Page:Poincaré - La Science et l’Hypothèse.djvu/296

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


Here, two hypotheses are possible: either the electrons are heavier because they have a particular mechanical inertia besides the electromagnetic inertia from the aether, thus they would form the actual matter; or they are without mass as well, and only appear to be heavier because they are much smaller. I intentionally say "much smaller", even hough this may appear paradoxical; by this assumption, the corpuscles would only represent holes in the aether, and only the aether alone would actually exist and be endowed with inertia.

So far, the existence of matter wouldn't be endangered a lot; we still can decide ourselves for the first hypothesis, we even can assume that there also exist other atoms besides the positive and negative electrons. However, this last refuge was also taken away from us by the recent investigations of Lorentz. We are carried by Earth in its extremely fast motion; should the optical and electrical phenomena not at all be influenced by this translation? For a long time, one has believed in such an influence, one has assumed that it would be possible to demonstrate (depending on the orientation of the apparatus with respect to Earth's motion) differences in the observations. This expectation was in vain, even the most precise measurements never demonstrated anything like that. So by that, the experiments justified a conviction common to all physicists: if it were possible to demonstrate any influence, then one would be in the position, not only to determine the relative motion of Earth around the sun, but even its absolute motion in the aether. For many persons it will be hard to believe,