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An Explanation for Dayton Miller’s Anomalous “Ether Drift” Result – Tom Roberts

Date: Thu. April 12th, 2007, 4:15 pm-5:15 pm
Location: Rockefeller 301

In 1933 Dayton Miller published the results of his voluminous observations using his ether drift interferometer, and proclaimed that he had determined the “absolute motion of the earth”. This result is in direct conflict with the prediction of Special Relativity, and also with numerous related experiments that found no such signal or “absolute motion”. I will present a complete explanation for his anomalous result by: a) showing that his results are not statistically significant, b) describing in detail how flaws in his analysis procedure produced a false signal with precisely the properties he expected, and c) presenting a quantitative model of his systematic drift that shows there is no real signal in his data. In short, this is every experimenter’s nightmare: he was unknowingly looking at statistically insignificant patterns in his systematic drift that mimicked the appearance of a real signal. The concepts and techniques used in this analysis were not available in Miller’s day, so he could not have known about the flaws in his analysis, and the computations would have greatly exceeded the already heroic efforts it took to make the measurements.

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