The Michelson-Morley experiment detected no difference in the speed of light, regardless of
direction vs. the hypothesized ether wind. Although several attempts were made to explain away the experiment's results, the eventual conclusion was that the proposed ether wind must, therefore, not exist.
Answered by: Paul Walorski, B.A., Part-time Physics/Astronomy Instructor
Lord Rayleigh wrote to Michelson, urging him to repeat the experiment with greater accuracy to test these hypotheses. Michelson, with the collaboration of E. W. Morley, constructed a new interferometer with multiple mirrors and a path length about 10 times longer. This device should have given a fringe shift of about 0.4, but they observed less than 0.005 fringe. Although repeated over the next 40 years with ever greater precision and the same negative result, this 1887 experiment is pointed to as one of the experimental foundations of relativity, and earned Michelson the Nobel Prize in 1907.
Answered by: Jason Heidecker, Physics Undergrad, Occidental College, Los Angeles
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