Motion Through the Ether

Using a novel interferometer, the author claims to have demonstrated the existence of the ether and to have disproved the principle of Relativity.

Electronics and Wireless World, May 1989.

Conducted by American physicist E.W. SILVERTOOTH

The famous Michelson-Morley experiment failed to detect our translational motion through the ether. It did not establish that the speed of light was referred to the observer moving with the apparatus. What it did was to prove that the average velocity of light for a round trip between a beam splitter and a mirror was independent of motion through space. The author supposed that the one-way speed of light, or more specifically its wavelength, did depend upon that motion, but in away that satisfied the exact null condition of the Michelson-Morley result.

However, the Sagnac experiment, as embodied in the ring laser gyros now used in navigational applications, showed that if a light ray travels one way around a circuit, and its travel time is compared with that of a light ray going the other way around the circuit, the rotation of the apparatus is detectable by optical interferometry. Here the result is just as if there is an ether and the speed of light is referred to that ether.

Readers will have great difficulty finding a book on Relativity that even discusses the Sagnac experiment or the later experiment by Michelson and Gale that detected the Earth’s rotation.

In the modern version of the Sagnac experiment a single laser divides its light rays and sends them around a loop in opposite directions, but the resulting standing waves are not locked to the mirror surfaces as they are in the Michelson-Morley experiment.

It was my assumption that the different wavelengths presented by rays moving in opposite directions along that path would allow a detector to sense a modulation or displacement of the standing wave system along the common ray path. The secret was to move the detector or the optical system along a linear path, rather than rotate the optical apparatus, as in the Sagnac experiment. A little analysis showed that such effects would exhibit a linear first-order dependence on v/c and that the detector would need to scan through a distance that was inversely proportional to v/c in order to cycle through a sequence of that standing wave pattern.

This was exactly what I found when the experimentwas performed.


The one-beam interferometer or standing wave sensor consists of a photomultiplier tube conlprising two optically flat windows, with a semitransparent photocathode of 50nm thickness deposited on the inner surface of one window. The tube also con- tains a six-stage annular dynode assembly such that a collimated laser beam can pass through the tube.

In the application described in reference 1 the beam was reflected back on itself by a mirror to set up standing waves. The performance of the wave sensor was tested by incorporating a tiltable phase-shifter between the sensor and the mirror. This provided an adjustable displacement of the standing wave relative to the sensor. The object of the test was to measure the effective thickness of the photosensitive surface, to estimate the precision available from the sensor for making measurements on standing waves. Signal-to-noise ratio for the photocathode when positioned at an antinode compared with that at a node was measured as approximately 20,000 to 1. This was shown to correspond to detection of photoelectrons in the 50nm thickness of the photocathode, which assured us that position measurement within a standing wave could be made to within 1% of the laser wavelength.

Three such wave sensors were fabricated at Syracuse, New York, by the General Electric Company of the USA from standard parts of image orthicons. For this experiment, the sensorwas connected asshown in the arrangement of Fig.1.

If we write the wavelength of light moving one way as λ1 and the wavelength of light moving the oppositeway as λ2, then

(λ1 – λ2)/λ=λ/Δ

where λ is the nominal wavelength of the laser output and Δ is the displacement distance that was measured as corresponding to a phase reversal in the standing wave oscillations. In a typical measurement Δ as defined in the equation above was 0.025cm at its minimum; and since the nominal laser wavelength λ was 0.63μm, and the wavelengths depending upon the spatial orientation were λ1 = λ(1+v/c) and λ2=λ(1-v/c), it is clear that the maximum value of v is given by 2v/c = (0.000063)/(0.025) = 0.00252.

Since c is 300,000 km/s this gives v as 378km/s on the day when this particular test was performed. The axis of the photodetector making the linear scan through the standing wave was directed towards the constellation Leo when this maximum value of v was registered. Six hours before and after this event the displacement of the detector revealed 110 phase changes, meaning that the photodetector was then being displaced perpendicular to its motion relative to the ether.

The experiment has been repeated in a variety of configurations over the past several years. Values of Δ measured have all ranged within ±5% of the cited value. The micrometer is graduated in increments of 0.0025 millimetres. However, a micrometer drive is too coarse to set the interferometer on a fringe peak. This is accomplished by means of a third piezo actuator supplied from a DC source through a ten-turn potentiometer which provides conveniently the finesse forsetting on afringe peak.

Since the author first disclosed this discovery there has been a great deal of effort by a number of individuals in different countries, including USA, West Germany, UK, Italy, France and Austria, all aimed at theorizing as to why the experiment works, or why it should not work.

The author, however, declines in this article to go into the mathematical argument that underlies the theory involved, simply because that itself becomes a topic of debate and it tends to detract from the basic experimental fact that appears in the measurement.

Further reading:

1. E.W. Silvertooth and S.F. Jacobs, Applied Optics. vol.22, 1274, 1983.

2. E.W. Silvertooth, Nature, vol. 322,590, 1986.

3. E.W. Silvertooth, Speculations in Science and Technology, vol. 10, 3, 1987.

4. B.A. Manning, Physics Essays vol. 1N04, 1988.

5. E.W. Silvertooth, Letters, Electronics. Wireless World, June 1988 p.542.

6. L. Essen, Electronics and Wireless World, February 1988, p.126.

7. L. Essen, Wireless World, October 1978, p.44.