The Trouton–Rankine experiment was an experiment designed to measure if the Lorentz–FitzGerald contraction of an object according to one frame (as defined by the luminiferous aether) produced a measurable effect in the rest frame of the object, so that the ether would act as a "preferred frame". The experiment was first performed by Frederick Thomas Trouton and Alexander Oliver Rankine in 1908.
The outcome of the experiment was negative, which is in agreement with the principle of relativity (and thus special relativity as well), according to which observers at rest in a certain inertial reference frame, cannot measure their own translational motion by instruments at rest in the same frame. Consequently, also length contraction cannot be measured by co-moving observers. See also Tests of special relativity.
The famous Michelson–Morley experiment of 1887 showed that the then-accepted aether theory needed to be modified. FitzGerald and Lorentz, independently of each other, proposed a length contraction of the experimental apparatus in the direction of motion (with respect to the Luminiferous aether) that would explain the almost null result of the Michelson–Morley experiment. The first attempts to measure some consequences of this contraction in the lab frame (the inertial frame of reference of an observer co-moving with the experimental apparatus) were made in the experiments of Rayleigh and Brace (1902, 1904), though the result was negative. By 1908, however, the then-current theories of electrodynamics, Lorentz ether theory (now superseded) and special relativity (now generally accepted, and lacking any aether at all), predicted that the Lorentz–FitzGerald contraction is not measurable in a co-moving frame, because these theories were based on the Lorentz transformation.
Frederick Thomas Trouton, (after conducting the Trouton–Noble experiment in 1903), instead did the calculations using his own interpretation of electrodynamics, calculating the length contraction according to the velocity of the experimental apparatus in the aether frame, but calculating the electrodynamics by applying Maxwell's equations and Ohm's law in the lab frame. According to Trouton's view of electrodynamics, the calculations then predicted a measurable effect of the length contraction in the lab frame. Together with Alexander Oliver Rankine, he set out to verify this in 1908 by attempting to measure the change of the resistance of a coil as they changed its orientation to the "aether velocity" (the velocity of the lab through the luminiferous aether). This was done by putting four identical such coils in a Wheatstone bridge configuration which allowed them to precisely measure any change in resistance. The circuit was then rotated through 90 degrees about its axis as the resistance was measured. Because the Lorentz–FitzGerald contraction is only in the direction of motion, from the point of view of the "Aether frame" the length of the coils depended on their angle with respect to their Aether velocity. Trouton and Rankine therefore believed that the resistance as measured in the rest frame of the experiment should change as the device was rotated. However their careful measurements showed no detectable change in resistance.
This showed that if the Lorentz–FitzGerald contraction existed, it was not measurable in the rest frame of the object – only theories containing the complete Lorentz transformation, like special relativity, are still valid.
In astronomy, aberration is a phenomenon which produces an apparent motion of celestial objects about their true positions, dependent on the velocity of the observer. It causes objects to appear to be displaced towards the direction of motion of the observer compared to when the observer is stationary. The change in angle is of the order of v/c where c is the speed of light and v the velocity of the observer. In the case of "stellar" or "annual" aberration, the apparent position of a star to an observer on Earth varies periodically over the course of a year as the Earth's velocity changes as it revolves around the Sun, by a maximum angle of approximately 20 arcseconds in right ascension or declination.
Luminiferous aether or ether was the postulated medium for the propagation of light. It was invoked to explain the ability of the apparently wave-based light to propagate through empty space, something that waves should not be able to do. The assumption of a spatial plenum of luminiferous aether, rather than a spatial vacuum, provided the theoretical medium that was required by wave theories of light.
In physics, special relativity is the generally accepted and experimentally confirmed physical theory regarding the relationship between space and time. In Albert Einstein's original pedagogical treatment, it is based on two postulates:
The theory of relativity usually encompasses two interrelated theories by Albert Einstein: special relativity and general relativity. Special relativity applies to all physical phenomena in the absence of gravity. General relativity explains the law of gravitation and its relation to other forces of nature. It applies to the cosmological and astrophysical realm, including astronomy.
The Michelson–Morley experiment was an attempt to detect the existence of the luminiferous aether, a supposed medium permeating space that was thought to be the carrier of light waves. The experiment was performed between April and July 1887 by Albert A. Michelson and Edward W. Morley at what is now Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and published in November of the same year. It compared the speed of light in perpendicular directions in an attempt to detect the relative motion of matter through the stationary luminiferous aether. The result was negative, in that Michelson and Morley found no significant difference between the speed of light in the direction of movement through the presumed aether, and the speed at right angles. This result is generally considered to be the first strong evidence against the then-prevalent aether theory, and initiated a line of research that eventually led to special relativity, which rules out a stationary aether. Of this experiment, Einstein wrote, "If the Michelson–Morley experiment had not brought us into serious embarrassment, no one would have regarded the relativity theory as a (halfway) redemption."
Woldemar Voigt was a German physicist, who taught at the Georg August University of Göttingen. Voigt eventually went on to head the Mathematical Physics Department at Göttingen and was succeeded in 1914 by Peter Debye, who took charge of the theoretical department of the Physical Institute. In 1921, Debye was succeeded by Max Born.
The Kennedy–Thorndike experiment, first conducted in 1932 by Roy J. Kennedy and Edward M. Thorndike, is a modified form of the Michelson–Morley experimental procedure, testing special relativity. The modification is to make one arm of the classical Michelson–Morley (MM) apparatus shorter than the other one. While the Michelson–Morley experiment showed that the speed of light is independent of the orientation of the apparatus, the Kennedy–Thorndike experiment showed that it is also independent of the velocity of the apparatus in different inertial frames. It also served as a test to indirectly verify time dilation – while the negative result of the Michelson–Morley experiment can be explained by length contraction alone, the negative result of the Kennedy–Thorndike experiment requires time dilation in addition to length contraction to explain why no phase shifts will be detected while the Earth moves around the Sun. The first direct confirmation of time dilation was achieved by the Ives–Stilwell experiment. Combining the results of those three experiments, the complete Lorentz transformation can be derived.
The Trouton–Noble experiment was an attempt to detect motion of the Earth through the luminiferous aether, and was conducted in 1901–1903 by Frederick Thomas Trouton and H. R. Noble. It was based on a suggestion by George FitzGerald that a charged parallel-plate capacitor moving through the aether should orient itself perpendicular to the motion. Like the earlier Michelson–Morley experiment, Trouton and Noble obtained a null result: no motion relative to the aether could be detected. This null result was reproduced, with increasing sensitivity, by Rudolf Tomaschek, Chase and Hayden in 1994. Such experimental results are now seen, consistent with special relativity, to reflect the validity of the principle of relativity and the absence of any absolute rest frame. See also Tests of special relativity.
Length contraction is the phenomenon that a moving object's length is measured to be shorter than its proper length, which is the length as measured in the object's own rest frame. It is also known as Lorentz contraction or Lorentz–FitzGerald contraction and is usually only noticeable at a substantial fraction of the speed of light. Length contraction is only in the direction in which the body is travelling. For standard objects, this effect is negligible at everyday speeds, and can be ignored for all regular purposes, only becoming significant as the object approaches the speed of light relative to the observer.
Sir Joseph Larmor FRS FRSE DCL LLD was an Irish physicist and mathematician who made innovations in the understanding of electricity, dynamics, thermodynamics, and the electron theory of matter. His most influential work was Aether and Matter, a theoretical physics book published in 1900.
The timeline of luminiferous aether or ether as a medium for propagating electromagnetic radiation begins in the 18th century. The aether was assumed to exist for much of the 19th century—until the Michelson–Morley experiment returned its famous null result. Further experiments were in general agreement with Michelson and Morley's result. By the 1920s, most scientists rejected the aether's existence.
Special relativity is a physical theory that plays a fundamental role in the description of all physical phenomena, as long as gravitation is not significant. Many experiments played an important role in its development and justification. The strength of the theory lies in its unique ability to correctly predict to high precision the outcome of an extremely diverse range of experiments. Repeats of many of those experiments are still being conducted with steadily increased precision, with modern experiments focusing on effects such as at the Planck scale and in the neutrino sector. Their results are consistent with the predictions of special relativity. Collections of various tests were given by Jakob Laub, Zhang, Mattingly, Clifford Will, and Roberts/Schleif.
In the 19th century, the theory of the luminiferous aether as the hypothetical medium for the propagation of light was widely discussed. An important part of this discussion was the question concerning the state of motion of Earth with respect to this medium. The aether drag hypothesis dealt with the question of whether or not the luminiferous aether is dragged by or entrained within moving matter. According to the first variant no relative motion exists between Earth and aether; according to the second one, relative motion exists and thus the speed of light should depend on the speed of this motion, which should be measurable by instruments at rest on Earth's surface. Specific aether models were invented by Augustin-Jean Fresnel who in 1818 proposed that the aether is partially entrained by matter. The other one was proposed by George Stokes in 1845, in which the aether is completely entrained within or in the vicinity of matter.
The history of special relativity consists of many theoretical results and empirical findings obtained by Albert A. Michelson, Hendrik Lorentz, Henri Poincaré and others. It culminated in the theory of special relativity proposed by Albert Einstein and subsequent work of Max Planck, Hermann Minkowski and others.
In physics, aether theories propose the existence of a medium, a space-filling substance or field, thought to be necessary as a transmission medium for the propagation of electromagnetic or gravitational forces. Since the development of special relativity, theories using a substantial aether fell out of use in modern physics, and are now joined by more abstract models.
What is now often called Lorentz ether theory (LET) has its roots in Hendrik Lorentz's "theory of electrons", which was the final point in the development of the classical aether theories at the end of the 19th and at the beginning of the 20th century.
In theoretical physics, a preferred or privileged frame is usually a special hypothetical frame of reference in which the laws of physics might appear to be identifiably different (simpler) from those in other frames.
The Fizeau experiment was carried out by Hippolyte Fizeau in 1851 to measure the relative speeds of light in moving water. Fizeau used a special interferometer arrangement to measure the effect of movement of a medium upon the speed of light.
Emil Georg Cohn, was a German physicist.
The experiments of Rayleigh and Brace were aimed to show whether length contraction leads to birefringence or not. They were some of the first optical experiments measuring the relative motion of Earth and the luminiferous aether which were sufficiently precise to detect magnitudes of second order to v/c. The results were negative, which was of great importance for the development of the Lorentz transformation and consequently of the theory of relativity. See also Tests of special relativity.