Einstein was wrong. Long before Einstein’s theory of special
relativity there was gathering evidence that aether was not there. As Sagan states in the Demon
Haunted World, it is not possible to prove something does not exists, in aethers case there is no
proof that demonstrates it does exists.
What is Aether?
This is not so simple because it meant different things to different groups. Aether meant to
the Greeks as “to burn, to kindle, or to shine” and it meant everything above the clouds. Newton
used it to help explain the refraction and diffraction in the particle theory of light Huygens used to
explain how light moved in a wave. Huygen’s claimed that light moved in longitudinal waves like
sound waves or mechanical waves. Eventually it turned into a substance that could do almost
everything at the same time. When Maxwell came along with his equations for electricity and
magnetism it came obvious that light travelled in transverse waves which means that the aether has
to be rigid. The only requirement for Maxwells equations for light to travel in a vacuum is must
travel at the speed of light. At lower energies the viscosity had to near null or it would cause drag,
and the planets would spiral towards the Sun. In the 1800’s experiments like Michelson-Morley
experiment showed no evidence of aether exists. Since then there have been several more accurate
experiments backing up these experiments.
What was the Michelson-Morley experiment ?
The Michelson-Morley experiment was to measure the effect of the aether on a light source
travelling on the Earth. If the Earth moves in the aether and the light is parallel to the motion of the
Earth around the Sun, it would effect the speed of light. The speed of light would be higher when
travelling in same direction as the movement of Earth around the Sun and would be less when the
light was travelling the opposite direction. The device was a light source that was passed through a
halved silvered at a 45 degree angle mirror thus splitting the light on straight ahead and one at 90
degrees. The whole apparatus was floated in pool of mercury so it could spin so it could change
orientations easily. At the end of each arm was a mirror and was reflected back to halved silvered
mirror and reflected to a detector. If the two beams of light were still travelling at the same speed
they would over lap each and constructively interfere each other. If one was slower then the other
there would be two peaks with one slightly behind the other. On the detector there would a pattern
of a bright dot in the centre and a series of concentric circles on the detector if there is aether and if
no aether there would be no pattern. There was a pattern but it was smaller then what was needed
and what was detected was less then experimental error and the era of aether was on it’s way out.
Were there any experiments that did not agree
There were a set of experiments done by Dayton Miller which showed aether may exists. Dayton Miller’s experiments were shown by Shankland to have errors. The apparatus itself was shown to be affected by thermal conditions also Miller’s results were actually averages of hundreds so they were 10 times smaller then could be measured by the device . So device could be influenced by temperature changes and the analysis was faulty.
So in summary, aether could exits but it has no effect on light or on matter that we can
measure with our current technology. Does this prove Einstein right, no. Is there other evidence for
special relativity, yes.
Gaincoli Douglas C. (1995), Physics, 4th ed. Pg 746-749