Sometimes failed experiments are the most important. In science, it is ok to be wrong. Scientists put forth an educated hypothesis and test it. An experiment that disproves a commonly believed hypothesis can be as revolutionary as one that proves it.

The Michelson-Morley Experiment disproved the luminiferous ether and set the foundation for Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

Scientists in the 19th century believed that light waves traveled through “Ether.” This idea was proposed by leading scientists, such as Isaac Newton. They knew that sound needed a medium to travel through, such as water or air. So scientists extrapolated this knowledge and assumed that light waves traveled through a medium which they called ether.

In 1881, Michelson created a method to test this theory. Ether winds should be blowing across the solar system. The Earth would be turning into the ether wind and on the other side of orbit it would be moving with the ether wind. Consider an object moving upwind and downwind. Michelson intended to measure the Earth’s Velocity and compare it with the speed of light in order to measure the speed of the Ether Winds. The results should show a difference between the day and night readings. Michelson built an interferometer to measure the speed of light.

The result? Nothing. The experiment recorded virtually constant light speed. The motion of the Earth had no effect and the measured differences in speeds were within the margin of error.

Later experiments improved the accuracy of the readings. This only reduced the margin of error. Light speed was constant no matter the position of the Earth. Michelson and Morley disproved the hypothesis of luminiferous ether.

This lead to a number of scientific discoveries to explain this experiment. One discovery was that light consisted of waves and particles. Matter, likewise, consisted of waves and particles.

Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity explained why light moved at constant speed in the Michelson-Morley Experiments. Einstein proved that the observed speed of light will remain constant regardless of the velocity of the observer. That is, E=mc^2. The energy in matter is equal to the matter times the speed of light (in a vacuum) squared.

Even if two observers are moving at different speeds, they will observe a constant speed of light. The Theory of Special Relativity proved that Light was a constant and absolute value, but time was relative. This was the exact opposite of what was once believed. Ether was invented with the assumption that time was constant and the velocity of light was relative.

This in turn leads towards other conclusions. Light speed is a constant value and no object can accelerate light past this constant velocity. Quantum Mechanics explains how light moves through vacuum without a medium like ether.

Real ideas must be empirically tested to see if they are false or incomplete. Disproving an idea is very important and helps bring us to the objective truth. This matters. We are unable to build useful things if our ideas are wrong. I prefer to offer ideas and hypotheses with the intention of discovering if they are consistent or false. Mistakes are okay, because they can be corrected. Since I’m not a physicist, I’m sure I made mistakes in this post.

On the otherhand, there is an idea that truth is relative because each person has their own narrative that cannot be disproven. Not only is this scientifically useless, but it is dangerous. It is shallow thinking indicative of a person that is afraid of being wrong.

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