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Why Michelson-Morley Were Wrong (Wind vs Rain)

  1. Jan 4, 2007 #1
    So the famous Michelson-Morley experiment tells us that there is no aether, as proven by laser interferometry. Apparently, we can't have aether because one of the light beams would have been delayed by a "headwind" (motion of the aether relative to the Earth)

    But what about the idea that the aether may not be a persistent medium, but rather a stochastic medium (a "bubbling foam"). When we watch waves ripple through a pool of water, we are seeing the displacement of persistent particles. The position and orientation of those persistent particles may change, but they are always there, and therefore the change in any particle is part of a continuity.

    But what if the aether of space is a medium that is not composed of persistent particles, and is instead composed of non-persistent particles which are blinking in and out of existence? How does that affect the integrity of the Michelson-Morley experiment and the interpretation of its results?

    If the aether is actually a bubbling foam, made of fleeting particles winking briefly in and out of existence, how does that affect the assumptions and the logic of Michelson-Morley?

    Can you really experience an "aether wind" from particles that disappear before they can bunch up against you?

    Let's compare the idea of running into the wind with the idea of running through the rain. If you run into the wind, then yes, you will feel the pressure of that wind impeding you (or helping you, if the wind is at your back). But if you run through the rain, then you won't feel your progress being impeded or helped. Relative to your plane of movement, those raindrops are brief and fleeting, only intersecting it briefly. There's no reason for you to run more slowly in the rain (well, other than the fact that you'd slip). Actually, if you look at the little tiny leaves and bits of grass lying on the ground, you'll see that the spattering raindrops do make them shake (Heisenberg's Uncertainty, DeBroglie Wavelength, Quantum Fuzziness).

    The fact that the aether particles exist only briefly means that they don't exist long enough to create a persistent coherent reference frame. You need persistence to have "wind". If the aether constituents are not persistent, then naturally there will be no "aether wind".

    Michelson-Morley may have disproved the existence of a certain kind of aether (ie. a persistent aether), but did it really disprove the existence of a stochastic dynamic aether (ie. a quantum foam)?

    We use the phrase "SpaceTime Continuum", but suppose it's not really a continuum at all?

    I really want to hear everyone's comments on this.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2007
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  3. Jan 4, 2007 #2

    ZapperZ

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    Make a quantitative description of this "aether" that allows for its effects to be detected. Without that, it might as well not exist.

    Zz.
     
  4. Jan 4, 2007 #3
    Heisenberg Contradicts Michelson-Morley

    Hehe, have the String theorists come up with criteria by which Strings could be conclusively detected and proven?

    Well, to answer your question, wouldn't the stochastic nature of the vacuum pass its stochastic effects on to matter? The bubbling of the foam would manifest itself as causing a small jerkiness in matter, even if you were to remove all thermal kinetic energy by cooling the matter to absolute zero.

    Hey look! Particles actually do jiggle, even at absolute zero! There's your proof of a causal mechanism. Can I have my Nobel Prize now, please? :)

    We can't get rid of this jiggling caused by space, which prevents us from pinning down exact locations of small particles of matter with exact precision.

    But seriously, aren't the conclusions of Michelson-Morley then automatically incorrect(or at least severely curtailed), as a direct consequence of Heisenberg's Uncertainty and DeBroglie Wavelength?

    Now let me turn the question around -- what evidence is there against Quantum Foam?
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2007
  5. Jan 4, 2007 #4

    ZapperZ

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    Is this a joke? Or do you think I'm a strong advocate for String Theory? Using an unverified idea to support your unverified scenario isn't really the best strategy to convince someone of the validity of your scenario. Try again.

    I don't know. I'm not the one who came up with such a thing. You did. So the burden of proof is on your side. Come up with the quantitative (not handwaving arguments the way you are doing now) prediction on how such aether will affect the measurements that I'm making.

    Zz.
     
  6. Jan 4, 2007 #5

    turbo

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    Klaus Scharnhorst has suggested that light will travel faster than c in the space between the plates of a Casimir device. The plates suppress the formation of vacuum fluctuations above a certain wavelength (dependent on the size of the gap), resulting in the rarification of the quantum vacuum, allowing light to propagate at a higher speed than it could through an equivalent, but non-bounded vacuum. His ideas have been taken seriously by some.

    http://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/0107091

    The Scharnhorst effect is too small to be measured experimentally at this time, though there are theorists who expect that vacuum polarization in the presence of a gravitational field may allow superluminal propagation of light.

    http://www.citebase.org/fulltext?format=application/pdf&identifier=oai:arXiv.org:gr-qc/0203034

    And a more recent paper.

    http://arxiv.org/abs/gr-qc/0605009

    If this vacuum polarization effect is real, it may already have been demonstrated by the positional errors in the Pioneer ranging data (~40ppm @ 70AU). Galileo and Ulysses show similar effects, suggesting that the cause is something general and not specific to the craft.
     
  7. Jan 4, 2007 #6

    ZapperZ

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    There are so many self-contradiction in your post here, I don't even know where to start.

    First you argue that such an effect is too small to be detected. Yet you make a convenient jump (it is an abrupt jump, isn't it, with no continuous mechanism to connect one end to the other?) to the Pioneer anomaly, WHICH, by all accounts, are STILL yet to be clearly quantified, if any, much less drawing any valid conclusion out of it. Would Scharnhorst approve of such implication?

    Then you argue that vacuum polarization might happen in gravitational field. THEN you invoke the Pioneer anomaly which, for all practical purposes, is in a WEAK, much weaker gravitational environment, which would have a weaker vacuum polarization if we are to buy that mechanism. Somehow, the STRINGENT CONDITIONS under which the Casimir effects are observed is being neglected all of the sudden once you have the "results" of what you are looking for. You don't care HOW it was created, you only care that the results somehow matches what you like to push, regardless of whether your scenario will actually statisfy such conditions.

    And finally, as an experimentalist, when I look at a claim of an effect that is extremely miniscule based on an experiment that has such high statistical uncertainty, I then tend to wonder what other motivation besides physics is there to push such a claim. After all, the data is just isn't there so it can be physics motivated. When your error bars are larger than the variation of the data points, no physicist in his/her right mind would even try to make any kind conclusion out of something like that.

    Zz.
     
  8. Jan 4, 2007 #7

    turbo

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    Just pointing out that there is a very large body of work supporting the notion that the quantum vacuum plays a role in the propagation of light and that vacuum polarization may result in a variable c in a vacuum. You may not like my extrapolation to the Pioneer anomaly, so ignore it for now and follow the citations in the papers I linked - the OP's characterization of the vacuum as an ether is not a foreign idea to the people pursuing theories of quantum gravitation.

    Edit: I believe that you'll find that the Pioneer anomaly has been well-quantified, it just hasn't been explained. The Scharnhorst effect is supposed to result in an increase in light propagation speed of one part in 1036, and so be undetectable in practical terms. If the vacuum can be polarized by gravitation (the last two papers linked) then we perhaps have another way of measuring the speed of light in our solar system, thus the reference to the Pioneer data.
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2007
  9. Jan 4, 2007 #8
    Yes, my reference to String Theory was a light-hearted remark, and not a serious one. :tongue:


    Here we go:

    http://universe-review.ca/F15-particle.htm#LQG

    That shows how we can measure the effects of the quantum foam. Note the reference to the VLTI (Very Large Telescope Interferometer).

    So then it's not matter which intrinsically has the wave-like nature, instead the wave-like nature is conferred upon the matter by the stochastic nature of the spacetime foam that the matter resides in.

    So you'll then ask me how we can tell whether the wave-like behavior is intrinsic to matter itself, or whether the wave-like behavior is conferred/imparted to the matter by the stochastic foam.

    Hmm, well I guess we can't look at matter on its own separately from space, but we can look at space on its own without any matter floating in it. So then we would try to discern the properties of space itself by taking a measurement across a very large sample/section of space.

    http://universe-review.ca/I01-16-VLTI.jpg

    We can then note the zig-zagginess of the path taken. Just like how everybody says that a macro-object moving parabolically in a gravitational field is actually moving in a straight line (it's just that gravity has curved the straight lines of space), likewise then the tiny quantum object which moves zig-zaggily is actually moving in a straight line (it's only that the foam is made space rough and zig-zaggy at the tiny scale).
     
  10. Jan 4, 2007 #9

    ZapperZ

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    There's a "large" body of work also "supporting" String Theory. They're littered all over ArXiv where most of them live. It doesn't mean that any of them have any degree of validity when experimental verification is either none, or very scarce.

    No I don't. You opened that can of worms without making any physical justification of the connection.

    I didn't say the "anomaly" hasn't been observed. I argued about the degree of certainty of this being an "anomaly" and whether it can be explained via conventional means. Compare that to the degree of certainty of ALL the experiments that didn't detect any kinds of variation to c whatsoever. Why did you accept the flimsy evidence that is still being debated while ignoring the more certain ones? Did you dismiss them simply because it doesn't fit into your "agenda"? This is what I meant when I said that there is another reason for such an acceptance and has nothing to do with physics. Not only that, from this rather weak "evidence", you have managed to springboard into a whole lot of other "conclusion".

    I had just spent time highlighting an article by Helen Quinn about scientists being careful about what and how we say things that can be misconstrued, especially in stating what would fall under the spectrum of knowledge as not being well-verified. This issue would be EXACTLY the kind of things where we should not oversell something that is still highly uncertain, the way String Theory has been oversold. Be patient and WAIT for the evidence to accumulate. THEN sell your aether to your heart's content.

    Zz.
     
  11. Jan 4, 2007 #10
    This message for sanman. Yes this idea is very interesting and I like it a lot just as much as I like string theory which also suggests that space is a dynamic entity of foam bubbles and so on... however I will have to agree with zapper regarding quantitative results which eventually must be supported by experimental evidence. So any conclusions one makes based on hypothesis could be dangerous. With string theory tho, it is a lovely theory but it will always remain as a philosophy until proven otherwise. I’m doing theoretical research on CP violations which suggests that there is something is wrong with standard model and we even take the string theory very seriously because it make weird kinda cense. But I don't know if string theory will ever be proven but as yet it is still remains safe as a theory, which cannot be, disproved either (it realy make cense).

    If anyone interested in cp violations research. http://epp.ph.unimelb.edu.au/twiki/bin/view/EPP/WebHome
     
  12. Jan 4, 2007 #11

    ZapperZ

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    I had a tough time looking for citations from this web article. It lists a bunch of "weblinks" at the end as "references", but no citation to the exact papers where the claims in the article are made.

    Please look at a typical peer-reviewed paper and see how references are done and why. It will take a lot of effort on my part to double check things that are said in there, and IF any of the papers used to make such claims have any rebuttals or contradicting papers. There is a reason why we put "numbers" next to certain sentences or words - to associate it with a particle published paper.

    See, this is why we have to clearly cite our sources, and that others who wish to check on the validity of our citation can also check if there had been challenges to those sources. It is the one thing that I have always tried to impress upon people here on PF, that ALWAYS consider where the source of information is coming from and whether you can check its validity. Anyone can write any web article. It requires zero knowledge of physics. That's why we have crackpots all over the place. However, if you require that I buy into what you are saying, then make exact citation that I can easily double check and investigate.

    As of now, I still would like my original question to be answered: can you make a quantitative description on how you can measure the effects of your "aether". I have no idea if what you're pushing is identical to what is being described as the quantum foam because you have not produced any formalism to equate those two.

    Zz.
     
  13. Jan 4, 2007 #12
    Quantum foam is a speculative concept yet to be determined, there is no direct evidence that sugest quantum foam. May be the answer you looking for is Dirac sea. Here some links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantum_foam
     
  14. Jan 4, 2007 #13

    Gokul43201

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    Ouch...wrong! Do the math. Momentum conservation says you will be impeded. Besides, even if the analogy were correct, that wouldn't make the theory more reasonable. But if the analogy that drives the theory is flawed...

    PS: This thread is doing more than asking a question about understanding an established piece of science, isn't it?
     
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2007
  15. Jan 4, 2007 #14
    What has been disproven?

    Hi Gokul and Zapper,

    Well, perhaps the title of my post shouldn't be that Michelson-Morley was wrong. What I was really trying to say was that haven't we drawn overly sweeping conclusions from Michelson-Morley, ruling out things that it doesn't rule out?

    Zapper, as an experimentalist, surely you can appreciate that Michelson-Morley was done as a disproof. The experiment does not prove the existence of anything, but was used to disprove the aether hypothesis. So I am asking you -- do you feel it disproves any and all types of aether, including the non-persistent Quantum Foam concept? Or doesn't it only just disprove the idea of persistent aether with its preferred reference frame?

    As an experimentalist, would you care to comment on the scope of this disproof?
     
  16. Jan 4, 2007 #15

    ZapperZ

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    You have the wrong concept of what an "experiment" is supposed to be.

    MM was supposed to TEST a particular scenario, which was the classical ether at that time. There is no way in hell that an experiment can test everything all at once, and it certainly wasn't meant to test what is now becoming the fashion of the times of the exotic ether theories that have zero resemblance of the old classical ether.

    So THAT was what MM was testing. When you propose a theory or a model, there HAS to be some testable consequences, and that ether theory had it. This was what the MM set was supposed to test. When nothing was found, how would YOU draw your conclusion? Without any hindsight, would you then say "We tested for it, and the result was null. But I'm sure there are other ether theories in the future that this result does not apply to"? This would sound awfully strange!

    I have written somewhere here in PF a LIST of several experiments covering a wide variety of technique in which the variation and anisotropy of the speed of light were looked for and never found up to the accuracy of the experiment. So if we're going to invoke hindsight, you also cannot ignore the slew of new experiments beyond just the MM experiment.

    As an experimentalist, when you have tons of verified measurements supporting something, that something has a very strong degree of certainty for being valid.

    Zz.
     
  17. Jan 4, 2007 #16
    Okay, but on the salient point of Michelson-Morley as a disproof of aether, I hope we can both agree that the experiment cannot be used to argue against the existence of Quantum Foam. In which case, it isn't necessarily accurate to say that matter has a wave nature, when in fact this so-called wave nature is merely behavior that is conferred/imparted by the vacuum.

    Our application of terms like "superposition" may simply be due to our inability to separate particles from the vacuum they reside in, and thus our inability to specify a particular position due to the interference from the surrounding medium.

    If you were asked to measure precisely where a poker chip is on a table, but someone kept constantly jiggling the table, then you might be forced to use phrases like "superposition" and "probability function" to describe the location of the poker chip. This would be due to the challenging circumstances under which you are trying to conduct your observation.

    So isn't it fair to say that we are "observationally challenged" when it comes to judging whether or not matter really intrinsically has a fuzzy nature? Unfortunately, we cannot measure particles away from the domain of spacetime and its effects, and so any measurement we take is going to have to contend with the effects of spacetime.

    But I thought it was the domain of experimentalists to devise ways and means to test conjectures. Do you feel that the Quantum Foam conjecture is outlandish, even though it simply has not yet been formally proven? (ie. do you feel that Quantum Foam is too ridiculous an hypothesis to bother trying to experimentally prove?) It seems reasonable to me. Not only that, but it is logically reductionist and shows an economy of rationalism. Ockham's Razor should count, too.
     
  18. Jan 4, 2007 #17

    paw

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    MM was an experiment to test the classical (luminiferous) ether (as Zapper said above). It was not done to disprove anything. The null result was a surprise at the time. It should be noted that the experiment had to be performed a number of times by different groups and with different apparatus before the, then unexpected, null result was generally accepted.

    No. Nobody who understands the scientific method would draw overly sweeping conclusions from the null result of MM. All it proves is the absence of any ether which would result in a detectable anisotropy in c.

    The result has nothing to say about any ether which doesn't result in a detectable anisotropy in c. For instance, if I proposed an ether in which a length contraction exactly cancelled the anisotropy, MM isn't applicable. Of course, in this case, I'd need to make falsifyable predictions to support my proposal. Hence the comments above that ask you for details and predictions for your non-persistant quantum foam ideas. The MM null result simply isn't applicable to your ideas.
     
  19. Jan 4, 2007 #18

    ZapperZ

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    You make WAY too much JUMPS here without any thought to how you make the connection from A to B. How did the inability for MM to disprove the existence of Quantum foam (the existence of which is STILL unverified) allowed you to make the argument that "wave nature is merely behavior that is conferred/imparted by the vacuum"????!!!! You are saying that the inability of one experiment to falsify something that it wasn't MEANT to test somehow means that something must necessarily be true.

    This is absurd!

    Try applying your Occam's Razor to that logic!

    BTW, if this is nothing more than a discussion of Quantum Foam, then I'm moving it to Beyond the Standard Model forum. Please be aware that our Guideline on overly speculative posting APPLIES there too. And please do not give some webpage as your citation. That does not count as proof that such-and-such an idea has peer-review preceedent.

    Zz.
     
  20. Jan 5, 2007 #19

    JesseM

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    You need to be more specific about what you mean when you say "quantum foam". The way this term is usually used in quantum gravity, quantum foam would not have any sort of preferred rest frame, it basically just represents the notion that there would be a lot of uncertainty in the shape of spacetime at the Planck scale; are you imagining some different version of quantum foam that would have a preferred frame, as in Reginald Cahill's "Process Physics"? (see the last paragraph of the wikipedia article on quantum foam)
     
  21. Jan 6, 2007 #20
    Personally, I don't feel that the quantum foam with its briefly-lived virtual particles should have any preferred frame. If I look at the white noise ("snow") on the TV screen, then I can move my eyes across it and not tell how my eyes are moving. The static fizz doesn't allow your eyes to latch onto any anchor points, like they would if you had an actual picture on your TV screen.

    Maybe that's why the whole field of study is called Fizzx ;)
     
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