On the Falsity of the Fitzgerald-Lorentz Contraction Hypothesis

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Scientific Paper
Title On the Falsity of the Fitzgerald-Lorentz Contraction Hypothesis
Author(s) Melbourne G Evans
Keywords Fitzgerald-Lorentz Contraction
Published 1969
Journal Philosophy of Science
Volume 36
Number 4
Pages 354-362


The Fitzgerald-Lorentz contraction hypothesis, proposed as an explanation of the Michelson-Morley result, fails to account for the Kennedy-Thorndike result. Hence, Gr?nbaum argues, the hypothesis has been falsified. However, the contraction hypothesis as formulated by Lorentz is false for the very fundamental reason that it entails a contradiction, namely, the consequence that light waves must have a variable velocity along what by definition is taken to be a rest length. Furthermore, the attempt to resolve this contradiction by coupling the Fitzgerald-Lorentz contraction with the hypothesis that clock rates are a function of velocity, is open to a sound, methodological objection. The Michelson-Morley result is fully satisfied, provided only that the lengths of the interferometer arms, in the longitudinal and transverse positions, are thought to be related to one another in a certain ratio, and this ratio may be interpreted as a contraction in both arms. Since this twofold contraction hypothesis suffices to explain both the Michelson-Morley and the Kennedy-Thorndike results, and since it entails no contradiction, there is no need to correct both the length of rods and the rate of clocks. Therefore, the combined clock-rod hypothesis, and with it the Fitzgerald-Lorentz contraction hypothesis, must be rejected.