Michelson A. A. Light waves and their uses (1903)

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The Ether


displacement of less than should have been produced by the motion of the liquid. How much less was not determined. To this extent the experiment was imperfect.

On this account, and also for the reason that the experiment was regarded as one of the most important in the entire subject of optics, it seemed to me that it was desirable to repeat it

in order to determine, not only the fact that the displacement was less than could be accounted for by the motion of the water, but also, if possible, how much less. For this purpose the apparatus was modified in several important points, and is shown in Fig. 106.

It will be noted that the principle of the interferometer has been used to produce interference fringes of considerable breadth without at the same time reducing the intensity of the light. Otherwise, the experiment is essentially the same as that made by Fizeau. The light starts from a bright flame of ordinary gas light, is rendered parallel by the lens, and then falls on the surface, which divides it into two parts, one reflected and one transmitted. The reflected


Light Waves and Their Uses

jortion goes down one tube, is reflected twice by the total reflection prism P through the other tube, and passes, after necessary reflection, into the observing telescope. The other ray pursues the contrary path, and we see interference fringes in the telescope as before, but enormously brighter and more definite. This arrangement made it possible to make measurements of the displacement of the fringes which were very accurate. The result of the experiment was that the measured displacement was almost exactly seven-sixteenths of what it would have been had the medium which transmits the light waves moved with the velocity of the water.

It was at one time proposed to test this problem by utilizing the velocity of the earth in its orbit. Since this velocity is so very much greater than anything we can produce at the earth's surface, it was supposed that such measurements could be made with considerable ease; and they were actually tried in quite a considerable number of different ways and by very eminent men. The fact is, we cannot utilize the velocity of the earth in its orbit for such experiments, for the reason that we have to determine our directions by joints outside of the earth, and the only thing we have is the stars, and the stars are displaced by this very element which we want to measure; so the results would be entirely negative. It was pointed out by Lorentz that it is impossible by any measurements made on the surface of the earth to detect any effect of the earth’s motion.

Maxwell considered it possible, theoretically at least, to deal with the square of the ratio of the two velocities; that is, the square of -py^, or tuo„Joooo- He further indicated that if we made two measurements of the velocity of light, one in the direction in which the earth* is travel ing in its orbit, and one in a direction at right angles to this, then the time it takes light to pass over the same