Chapter 10. Empirical Evidence for the Relativistic Theories of Lorentz, Poincaré and Einstein: The 1881 and 1887 Michelson Experiments, Revisited


Hector A. Munera
International Centre for Physics, (CIF, Centro Internacional de Física), Bogotá, Colombia
Department of Physics, National University, Bogotá, Colombia

Part of the book: Future Relativity, Gravitation, Cosmology


The present paper begins with a quick revision of the undoubted connection between the inception of the theory of relativity and the “null” interpretation given to the experiments carried out by Michelson in 1881 and 1887. Lorentz always hoped that there would be a loophole in Michelson’s analysis that would make his length-contraction hypothesis unnecessary. In this context, section 2 presents for the first time my detailed analysis of the 1881 experiment, and with this new information, revisits the 1887 Michelson-Morley experiment in section 3. The overall result is that the pioneering experiments were designed to test only a particular value of solar motion, a hypotheses not supported by the empirical observations. However, the conclusions from both experiments overstepped the range of validity imposed by the experimental design itself. Thus, the crucial 1881 and 1887 experiments never were “null” and consequently there is no contradiction with the “positive” outcome of our own 2002-2005 MMMM experiment at CIF, in Bogota (Colombia): a successful first-time determination by optical means of velocity of Earth relative to a Newtonian frame of reference.


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