Flat-Earthers quoted Einstein’s statement out of context to give the appearance that he gave credence to the notion that Earth is stationary. In reality, Einstein never said the Earth is stationary.
The quote came from his Kyoto address “How I created the theory of relativity,” December 14, 1922.
While I was thinking of this problem in my student years, I came to know the strange result of Michelson’s experiment. Soon I came to the conclusion that our idea about the motion of the Earth with respect to the ether is incorrect, if we admit Michelson’s null result as a fact. This was the first path which led me to the special theory of relativity. Since then I have come to believe that the motion of the Earth cannot be detected by any optical experiment, though the Earth is revolving around the Sun.
The boldfaced part was taken and widely circulated in flat-Earthers and geocentrists circles. While the words did come from Einstein, they no longer have any resemblance to what Einstein had in mind. The omission of the second part of the sentence “though the Earth is revolving around the Sun” is particularly damning.
What Einstein meant by the “optical experiment” is the Michelson-Morley experiment. Before his Theory of Relativity, scientists hypothesized the Aether theory to explain why light can propagate through space unlike other types of waves which require a medium.
The Michelson-Morley experiment cannot confirm the existence of Aether. They cannot find the difference of light speed traveling at an angle, even though the Earth is in motion. This is what Einstein had in mind.
- How I Created The Theory of Relativity – Albert Einstein, translated by Yoshimasa A. On