NEW PERSPECTIVES ON THE RELATIVISTICALLY ROTATING DISK AND NON-TIME-ORTHOGONAL REFERENCE FRAMES

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Abstract

The rotating disk problem is analyzed on the premise that proper interpretation of experimental evidence leads to the conclusion that the postulates upon which relativity theory is based, particularly the invariance of the speed of light, are not applicable to rotating frames. Different postulates based on the Sagnac experiment are proposed, and from these postulates a new relativistic theory of rotating frames is developed following steps similar to those initially followed by Einstein for rectilinear motion. The resulting theory agrees with all experiments, resolves problems with the traditional approach to the rotating disk, and exhibits both traditionally relativistic and non-relativistic characteristics. Of particular note, no Lorentz contraction exists on the rotating disk circumference, and the disk surface, contrary to the assertions of Einstein and others, is found to be Riemann flat. The variable speed of light found in the Sagnac experiment is then shown to be characteristic of non-time-orthogonal reference frames, of which the rotating frame is one. In addition, the widely accepted postulate for the equivalence of inertial and non-inertial standard rods with zero relative velocity, used liberally in prior rotating disk analyses, is shown to be invalid for such frames. Further, the new theory stands alone in correctly predicting what was heretofore considered a “spurious” non-null effect on the order of 10−13 found by Brillet and Hall in the most accurate Michelson-Morley type test to date. The presentation is simple and pedagogic in order to make it accessible to the non-specialist.

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