Skip to main content

Can a Lorentz Aether theory Explain the Michelson-Morley Experiment?

A theory of relativity already governed Newtonian mechanics. It's impossible according to Galilean relativity, to perform a mechanical experiment that tells one if she is in constant motion or at rest. Galileo's transformation equations were as follows

A problem became apparent when Maxwell published his equations of electromagnetism. He discovered that the speed of light is constant and propagates through an "aether". Motion through the aether of space is absolute and not relative and thus one could discover using light rays if they were traveling at a constant motion or at rest, violating Galieo's thesis. The Michelson-Morley experiment was the failure to detect such motion. Something was obviously wrong.

Galileo had not understood the effects of time dilation and length contraction. Today most physicists explain these effects as simply the result of time and spatial coordinates. These are not invariant and change from coordinate system unlike proper coordinates. Lorentz transformations are supposed to rotate these coordinates.

Lorentz, Larmor, FitzGerald and Poincare tried to explain the effects as the result of motion through the electromagnetic field. Since material objects are bound together by electrical forces its natural to consider that they themselves should be affected by motion through space. Our question "can a Lorentz aether theory explain the Michelson-Morley experiment?" is in fact equivalent to "can these effects be explained using the electromagnetic field?" John Bell showed that the answer was in fact yes.

Lets limit ourselves only to a simple example, a hydrogen atom with one electron moving along the z axis. Consider what happens to the orbit of the election. When the atom accelerates in an electric field our motion equation is

Where r is the position of the election in the field. At high velocity the familiar momentum equation is unsatisfactory.

Instead it's replaced with a modified formula proposed by Lorentz

Provided that acceleration is smooth. the nucleus will experience FitzGerald contraction in the direction of motion and the orbit will appear elliptical rather than circular. This orbit will now occur over a period larger than the original, such that it experiences Larmor dilation. The total number of orbits for a time t with velocity V(t) is given by

This suggests that we should describe the variables of the system to incorporate these effects. 


The moving orbit described with the primed variables is the same as the stationary orbit. One can extend this description to the field of the uniformly moving charge. During any orbit

One only has to now take a suitable origin for z and t in order to derive the standard form of the Lorentz  transformation equations. 


Popular posts from this blog

William Lane Craig and the Hartle-Hawking No Boundary Proposal

Classical standard hot Big Bang cosmology represents the universe as beginning from a singular dense point, with no prior description or explanation of classical spacetime. Quantum cosmology is different in that it replaces the initial singularity with a description in accord with some law the "quantum mechanical wave function of the universe", different approaches to quantum cosmology differ in their appeal either to describe the origin of the material content of the universe e.g., Tyron 1973, Linde 1983a, Krauss 2012 or the origin of spacetime itself e.g., Vilenkin 1982, Linde 1983b, Hartle-Hawking 1983, Vilenkin 1984.

These last few proposals by Vilenkin, Hartle-Hawking and others are solutions to the Wheeler-DeWitt equation and exist in a category of proposals called "quantum gravity cosmologies" which make cosmic applications of an approach to quantum gravity called "closed dynamic triangulation" or CDT (also known as Euclidean quantum gravity). I&#…

How Should Thatcherites Remember the '80s?

Every now and again, when I talk to people about the '80s I'm told that it was a time of unhinged selfishness, that somehow or other we learned the price of everything but the value of nothing. I can just remember that infamous line from Billy Elliot; 'Merry Christmas Maggie Thatcher. We all celebrate today because its one day closer to your death'. If it reflected the general mood of the time, one might wonder how it is she won, not one but three elections.

In an era when a woman couldn't be Prime Minister and a working class radical would never lead the Conservative party, Thatcher was both and her launch into power was almost accidental owing in part to Manchester liberals and the Winter of Discontent. Yet I'm convinced her election victory in '79 was the only one that ever truly mattered. Simply consider the calamity of what preceded it, the 1970s was a decade of double-digit inflation, power cuts, mass strikes, price and income controls, and the three…

Creation Of Universes from Nothing

The above paper "Creation of Universes from Nothing" was published in 1982, which was subsequently followed up in 1984 by a paper titled "Quantum Creation of Universes". I decided it would be a good idea to talk about these proposals, since last time I talked about the Hartle-Hawking model which was, as it turns out, inspired by the above work. 
Alexander Vilenkin also explains in a non-technical way the essential idea in his book; Many World's in One – one of the best books I've ever read – it mostly covers cosmic inflationary theory but the 17th chapter covers how inflation may have begun. In fact Vilenkin is one of the main preponderant who helped develop inflation along with Steinhardt, Guth, Hawking, Starobinsky, Linde and others. 
Although I won't talk about it here, Vilenkin also discovered a way of doing cosmology by using something called "topological defects" and he has been known for work he's done on cosmic strings, too.
In ex…