Hippolyte Fizeau. The Hypotheses Relating to the Luminous Aether // Philosophical Magazine, Series 4, vol. 2, pp. 568-573

Hippolyte Fizeau. The Hypotheses Relating to the Luminous Aether // Philosophical Magazine, Series 4, vol. 2, pp. 568-573

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Or, lastly, according to a third hypothesis, which includes both the former ones, only a portion of the aether is free, the other portion being attached to the molecules of bodies and participating in their motion.

This latter hypothesis was proposed by Fresnel, and constructed for the purpose of equally satisfying the phenomena of aberration, and a celebrated experiment of M. Arago, by which it has been proved that the motion of the earth has no influence upon the refraction which the light of the stars suffers in a prism.

We may determine the value which in each of these hypotheses it is necessary to attribute to the velocity of light in bodies when the bodies are supposed to be in motion.

If the aether is supposed to be wholly carried along with the body in motion, the velocity of light ought to be increased by the whole velocity of the body, the ray being supposed to have the same direc- • tion as the motion.

If the sether is supposed to be free and independent, the velocity of light ought not to be changed at all.

Lastly, if only one part of the sether is carried along, the velocity of light would be increased, but only by a fraction of the velocity of the body, and not, as in the first hypothesis, by the whole velocity. This consequence is not so obvious as the former, but Fresnel has shown that it may be supported by mechanical arguments of great probability.

Although the velocity of light is enormous comparatively to such as we are able to impart to bodies, we are at the present time in possession of means of observation of such extreme delicacy, that it seems to me to be possible to determine by a direct experiment what is the real influence of the motion of bodies upon the velocity of light.

We are indebted to M. Arago for a method based upon the phse-nomena of interference, which is capable of indicating the most minute variations in the indexes of refraction of bodies. The experiments of MM. Arago and Fresnel upon the difference between the refractions of dry and moist air, have proved the extraordinary sensibility of that means of observation.

It is by adopting the same principle, and joining the double tube of M. Arago to the conjugate telescopes which I employed for determining the absolute velocity of light, that I have been able to study directly in two mediums the effects of the motion of a body upon the light which traverses it.

I will now attempt to describe, without the aid of a diagram, what was the course of the light in the experiment. From the focus of a cylindrical lens the solar rays penetrated almost immediately into the first telescope by a lateral opening very near to its focus. A transparent mirror, the plane of which made an angle of 45° with the axis of the telescope, reflected the rays in the direction of the object-glass.

On leaving the object-glass, the rays having become parallel among themselves, encountered a double chink, each opening of which corresponded to the mouth of one of the tubes. A very narrow bundle

of rays thus penetrated into each tube, and traversed its entire length, lm-487.

The two bundles, always parallel to each other, reached the object-glass of the second telescope, were then refracted, and by the effect of the refraction reunited at its focus. There they encountered the reflecting plane of a mirror perpendicular to the axis of the telescope, and underwent a reflexion back again towards the object-glass ; but by the effect of this reflexion the rays had changed their route in such a way that that which was to the right before, was to the left after the reflexion, and vice versa. After having again passed the object-glass, and been thus rendered parallel to each other, they penetrated a second time into the tubes; but as they were inverted, those which had passed through one tube in going passed through the other on returning. After their second transit through the tubes, the two bundles again passed the double chinks, re-entered the first telescope, and lastly intersected at its focus in passing across the transparent mirror. There they formed the fringes of interference, which were observed by a glass carrying a graduated scale at its focus.

It was necessary that the fringes should be very large in order to be able to measure the small fractions of the width of a fringe. I have found that that result is obtained, and a great intensity of light maintained, by placing before one of the chinks a thick mirror ■which is inclined in such a way as to see the two chinks by the effect of refraction, as if they were nearer to each other than they really are. It is in this way possible to give various dimensions to the fringes, and to choose that which is the most convenient for observation. The double transit of the light was for the purpose of augmenting the distance traversed in the medium in motion, and further to compensate entirely any accidental difference of temperature or pressure between the two tubes, from which might result a displacement of the fringes, which would be mingled with the displacement which the motion alone would have produced; and thus have rendered the observation of it uncertain.

It is, in fact, easy to see that in this arrangement all the points situated in the path of one ray are equally in the path of the other ; so that any alteration of the density in any point whatever of the transit acts in the same manner upon the two rays, and cannot consequently have any influence upon the position of the fringes. The compensation may be satisfactorily shown to be complete by placing a thick mirror before one of the two chinks, or as well by filling only one of the tubes with water, the other being full of air. Neither of these two experiments gives rise to the least alteration in the position of the fringes.

With regard to the motion, it is seen, on the contrary, that the two rays are subject to opposite influences.

If it is supposed that in the tube situated to the right the water runs towards the observer, that of the two rays which comes from the right will have traversed the tube in the direction of the motion, while the ray coming from the left will have passed in a direction contrary to that of the motion.

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