Miller D.C. The Ether-Drift Experiment and the Determination of the Absolute Motion of the Earth // Reviews of modern physics, Vol.5, July 1933

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Other Evidences of Cosmic Motion

The various astronomical determinations of motion of the solar system in space, by the nature of the methods employed, indicate relative motion and do not directly give any information as to an absolute motion. However, several recent important experiments in diverse fields seem to give evidence of a cosmic motion. Dr. Esclangon, Director of the Paris Observatory, has made elaborate studies of earth tides (deformation of the earth's crust) and of ocean tides. In the latter work he considered 166,500 observations extending over a period of nineteen years.23 There are component tidal effects which indicate a motion of the solar system in the plane which contains the sidereal time meridian of 4½h and 16½h 23

By a study of the reflection of light, Esclangon finds strong evidence for what he calls an optical dissymmetry of space with its axis of symmetry in the meridian of 8 hours and 20 hours, sidereal time. This effect would be explained by an ether-drift and the results are in striking agreement with the ether-drift observations here reported.24

Many recent observations on cosmic rays show a very definite maximum of radiation in the direction indicated by the meridian of 5 hours and 17 hours, sidereal time. The very extensive observations of Kolhörster and von Salis, Büttner and Feld and of Steinke all show this effect.25 Observations made on the nonmagnetic ship Carnegie show the same effect for the observations made between 30 north and 30 south latitude.26

Evidences of galactic motions which are related more or less directly to the absolute motion of the solar system have been found by Harlow Shapley studying interstellar matter, by J. S. Plaskett from investigation of the motion of B-type stars, and by G. Strömberg from researches on star clusters and nebulae.27

23 E. Esclangon, Comptes Rendus 182, 921 (1926); 183, 116 (1926).

24 E. Esclangon, Comptes Rendus 185, 1593 (1927).

25 Kohlhörster, Steinke and Büttner, Zeits. f. Physik 50, 808 (1928).

28 Report Carnegie Inst. 27, 255 (1928).

27 Harlow Shapley, Nature 122, 482 (1928); J. S.

Plaskett, Science 71, 152 (1930); G. Strömberg, Astrophys.

J. 61, 353 (1925).

L. Courvoisier has made researches of several types to discover evidences of the absolute motion of the earth. His experiments relate to the reflection of light, the deformation of the earth, the elongations of Jupiters satellites, and to the aberration constant. R. Tomaschek and W. Schaffernicht have made observations on related subjects.28

There are several anomalies in astronomical observations of less definite character, which, however, might be explained by the existence of an ether drift. Such anomalies occur in connection with the observed constant of aberration, standard star places and clock corrections determined at different times of day.

Karl G. Jansky of the Bell Telephone Laboratories has found evidences of a peculiar hissing sound in short wave radio reception, which comes from a definite cosmic direction lying in the meridian of 18 hours sidereal time.29


The experiments here presented have involved the taking of an enormous amount of observational material, by far the greater part of which was for the purpose of making adjustments and for preliminary trials of conditions; while only the smaller portion, which is still very large, has been used in the final calculations. The reduction of this mass of material has been exceedingly laborious. No other experiment comes to mind which has involved such an amount of detail and such extended study. This has required considerable attention from many different persons. The writer is under special obligation to Professor J. J. Nassau, of the Department of Astronomy of Case School of Applied Science, for very great assistance in the analysis and in the mathematical solution of the numerical and astronomical features of the work since the beginning of the Mount Wilson observations in 1921. Dr. G. Strömberg and other members of the staff of the Mount Wilson Observatory have given advice and assistance of

28 L. Courvoisier, Astronomische Nachrichten, Nos. 5416, 5519, 5599, 5715, 5772, 5910. R. Tomaschek and W. Schaffernicht, Astronomische Nachrichten, Nos. 5844,5929; Ann. d. Physik 15, 787 (1932).

29 Karl G. Jansky, Electronics 6, 173 (1933).

the greatest value. Several research assistants have each, for considerable periods, been identified with the experimental work and the reduction and calculation of the observations; among these the following should be especially mentioned: R. F. Hovey (19201923), H. A. Pritchard (1923), Willard Samuelson (1924), G. Brooks Earnest (1925), F. W. Taylor (1925 1926), Donald H. Spicer (19261927) and James R. McKinney (19321933). Dr. R. M. Langer was a most efficient assistant throughout all the observations made at Mount Wilson in 1925 and 1926, which constitute the principal material for the conclusions of the present report. Professor Phillip M. Morse assisted very effectively in the first analysis of the general problem of the absolute motion of the solar system, and he made a considerable part of the calculations for the

first solution of this problem in 19251926. The writers research associates, Professor John R. Martin (19271931) and Mr. Robert S. Shankland (19321933), have been directly associated with the restudy of the problem which has resulted in the final determination of the absolute motion of the solar system and the orbital motion of the earth as presented in this report.

Case School of Applied Science has made possible the continuous prosecution of the study of the ether-drift problem. The Carnegie Institution of Washington and the Mount Wilson Observatory made available the exceptional facilities of Mount Wilson for observational work from 1921 to 1926. Mr. Eckstein Case provided funds for the very considerable expenses involved in making the elaborate series of experiments and tests.

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