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No. 73: Jan-Feb 1991

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Win $2000: challenge einstein

H. Hayden and P. Beckmann are offering $2000 to anyone who can cite, not necessarily perform, an experiment proving that light travels westward at the same velocity that it travels eastward on the earth's surface (to an accuracy of 50 meters/second). If the speeds are indeed the same, then Einstein's assumption that the speed of light is the same in all directions regardless of the motion of the observer will be proven. Then skeptical scientists like Hayden and Beckmann, will rest easier.

But suppose the east and west velocities of light are different? Then Special Relativity would collapse. Hayden and Beckmann do not dread this at all. In fact, they (and others) point out that some of the vaunted experimental "proofs" of Special Relativity can be explained in other ways. For example: (1) The bending of starlight passing close to the sun can easily be accounted for using Fermat's Law; and (2) The advance of Mercury's perihelion was explained by P. Gerber, 17 years before Einstein's 1915 paper on the subject, using classical physics and the now accepted assumption that gravity propagates at the speed of light.

As for the famous Michelson-Morley experiment, Michelson (an unbeliever in Relativity) believed that he and Morley failed to detect ether drift because the ether was entrained with the earth as it orbited the sun. It is rarely mentioned that Michelson and H.G. Gale repeated the experiment in 1925 to see if ether drift could be detected as the earth rotated on its axis. They did! And Einstein was sorely tried explaining the result. A 1979 repeat of the experiment at the University of Colorado, using la-sers found "unexpected perturbations," which were blamed on "other causes." (After all, Relativity and Einstein are sacrosanct!)

The gist of all this is that Hayden and Beckmann suspect that Special Relativity is founded upon quicksand. The reader should not be surprised to learn that Beckmann himself has a theory to supplant Special Relativity once it is discredited. (Bethell, Tom; "A Challenge to Einstein," National Review, p. 69, November 5, 1990. Cr. P. Gunkel.)

Reference. See our handbook Mysterious Universe for many other challenges to Einstein. Ordering info here.

From Science Frontiers #73, JAN-FEB 1991. 1991-2000 William R. Corliss