Chapter 15

Atmospheric Refraction and Ether

"If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail."

Abraham Maslow

The Speed of Light and Ether

The Hafele-Keating experiment demonstrates that the "density" of ether varies by altitude.  Because ether is a medium for light, one might wonder whether the speed of light also varies by altitude.  I believe it does, however, determining this using atomic clocks would be extremely tricky because the "time" measured by atomic clocks also varies by the density of ether and thus by altitude, thus a person would have to isolate whether the "speed of light" variation was due to a difference in the speed of light or a difference in the speed of the atomic clocks (i.e. a difference in the "time" registered by the atomic clocks at a higher altitude).

While it is well known that sound (a wave) travels faster through denser mediums, sound is a physical bumping, and light is an electromagnetic bumping, thus the properties of sound are not necessarily the properties of light.

Nevertheless, there are two experiments or phenomenon that do indicate that not only does the speed of light vary by altitude (i.e. density of ether), but that in the denser ether the speed of light is faster.

Atmospheric Refraction

"Atmospheric refraction" is a type of aberration caused by the refraction of light as it passes through our atmosphere.  It is most pronounced on the horizon, but is in affect everywhere except the zenith.  It is generally believed that this type of aberration is caused by the air in the atmosphere refracting light (i.e. hence its name: "atmospheric" refraction).  This is somewhat logical, but ether provides another answer.

If the speed of light is faster in a denser medium of ether (as would logically be expected), then as a light ray from the sun got closer to the earth, the speed of light would increase.

Let us represent one thin slice of a layer of ether density of ether drag by a thin, hollow sphere that surrounds the earth, with its center at the center of the earth, and where the boundary of the sphere is 10,000 kilometers above the surface of the earth.  Now let us consider that the light from the sun is 5 degrees above our horizon.  When this ray of light hits the imaginary sphere that we have constructed in our minds, let us consider a 2D plane that is tangent to our imaginary sphere at the point where this ray of light hits the sphere.  Now let us consider a vector that is normal to the tangental plane and passes through the center of the earth.

Snell's Law states that when a beam of light hits the boundary of two substances, which carry light at different speeds, and if the light is moving from the medium which offers a slower speed of light into the medium which offers the faster speed of light, the light will bend in a direction away from the normal vector.  However, it is well known in astronomy that the light actually bends towards the normal vector.

This, of course, is exactly the opposite of what Snell's Law would predict if the speed of light is faster in denser ether.  There are several ways to explain why the result is not what would be expected.

1) The speed of light is actually is slower in the denser medium.

2) Atmospheric refraction is actually caused by two factors, which have opposite effects, one being the atmosphere and the other being ether, with the atmospheric component being the more dominant of the two.

3) The speed of light is the same in all densities, and all of atmospheric refraction is caused by the atmosphere.

Personally, I don't like any of these explanations.  However, there is one explanation I do like.

Let us consider Snell's Law with respect to air and water.  Air and water are called "mediums" for light when discussing Snell's Law, as I did above.  This is not true.  Air and water are "obstructions" to light, not mediums for light.  Only ether is a medium for light.  Air and water are obstructions.  Thus, Snell's Law basically states, that when light travels from one "lesser obstruction" (lower index of refraction) to one "greater obstruction" (higher index of refraction), the light will bend in the direction of the normal vector.

Ether, however, is the one and only true "medium" for light.  Thus, we might have a modified Snell's Law for use where there is no significant obstruction, only pure medium involved: "When light travels from one "lesser [dense] medium" (i.e. slower light, viewed from the aspect of the true medium, not an obstruction) to one of "greater [dense] medium," the light will bend in the direction of the normal vector.

Since ether is a "catalyst" for light, not an obstruction, this make logical sense.  The denser ether is the path of least resistance and the light would favor the path of least resistance.  This is especially true since the density differences are very gradual, not abrupt.  Nevertheless, logic is not the determining factor.

"Logic is a system whereby one may go wrong with confidence."

Charles F. Kettering

I call the actual bending of light by different layers of ether drag density (towards from the normal vector) the: "Density of Medium Law."  Whether the Density of Medium Law exists or not will have to be determined by experiment at some time in the future.

The Bending of the Light of Jupiter Occultations

If the Density of Medium Laws were true, wouldn't occultations of light near Jupiter bend the light of the stars significantly.  Yes, but we would not see this bending from where we are.  This is because the Density of Medium Laws would apply twice to the starlight that passes through Jupiter's ether drag.  The first time it would bend light down towards Jupiter, as it does on the earth.  However, our telescopes are not located on the surface of Jupiter.  This means the light would have to exit the ether drag of Jupiter in order to get to us (I don't know if we are inside of Jupiter's ether drag, but probably not).  This means the light would have to go from the denser ether near the surface of Jupiter to the less dense ether far from the surface of Jupiter.  This light would bend in the opposite direction of the first bend, offsetting the first bend.  Thus, we would not observe either bend because they offset each other.

In reality it is possible the light from Jupiter does bend very slightly, but certainly not what would be expected from a single bend due to the Density of Medium Laws.  The second bend may not completely offset the first bend, if, for example: the core of Jupiter may not be perfectly spherical, or the River Effect Laws may play a part.  I don't know.

The Bending of Light That Passes Near the Sun

Another question that might arise is whether the bending of light that passes next to the sun is caused by the Density of Medium Law.  First of all, I am not sure that anyone has proven that light that passes next to the sun does bend.  The original experiment that claimed to detect this phenomenon was seriously flawed and only coincidentally came up with the "right" numbers to support Einstein.  Nevertheless, assuming such is the case (due to far more modern experiments of a different nature), since the earth is probably inside of the sun's ether drag, it is possible that ether is what causes that phenomenon.  Let me explain.

Unlike the case with Jupiter, where two bendings of light offset each other, because we are probably inside the sun's ether drag, we would see the light before it completely straightens out (by a second complete bending) after it has passed near the sun's surface.  In other words, the light actually bends twice, but we see the light before the second bend completely offsets the first bend, thus the net of the two bends (one completed and one incomplete) is a slight bend.  I do not necessarily claim this is the case, I simply mention that it might be the case and explain how it might be the case.

Since we have been talking about two bends, it might be emphasized that in the case of the earth's atmospheric refraction, the light bends the first time, but because the person or telescope is sitting on the surface of the earth, the first bending is observed before the second bend even begins.

The Speed of Light From Jupiter:

There is an experiment that measures the speed of light in the solar system.  In this case it is the measurement of the speed of light between Jupiter and the earth.

Imagine that there are three people looking at Jupiter.  Each of them has a watch and all of their watches are synchronized.  Person number one is stationary on the path of the orbit of our earth, at the point where our orbit is closest to Jupiter (at the instant the light leaves Jupiter).  Person number three is stationary on the path of the orbit of earth, at the point where our orbit is furthest away from Jupiter (at the instant the light leaves Jupiter).  Person number two is halfway between the other two, which would be near the sun or possibly even inside of the sun.

Now consider the moment of time that a specific moon of Jupiter goes into the shadow of Jupiter (or casts its shadow on Jupiter's surface).  If light travels at an infinite velocity all three people will observe the shadow at exactly the same time.  On the other hand, we know that if person #1 observes this phenomena at 1:00PM, that person #2 will observe it at about 1:08PM and that person #3 will observe it at about 1:16PM.  These, of course, are approximations.

Knowing that the orbits of the moons of Jupiter are constant and predictable, scientists can measure the speed of light between Jupiter and the earth by writing down the time that the shadow of Jupiter starts to cover this specific moon (usually the moon Io) in its orbit.  By calculating this time in many experiments, each relative to where the earth is in its orbit, very accurate measurements of the speed of light in our solar system can be determined.

Since the first of these experiments was done in 1676 by Romer, far better computer models of the solar system have been built, and far better approximations of the speed of light in our solar system have been calculated.

According to Ditchburn[29-page 301], the speed of light from Jupiter to the earth is 0.5% slower than the speed of light in a vacuum on the surface of the earth.  On the surface, this observation is an indication that the speed of light is faster on the surface of the earth, than it is in space, meaning the speed of light is faster if the ether is denser.  But it is not quite as simple as that.  Consider the following problems in making such a simple assumption.

First, I do not know whether the 0.5% figure is accurate based on modern equipment and modern celestial mechanics formulas.  When was this data collected?  What figure would be arrived at today, using the best of astronomy and celestial mechanics?  I do not know.

Second, it is obvious that the sun creates its own ether drag, but we don't know how far into the solar system its ether drag goes, thus we don't know the density of the sun's ether drag between our earth and Jupiter, compared to the density of ether on the surface of the earth, though the sun's ether drag between the Earth and Jupiter is probably less.

Third, Jupiter also creates its own massive ether drag, but we don't know how far into the solar system its ether drag goes (i.e. we don't know how close it gets to us), or how dense it is between the two planets.

Fourth, the density of the ether drag of both the sun and Jupiter, varies significantly according to the relative "altitude" from these objects.  These figures are not available.

Fifth, it is not known whether the speed of light on the surface of Jupiter is faster or slower than the speed of light on the surface of the earth, all we know is the density of the ether will be greater on the surface of Jupiter.

Nevertheless, in spite of all of the criticisms, it is reasonable that the average density of ether between the surface of the earth and the surface of Jupiter, is less than the density of ether on the surface of the earth.  Thus it is logical to say that the less the density of ether is, the slower is the speed of light, if the experiment is verified.