The December, 1932 ish of Modern Mechanix immortalized this wondrous and loony German machine that measured the drift of the ether, “that impalpable substance which, according to one school of thought, fills the space in which the universe swims.”
It is an apparatus to measure the drift of the ether, that impalpable substance which, according to one school of thought, fills the space in which the universe swims. Theoretically the motion of the earth, passing through this ether, should set up a drift comparable to the breeze generated by the motion of an automobile through the air.
One recurring theme through much of the Townsend Brown story is “is there or is there not a ‘luminiferous ether’ filling the void of space?”
The Michelson Morley Experiment in 1887 supposedly disproved the existence of the ether, but others have pointed out that the experiment only failed to detect an ether – it could not prove conclusively that there is not some kind of ‘substance’ to space that might infer some of the qualities of an ether.
In his own 1943 essay ‘Structure of Space,’ Townsend Brown begins by asserting:
The failure of the Michelson-Morley experiment to detect a flow of aether does not necessarily indicate the non-existence of the aether. The results of the theory of relativity may be obtained with or without the aether.
And he is not alone in that sentiment.
We’ll be coming back to these ideas, and they have been elevated to some degree in the revised edition of the Brown biography that will be released in 2023.