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The origins of length contraction: I. The FitzGerald-Lorentz deformation

Brown, Harvey R (2001) The origins of length contraction: I. The FitzGerald-Lorentz deformation. [Preprint]


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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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Item Type: Preprint
Brown, Harvey R
Keywords: Relativity, history of relativity, Michelson-Morley experiment, kinematics, length contraction
Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Relativity Theory
General Issues > History of Science Case Studies
Depositing User: Prof Harvey R Brown
Date Deposited: 11 Apr 2001
Last Modified: 07 Oct 2010 15:10
Item ID: 218
Public Domain: No

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