Michelson-Morley experiment

1887 Michelson-Morley

The book of science

Tom Sharp

Albert A. Michelson, Edward W. Morley physics Michelson-Morley experiment

Michelson-Morley experiment

Michelson and Morley showed either the aether was rotated by the rotating earth or there was no aether there.

Luminiferous aether

It was easy enough to believe that light, being a wave, had to be a vibration of something, even though we cannot see it, we cannot feel it, nor smell it, nor taste it, nor hear it, but everyone thought so. Augustin-Jean Fresnel thought it was dragged along by the earth so that the expected interference of light traveling with the aether with light traveling across it would be smaller than their instruments could measure. Experiments designed to measure the cross-flow of aether couldn’t find any flow which convinced everyone except for Albert Einstein that Fresnel was right, but of course he was wrong.

The experiment

The reason scientists do experiments is to show their theories are wrong. I know you want to find examples of experiments that show I’m wrong.

Michelson and Morley thought they couldn’t measure the flow of aether because it was dragged along by the earth as it moved through space. It wasn’t until Albert Einstein published his Special Theory of Relativity that the irrelevance of the aether theory became clear.

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