The concept of an objective spatial direction in special relativity is investigated and theories assuming light-speed isotropy while accepting the existence of a privileged spatial direction are classified, including so-called very special relativity. A natural generalization of the proper time principle is introduced which makes it possible to devise non-optical experimental tests of spatial isotropy. Several common misunderstandings in the relativistic literature concerning the role of spatial isotropy are clarified.
In this paper the classical topic of “conventionality” in defining the simultaneity (or synchrony) of distant events is tackled again, and the validity of Reichenbach's view is carefully circumscribed. In particular, the role of “one-way” assumptions in the foundations of special relativity is emphasized. The restriction by the round-trip isotropy condition on the admissible distance functions in inertial frames is studied, and its relevance to several issues (absolute simultaneity, the interpretation of Michelson–Morley type experiments, the self-measured speed of a clock) (...) is shown. Two “clock transport” synchronizations in an inertial frame, using self-measured speed and “proper distance,” are presented in detail, and the agreement of the synchronies so established with standard synchrony is proven to be non- circular. By assuming a reasonable concept of “convention” this result is shown to dissolve several objections by supporters of a strong version of conventionalism. Throughout, a number of common misapprehensions in the literature are pointed out. (shrink)
A rigorous wave-theoretic approach to the Michelson-Morley (M-M) experiment is presented, with special emphasis on the Huygens' principle derivation of the laws of reflection by a moving mirror. A detailed discussion of the Lorentz-Fitzgerald contraction hypothesis (CH) is included. Several mistakes appearing in the standard textbook treatments of these issues are pointed out, and a number of related historical questions are considered.
By a comparison between Maxwell's electrodynamics classically interpreted (MT) and relativistic electrodynamics (RED), this paper discusses whether the “asymmetries” in MT mentioned by A. Einstein in his 1905 relativity paper are only of a conceptual nature or rather involve specific empirical claims. It is shown that in fact MT predicts strongly asymmetric behaviour for very simple interactions, and an analysis is made of the extent of the “symmetry” achieved by means of relativistic postulates. A “low” velocity experiment is suggested which (...) could provide another test of the accuracy of RED with respect to MT. (shrink)