(Jewish Daily Bulletin)
The results of a life time of research concerning the speed of light, which may change the entire aspect of the science of physics and affect the general conception of the universe will be presented by Prof. Albert A. Michelson, famous American Jewish scientist and the only American awarded the Nobel prize in physics, at the National Academy of Science which opens its sessions in Philadelphia tomorrow. The research conducted by Prof. Michelson served as the basis for Dr. Albert Einstein to formulate his relativity theory.
The expected announcements by Prof. Michelson which are awaited with great interest in scientific cireles all over the world, it is learned will be to the effect that light travels at the rate of 299,795 kilometres a second. This is a decrease of 58 kilometers (about 36 miles) a second over the previously accepted figure. (A Kilometer is 3.280.8 feet. or nearly five-eighths of a mile). The old rate of 186,000 miles per second, now will have to be set aside and new calculations begun. Astronomers, physicists, even philosophers, the world over, will have to overhaul the thought structures which they have built and reshape them to a new Michelson world.
The speed of light, it has been found in the Michelson experiments carried on in Chicago and California, is constant. It seems to be about the only constant left in the world of science, which is gradually being whittled away to electronic energy, and. behind that, to a dim conception of change and thought form and patterns of force and change.
But all have the speed of light as a reference. Light is the fastest thing in the universe. Its various wave lengths are just coming into use. They all travel at the same speed and this speed now has been refined down to an most unbelievable accuracy.
It is as an instrument of future research that the new figure becomes so important to science.
Prof. Michelson spent all of last summer in the mountains of California making his latest experiment. This, however, was but the refinement of 40 years’ research by himself and his associates before his time. The effort to mark light speed had been the goal of physicists for three centuries.
Behind the speed of light lies the secret of the speed with which the earth revolves and the speed of the whole solar system through space.
The perfection of the interferometer, invented by Prof. Michelson many years ago, brings the new measurements down to a precision never before equaled.
The instrument is described by the inventor as follows:
“It was devised for the purpose of solving a very ambitious problem–that of measuring the speed of the earth, and, with it, the whole solar system, through space. It was necessary to devise a piece of apparatus in which a single wave train of light is separated into trains, or pencils, of light, moving at right angles to each other.
“Reflecting beams of light through a vacuum, and marking in, innumerable times and under all conditions, the return home of the divided rays, it was found that it makes no difference whether the light is traveling with the earth or against the earth’s speed, it always traverses a given distance in the same length of time.”
This negative result, first announced 40 years ago, started the Einstein School of Thought. Later experiments only have verified more closely the original thought. The search for the aether, so-called, the medium once supposed to occupy all space in the universe and in which light rays were thought to be propagated, has been fruitless.
Prof. Dayton C. Miller of the Case School of Applied Science in Cleveland has found results which were said to be in contradiction of the Michelson experiments and of the Einstein theory. With this now most accurate finding on light speed, Prof. Michelson will proceed again to test out the question of whether there is an “aether drift”–that is, whether the aether exists or doesn’t exist–and the earth velocity and the race of the light beams.
Prof. Michelson worked out his latest results by flashing a beam of light from Mount Wilson to Mount San Antonio and back again, a total distance of 44 miles.
His work was carried on all summer using five sets of revolving mirrors. The results in each set showed close agreement.
The work had to be done in the early morning to get the required atmosphere. Prof. Michelson entered his mountain laboratory at 3 o’clock every morning and worked until sunrise.
After this report he will return to his home among the clouds where, it is reported, he may be visited this winter by Dr. Einstein.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.