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Prelude to relativity

So this was the situation before 1905: the ether was postulated, but its properties were inconsistent. Newton was believed to be right, but the corresponding mechanics was inconsistent with the results of electromagnetism. Was Newton's theory correct and all the experiments in electricity and magnetism wrong? If Newton was wrong, how can all the successes of his theory be understood? How can one understand light as a wave if the thing in which it travels cannot be described consistently?

All these problems were solved with the advent of the Special Theory of Relativity to which I now turn.



Jose Wudka
9/24/1998