Page:On the Relative Motion of the Earth and the Luminiferous Ether.djvu/12

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
Earth and the Luminiferous Ether.

would be about one-millionth of the original intensity, so that if sunlight or the electric arc were used it could still be readily seen. The mirrors bb/ and cc/, would differ from parallelism sufficiently to separate the successive images. Finally, the apparatus need not be mounted so as to revolve, as the earth's rotation would be sufficient.

If it were possible to measure with sufficient accuracy the velocity of light without returning the ray to its starting point, the problem of measuring the first power of the relative velocity of the earth with respect to the ether would be solved. This may not be as hopeless as might appear at first sight, since the difficulties are entirely mechanical and may possibly be surmounted in the course of time.

For example, suppose (fig. 3) m and m/, two mirrors revolving with equal velocity in opposite directions. It is evident that light from s will form a stationary image at s/ and similarly light from s/ will form a stationary image at s. If now the velocity of the mirrors be increased sufficiently, their phases still being exactly the same, both images will be deflected from s and s/, in inverse proportion to the velocities of light in the two directions; or, if the two deflections are made equal, and the difference of phase of the mirrors be simultaneously measured, this will evidently be proportional to the difference of velocity in the two directions. The only real difficulty lies in this measurement. The following is perhaps a possible solution : gg/ (fig. 4) are two gratings on which sunlight is concentrated. These are placed so that after falling on the revolving mirrors m and m/, the light forms images of the gratings at s and s/, two very sensitive selenium cells in circuit with a battery and a telephone. If everything be symmetrical, the sound in the telephone will be a maximum. If now one of the slits s be displaced through half the distance between the image of the grating bars, there will be silence. Suppose now that the two deflections having been made exactly equal, the slit is adjusted for silence. Then if the experiment be repeated when the earth's rotation has turned the whole apparatus through 180°, and the deflections are again made equal, there will no longer be silence, and the angular distance through which s must be moved to restore silence will measure the required difference in phase.

There remain three other methods, all astronomical, for attacking the problem of the motion of the solar system through space.

1. The telescopic observation of the proper motions of the stars. This has given us a highly probably determination of the direction of this motion, but only a guess as to its amount.

2. The spectroscopic observation of the motion of stars in the line of sight. This could furnish data for the relative