Airy's experiment

Dr. Neville Thomas Jones, Ph.D.


Many think it proven long ago that the World orbits the Sun. However, the results of two simple experiments, both performed in the nineteenth century, showed that it is the stars which move, and not the World.

An experiment with a water-filled telescope was performed by the then Astronomer Royal, George Airy (after whom the Airy disc of diffraction theory is named), in 1871, which can be considered to be a variation of an earlier investigation by François Arago, performed with a moving slab of glass in 1810.

Arago showed that either light itself or the luminiferous aether is dragged along by a moving piece of glass. Fresnel explained the effect by assuming it was the light-carrying medium (this is called Fresnel drag). George Stokes explained it via compression of the aether, but the important point is whether we can tell which one is doing the moving - the light source or the transparent material. When Arago investigated this effect with starlight, he concluded that the World (with respect to which the glass plate was stationary in this instance) was at rest and that it was the stars that were moving.

The experiment subsequently performed by Airy was first proposed by Ruggiero Boscovich for testing James Bradley's heliocentric aberration idea of 1728. This, in turn, was thought up to explain the elliptical motion of the star Gamma Draconis, as observed by James Bradley and Samuel Molyneux, over a fairly long time period commencing in 1725.

What was the result of Airy's experiment? Exactly the opposite outcome to that predicted in the rotating-World scenario. (Note that the experiment is usually referred to as 'Airy's failure' for this reason.)

Just like Arago before him, George Airy proved that the World was stationary and the stars are moving. It does not matter whether there exists a luminiferous aether or not, because the dragging of starlight, as demonstrated initially by Arago, is real, irrespective of how we try to explain it. Both Arago and Airy showed that it is the stars, and not the World, which move (although Airy did not actually go so far as to admit this). In addition, we can say that Michelson-Morley, Trouton-Noble and many, many others have consistently demonstrated no motion of the World around the Sun.

Airy's experiment thus does not confirm the World to be just a piece of rock that hurtles through infinite space in who knows how many contorted motions, as Carl Sagan, et al., so zealously maintained. On the contrary, it adds weight to a non-moving earth.

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