Albert Michelson was a Polish immigrant who grew up in the hard-scrabble atmosphere of the California gold rush. He relied on an appeal to then-President Ulysses Grant to gain admission to the Naval Academy, where he became a championship boxer. She also plays the banjo. Co-host Annie Minoff is here to tell us about it. And recently, we started thinking about all the scientific theories and ideas that we used to think were true. What if we ask, well, why did we think these things?

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Feynman, R. Krauss, L. The Physics of Star Trek. New York: Harper-Collins, Electromagnetic Waves. History and Terminology. History of Physics. Physics Contributors. This entry contributed by Leonardo Motta Ether, or luminiferous Ether, was the hypothetical substance through which electromagnetic waves travel. It was proposed by the greek philosopher Aristotle and used by several optical theories as a way to allow propagation of light, which was believed to be impossible in "empty" space.

It was supposed that the ether filled the whole universe and was a stationary frame of reference, which was rigid to electromagnetic waves but completely permeable to matter. Hooke endorsed the idea of the existence of the ether in his work Micrographia , and other several philosophers of the 17th century, including Huygens , did the same. At the time of Maxwell's mathematical studies of electromagnetism, ether was still assumed to be the propagation medium and was imbued with physics properties such as permeability and permittivity.

In , a crucial experiment was performed by Michelson and Edward Morley in an attempt to detect the existence of the ether. The experiment, named the Michelson-Morley experiment in honor of its authors, shocked the scientific community by yielding results which implied the non-existence of ether. This result was later on used by Einstein to refute the existence of the ether and allowed him to develop special relativity without this artificial and non-existent constraint.


Luminiferous aether

Feynman, R. Krauss, L. The Physics of Star Trek. New York: Harper-Collins, Electromagnetic Waves. History and Terminology.


Revisiting A Once-Great Scientific Idea

Luminiferous aether or ether [1] "luminiferous", meaning "light-bearing" was the postulated medium for the propagation of light. The assumption of a spatial plenum of luminiferous aether, rather than a spatial vacuum, provided the theoretical medium that was required by wave theories of light. The aether hypothesis was the topic of considerable debate throughout its history, as it required the existence of an invisible and infinite material with no interaction with physical objects. As the nature of light was explored, especially in the 19th century, the physical qualities required of an aether became increasingly contradictory. By the late s, the existence of the aether was being questioned, although there was no physical theory to replace it. The negative outcome of the Michelson—Morley experiment suggested that the aether did not exist, a finding that was confirmed in subsequent experiments through the s. This led to considerable theoretical work to explain the propagation of light without an aether.


The Luminiferous Ether

Thank you for visiting nature. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer. In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript. A Nature Research Journal. Stokes delivered his presidential address. This subject is, in one respect, specially fascinating, scientifically considered.

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