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On the Trail of the Fresnel's Search for an Aether Wind

Ulpio Nascimento
Year: 1998
A recollection is presented of the experiment in which Fizeau, back in 1851, proved how the velocity of light propagation in moving water varies. In this experiment he has also verified that such variation is in accordance with the equation proposed by Fresnel in 1818. Reference is made to how since then numerous experimental verifications have given to that equation the extraordinary importance that it has still today. The work in which Fresnel presents his ether partial-dragging hypothesis is recalled. His equation is based on this hypothesis. The relativistic interpretation of that equation is summarized.

An alternative model of the refraction mechanism is proposed based on the scattering concept of light radiation by atoms. The effect of the body movement aberration on that scattering model is also presented. The model is applied to Fizeau and Michelson experiments, which made it possible to conclude that the precision of the latter was not enough to detect the ether wind. Reference is made to the Shamir and Fox experiment (1969) in which a 6.64 km/s velocity was detected, i.e., about 22% of the orbital velocity of earth (30 km/s). Nevertheless, the very authors and other relativity theory specialists have considered such result as negative.

Therefore, two experiments are suggested, which are likely to contribute to enlighten the problem: the first is similar to Shamir and Fox?s. In this experiment, the optical fiber reels replace the apparatus arms. The second is an attempt to detect the ether wind by means of the variation of the refraction index, provided that the measurement of that index is likely to be done with a 10-4 precision.