Foundations of Physics

, Volume 36, Issue 12, pp 1826–1845 | Cite as

On the Consistency between the Assumption of a Special System of Reference and Special Relativity


In a previous work, we have shown that the null result of the Michelson–Morley experiment in vacuum is deeply connected with the notion of time. The same is true for the postulate of constancy of the two-way speed of light in vacuum in all frames independently of the state of motion of the emitting body. The argumentation formerly given is very general and has to be true not only within Special Relativity and its “equivalence” of all inertial frames, but as well as in Lorentz-Poincaré scenario of a preferred reference frame. This paper is the second of a trilogy intending to revisit the foundations of Special Relativity, and addresses the question of the constancy of the one-way speed of light and of the differences and similarities between both scenarios. Although they manifestly differ in philosophy, it is debated why and how the assumption of a “special system of reference experimentally inaccessible” is indeed compatible with Einstein’s Special Relativity, as beautifully outlined and discussed by Bell [Speakable and Unspeakable in Quantum Mechanics (Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1988)]. This rather trivial statement is still astonishing nowadays to a big majority of scientists. The purpose of this work is to bring such assertion into perspective, widening the somewhat narrow view of Special Relativity often presented in textbooks and scientific papers.


special relativity synchronization one-way speed conventionality thesis absolute space 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Guerra V., de Abreu R., (2005). “The conceptualization of time and the constancy of the speed of light”. Eur. J. Phys. 26, S117MATHCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Bell J.S., (1988). Speakable and Unspeakable in Quantum Mechanics. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Selleri F., (1996). “Noninvariant one-way velocity of light”. Found. Phys. 26, 641MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Selleri F., (2005). “The inertial transformations and the relativity principle”. Found. Phys. Lett. 18, 325MATHMathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Mansouri R., Sexl R.U., (1977). “A test theory of special relativity: I. Simultaneity and clock synchronization”. Gen. Relat. Gravit. 8, 497CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    M. Consoli and E. Costanzo, “The motion of the solar system and the Michelson–Morley experiment,” (2003).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Consoli M., Costanzo E., (2004). “From classical to modern ether-drift experiments: the narrow window for a preferred frame”. Phys. Lett. A 333, 355CrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    R. T. Cahill and K. Kitto, “Re-analysis of Michelson–Morley experiments reveals agreement with COBE cosmic background radiation preferred frame so impacting on interpretation of general relativity,” (2002).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Cahill R.T., Kitto K., (2003). “Michelson-Morley experiments revisited and the cosmic background radiation preferred frame”. Apeiron 10, 104Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Cahill R.T., (2004). “Absolute motion and gravitational effects”. Apeiron 11, 53Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Miller D.C., (1933). “The ether-drift experiment and the determination of the absolute motion of the Earth”. Rev. Mod. Phys. 5, 203MATHCrossRefADSGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    V. Guerra and R. de Abreu, “Comment on ‘from classical to modern ether-drift experiments: the narrow window for a preferred frame’ [Phys. Lett. A 333, 355 (2004)],” Phys. Lett. A (2006) in press, doi:10.1016/j.physleta.2006.09.033Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    de Abreu R., Guerra V., (2005). Relativity—Einstein’s Lost Frame, 1st edn. Extramuros, LisboaGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    A. Einstein, in Einstein’s Miraculous Year, J. Stachel, ed. (Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 1998) [(the article first appeared in Ann. Phys. 17, 123–160 (1905)].Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Feynman R.P., Leighton R.B., Sands M., (1979). The Feynman Lectures on Physics, 13th edn. Addison-Wesley, Reading, MAGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Serway R.A., Beichner R.J., (2000). Physics For Scientists and Engineers with Modern Physics, 5th edn. Saunders College Publishing, LondonGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Leubner C., Aufinger K., Krumm P., (1992). “Elementary relativity with ‘everyday’ clock synchronization”. Eur. J. Phys. 13, 170CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    M. C. Duffy, Physical Interpretations of Relativity Theory IX (Proceedings), vol.1 (PD Publications, Liverpool, 2004), pp. 158–202.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de FísicaInstituto Superior TécnicoLisboaPortugal
  2. 2.Centro de Física dos PlasmasISTLisboaPortugal

Personalised recommendations