The Ether and the Earth's Atmosphere

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The Ether and the Earth’s Atmosphere  (1889) 
by George Francis FitzGerald
Science, 1889, 13: 390, Online

I have read with much interest Messrs. Michelson and Morley's wonderfully delicate experiment attempting to decide the important question as to how far the ether is carried along by the earth. Their result seems opposed to other experiments showing that the ether in the air can be carried along only to an inappreciable extent. I would suggest that almost the only hypothesis that can reconcile this opposition is that the length of material bodies changes, according as they are moving through the ether or across it, by an amount depending on the square of the ratio of their velocity to that of light. We know that electric forces are affected by the motion of the electrified bodies relative to the ether, and it seems a not improbable supposition that the molecular forces are affected by the motion, and that the size of a body alters consequently. It would be very important if secular experiments on electrical attractions between permanently electrified bodies, such as in a very delicate quadrant electrometer, were instituted in some of the equatorial parts of the earth to observe whether there is any diurnal and annual variation of attraction, — diurnal due to the rotation of the earth being added and subtracted from its orbital velocity; and annual similarly for its orbital velocity and the motion of the solar system.   Geo. Fras. Fitz Gerald

Dublin, May 2.

This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.