OMG! LASERS in 1800?

Sorry, no. It’s just sloppy writing.

In a classical interferometer, first developed in the late 1800s, a laser beam in a vacuum hits a mirror called a beamsplitter, which breaks it in two. The two beams travel at different angles down the length of two vacuum pipe arms before hitting mirrors at the end and bouncing back to the beamsplitter.

Since the LASER wasn’t invented until 1960, late 19th century interferometers used a very bright, but non-coherent light source.

This gives me a chance to mention my favorite experiment of all time, the Michelson–Morley experiment. Michelson actually invented the interferometer to measure the flow of aether. The scientific consensus of the late 19th century was that light waves traveled through aether just like sound waves travel through matter. The experiment failed to detect aether and is now known as the most famous failed experiment in history.

So much for consensus.

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9 Responses to OMG! LASERS in 1800?

  1. bluesun says:

    Why I take ANY and ALL scientific “breakthroughs,” “discoveries,” “studies,” “consensuses,” “evidence,” “advisories,” “advancements,” “expertise,” “we think that might work,” “we made up the data,” “qualifications,” “progress,” and, sad to say, “facts,” with a grain or two of salt.

    To be honest, most “science” these days is some marginally qualified PhD, who knows how to write a grant proposal, starting out with a theory and making up “facts” to prove he needs more money.


  2. Borepatch says:

    Michaelson-Morley is teh awesome. I remember as a EE student, taking lasters, rotating mirrors, and a bunch os such junk down into the basement of the Physics building to measure the SPEED OF FREAKIN’ LIGHT. Didn’t even have dark glasses to protect our vision.

    Funny, we were able to measure the speed to within a couple percent without burning out our eyes. Sort of like getting our marksmanship merit badges at scout camp with .22s without shooting each other. Who’d a think it?

    Tells you all you need to know about a “scientific consensus”, doesn’t it? Except for Ernst Mach, who said the Ether was a load of bolox. But he was a Denier. Or something.

  3. Borepatch says:

    bluesun is also clearly a Denier. Which is why he posts under a pseudonym – he wants to graduate.

  4. Andrew says:

    Of course, the coolest interferometer is LIGO.

    Maybe one day they’ll actually detect one of those darn gravity waves!

  5. Turk Turon says:

    Michaelson-Morley also got Einstein thinking about the consequences of having the speed of light constant in all frames of reference.

  6. Old NFO says:

    But it was a successful failure 🙂

  7. Kristopher says:

    Borepatch: But was your mirror testbed on a block of concrete floating in a pool of mercury in a hole cut in bedrock?

    If yer gonna re-enact Michaelson-Morley, do it right.

    That was a truly spectacular failure. They got a Nobel Prize for accurately reporting their failure, and getting the Ether theory they were trying to prove permanently shit-canned.

  8. Jess says:

    Einstein never completely dismissed the theory that there is an “aether”. He knew there is something that unifies every form of matter and energy, which is tied in to what we describe as time.
    While the aether hasn’t been found, there are many things, which theory has introduced for discovery. Technology may yet discover particles that exist, but we can’t observe at this time. Time will tell.

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