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No. 22: Jul-Aug 1982

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Herbert Ives And The Ether

Herbert Ives was a top scientist at Bell Laboratories who performed some largely forgotten experiments on relativity and space-time a few decades ago. His experimental prowess and reputation were so good that his work on relativity was published in great detail in the Journal of the Optical Society of America. Ives would have had a more difficult time getting his results published today, for he showed quite clearly that Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity did not correspond to lab results. At the time, such results were not so shocking. Indeed, some philosophers had shown that Special Relativity led to undesirable paradoxes, and experiments by Sagnac and Michelson/Gale had cast additional doubt on this aspect of Relativity.

Such experiments by Ives and other key scientists suggested that an ether actually did exist and that it could serve as an absolute reference frame. Another implication was that time was an independent entity unaffected by motion and that the infamous Twin Paradox was a fiction.

Ives himself believed his work proved that so-called relativistic effects could be easily explained by phenomena appealing more to the common sense, such as the change of a light source's frequency with motion (over and above the Doppler Effect), rather than revamping space-time concepts. In short, Ives thought he had proved Special Relativity untenable experimentally and an un-necessary distortion of science's worldview.

(Barnes, Thomas G., and Ramirez, Francisco S.; "Velocity Effects on Atomic Clocks and the Time Question," Creation Research Society Quarterly, 18:198, 1982.)

Comment. Why do the textbooks neglect to mention the Ives experiments and why should a review of Ives' work appear in a creationist publication? The answers are easy: Special Relativity now has the status of scientific dogma, which one questions at his own peril. The creationists, on the other hand, vehemently reject relativitism in favor of absolute standards in space-time as well as other features of human existence. It would be amusing if the real world conformed to neither model, both of which are defended so passionately.

From Science Frontiers #22, JUL-AUG 1982. 1982-2000 William R. Corliss