Science: Ethereal Cat

The old scientific concept of the ether —an all-pervading medium which transmits light and gravitational force—is a nine-lived cat. Supposedly killed off several times, it still keeps pattering around science's pantry. Last week Dr. Herbert Eugene Ives, an astute and merry physicist who works for Bell Telephone Laboratories in Manhattan, gave the old tabby a good strong shot of mathematical adrenalin.

In 1881 Michelson and Morley raced two beams of light against each other with an interferometer (a light splitter). The beams were at right angles. Idea was that if the earth, in its...

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