The origins of length contraction: I. The Fitzgerald-lorentz deformation hypothesis

American Journal of Physics 69:1044-1054 (2001)
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Abstract

One of the widespread confusions concerning the history of the 1887 Michelson-Morley experiment has to do with the initial explanation of this celebrated null result due independently to FitzGerald and Lorentz. In neither case was a strict, longitudinal length contraction hypothesis invoked, as is commonly supposed. Lorentz postulated, particularly in 1895, any one of a certain family of possible deformation effects for rigid bodies in motion, including purely transverse alteration, and expansion as well as contraction; FitzGerald may well have had the same family in mind. A careful analysis of the Michelson-Morley experiment (which reveals a number of serious inadequacies in many text-book treatments) indeed shows that strict contraction is not required.

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Harvey Brown
Oxford University

References found in this work

On the Michelson-Morley experiment.Marco Mamone Capria & Fernanda Pambianco - 1994 - Foundations of Physics 24 (6):885-899.

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