Re: The Cosmological constant (was Re: [asa] Predestined Fame:)

From: Ted Davis <>
Date: Wed Jul 16 2008 - 16:39:34 EDT

Karl notes that the M/M expt wasn't mentioned at the time of Michelson's
death. That sounds right to me. Michelson always considered that expt a
failure--he'd set out to measure the earth's motion through the ether, he
hadn't been able to find it, and that was that.

As for Lorentz and others, yes, there was knowledge of the M/M expt and it
was cited in some of the literature. But whether Einstein himself really
thought about the M/M expt, per se, is the historical question. And the
evidence that Holton discussed shows that he probably didn't.

For many years, of course, Einstein's SRT was seen as a modification of
Lorentz' ether theory. The very title of his famous 1905 paper helped to
create that impression. Major physicists and astronomers continued to
believe in the ether well into the 1920s, and in some celebrated cases even
much longer than that (E T Whittaker is a case in point). It wasn't that
Einstein "falsified" the ether hypothesis (which I should really call the
"ether fact," since no one really doubted its existence before Einstein), as
Popper believed (Popper regarded Einstein as the ideal scientist, and made
Einstein into a strict falsificationist); it was rather that the ether
slowly sank into the background and eventually disappeared, sort of like the
Cheshire cat's smile. Ditto for the view that light can't consist of
particles; when Millikan confirmed Einstein's equation for the photoelectric
effect around 1916, he did not believe that he had proved the existence of
photons. Rather, he had (in his mind) simply shown that Einstein's equation
was true.


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Received on Wed Jul 16 16:40:23 2008

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