Special Relativity Right or Wrong?

Light travels around the Earth faster Westward than Eastward. Does not the Special Theory of Relativity claim that the speed of light is a constant? The standard answer to this conundrum is that the Special Relativity applies solely to uniform straight line motion. It is claimed that, no matter how big the circle, motion along its periphery cannot be said to approach straight line motion. This is said to be so even if the best measuring instruments devised cannot pick up the divergence from straight line motion over the portion of circumference being used.. In his paper launching the theory in 1905, having applied his theory to straight line motion, Einstein then applied it to a closed curve of any shape. This rather undermines the popular explanation! The circuit does not have to be as large as the cross section of the Earth to detect this effect. A Frenchman, Sagnac, found in 1914 that light signals go around a disc of 1 m diameter faster against the spin of the disc than in the direction of the spin.

Sagnac Test

By a measurement made solely upon the spinning disc, he recorded the difference in the time of the signals sent in the opposing directions. As shown in the diagram, the time for the signal to traverse from the light source at A via C-D-E-F-C is less than the time in the opposite direction A-C-F-E-D-C. The light source was fixed to the spinning disc; the measurement of the time difference was at an interferometer at C also fixed to the spinning disc. Sagnac produced a formula that exactly matches the difference in the times taken in opposing directions. This formula can be derived, by assuming that the light travels in relation to the fixed laboratory. But, the measurement of the time difference is done solely aboard the disc. What can this mean? The only explanation possible is that the time aboard the spinning disc and in the fixed laboratory is the very same. This is not in accord with Special Relativity. Another defence of Relativity theory is the claim that the light path upon the disc is longer in one direction than the other. But, the circumference of the disc, as measured by someone upon it, is surely the very same in both directions. In a test in which signals are sent around the Earth from a fixed position, the light signal is emitted upon the spinning Earth, and the record of the time difference taken by the opposing light paths is solely upon the Earth. To claim, in this case, that the circumferential distances East and West are different is bizarre. A test done in 1926, by Michelson & Gale, first showed that the speed of light was not the same Eastward and Westward around the Earth. They constructed a rectangular circuit of over a mile in periphery. This was a Sagnac test on a disc of diameter 9,500,000 m diameter (the diameter of the Earth at that latitude). In the case of the Earth at the equator, the difference between the times taken in opposing directions is 414.8 nanoseconds. This result is enormous when considered against the accuracy (one million times better than that) required to-day of standard clock-stations. The difference between the times going Northward and Southward around the globe is zero. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) sets the rules for synchronising clock stations.

Synchronising Clocks upon the Earth

A signal sent Westward around the globe has to allow for the fact that it travels at the speed of light (c) plus the rotational speed of the Earth at that Latitude (v), giving c+v. A signal sent Eastward has to allow for the fact that the speed of the signal is c-v. According to Special Relativity theory, the speed of light is a constant. Not only that, but the direction is not supposed to matter to Special Relativity; going East, West or North should have the very same speed. As shown in the diagram, a ground clock station at A is to be synchronised with a ground station at B, via a satellite S. The signal sent from A to B travelling in the same direction as the spin of the Earth takes less time than in the reverse direction. A third defence that is used is that the c+v and c-v are only average figures and that the instantaneous velocity of the light signal is always equal to c. On a perfectly circular circuit the c+v (in one direction) is the velocity that would be measured at a million spots on the circumference; how then can the average become c? Take v as 250,000 km/s. In a million measurements the speed of the signal is 550,000 Km/s while the claim is that the instantaneous speed is 300,000 km/s. Bunkum. The ITU apply the necessary correction and call it "a relativistic correction, for the rotation of the Earth". But it is not a relativistic correction. A person at a fixed position sends signals Eastward and Westward around the globe. There is no relative motion concerned. How then is it that the signals arrive back at different times? There is only one sensible explanation. The signals are travelling at different speeds around the globe. Taking the speeds to be cv in the opposing directions agrees exactly with the experimental result. A test was done in 1976 in which an atomic clock was transported on an aeroplane from Washington (USA) to Tokyo. Also, a signal was sent between the two clock-stations. A correction had to be applied to the signal exactly as described above, while the transported clock needed no correction. Despite this, the ITU claims that a correction of 207.4 nanoseconds has to be applied to the time on a clock brought around the Earth at zero height and very slowly; these stipulations ensure that there can be no correction due to General Relativity (height over sea level) or to Special Relativity (speed). This correction is a nonsense. The President of the organisation in Paris which oversees these rules wrote to the author "you are right stating that the Sagnac effect is not relativistic". That is an honest answer. For the sending of signals from one site to another, their rules work fine. Saying the correction is 'relativistic' is a misnomer. The rules are wrong in the case of physical transportation of a clock from one site to another, but that is very rarely done, and can conveniently be overlooked. There is also a correction applied to the clocks that ride on a satellite, to keep them in synchronisation with clocks on the ground. This is also supposed to be a relativistic correction. But, there is virtually no relative motion between the satellite clock and the ground station; the only relative motion is caused by the slight variation in the orbit of the satellite from an ideal orbit. The correction applied is huge; it can amount to as much as 7,500 nanoseconds per day in a typical case; the clock is preset to alter by this amount each day, so that it will keep the same time as the clock fixed to the ground. It is calculated from the absolute velocity of the satellite compared with the absolute velocity of the ground station clock, in relation to the centre of the Earth, as it orbits around the Sun. This correction is due to this absolute velocity, and not to the relative velocities of the satellite clock and the ground clock. A very simple assumption would fit all of the these necessary corrections. If we assume that the signals travel with the Earth, upon its orbit around the Sun, but do not adapt to the daily spin of the Earth, this fits the facts. In this case, the absolute velocity of the satellite versus the ground station accounts for the correction applied to the satellite clock; the cv of the signals sent around the Earth is explained simply by the spin of the Earth affecting the speed of the signal. What could cause the signals to behave in this fashion? If light and gravity went together, on the Earth's orbit around the Sun, then the result would be fully explained. We must then take it that the Special Theory of Relativity is not correct and that Time and Space are absolute, not relative. The speed of light is no longer sacrosanct. But, what about the many many experiments that fit Relativity theory? A thousand things may fit a theory but, if one fact does not, the theory fails. In the words of Huxley "the great tragedy of science - the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact".

Al Kelly

Dublin, Ireland

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By: Dr. Alf Kelly, Engineer (deceased)