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Within certain limits (the limits are set by topology-the study of properties that stay the same when an object is deformed), shape itself is as relative as size. The con traction of the apparatus, as well as the contraction of everything else on the earth, could be observed only by someone outside the earth and not moving with it. Many writers on relativity have spoken of the Lorentz-FitzGerald con traction hypothesis as ad hoc, a Latin phrase (it rhymes with sad sock) meaning formulated "for this case alone," and incapable of being tested by any other experiment.
The rea son Michelson and Morley were unable to detect an ether wind, Einstein said, is simple: Thtre is no ether wind. He did not say that there is no ether; only that the ether, if it exists, is of no value in measuring uniform motion. ) Classical physics-the physics oflsaac Newton -made clear that if you are on a uniformly moving object, say a train car that is closed on all sides so you cannot see the scenery go by, there is no mechanical experiment by which you can prove that you are moving.
This is not, as Adolf Griinbaum has pointed out, strictly true. 26 RElATIVITY SIMPLY EXPlAINED The contraction theory was ad hoc only in the sense that at the time there was no way to test it. In principle it is not at all ad hoc. In fact, it was definitely ruled out in 1932 by an important experiment called the Kennedy-Thorndike experiment. Roy]. Kennedy and Edward M. Thorndike, two American physicists, repeated the Michelson-Morley test with this major difference: Instead of making the two arms of the apparatus as equal in length as possible, they made the lengths as different as possible.