Albert Michelson in “Michelson and the Speed of Light”

In 1881, Albert A. Michelson experimented to prove the existence of aether. Aether was a hypothesized material that fills the region of the universe. Scientists knew light is a form of a wave, and because all other waves require a medium to propagate, they formulated the aether hypothesis, in which light can propagate. However, Michelson’s attempt produced a null result. Michelson concluded that the hypothesis of a stationary aether is erroneous.

In 1960, Bernard Jaffe wrote Michelson’s biography in the book “Michelson & the Speed of Light.” Unscrupulous flat-Earthers quoted a lone paragraph from the book out of the intended context and presented it as if Michelson proved the Earth is stationary.

The quote-mined paragraph is on page 76:

The data were almost unbelievable. The so-called ether wind had had no effect whatever on the velocity of light whether the beam was traveling with the “wind” or across it. There was only one other possible conclusion to draw —that the earth was at rest. This, of course was preposterous.

They deliberately omitted the context provided by the rest of the chapter, such as Michelson’s conclusion in the subsequent paragraph:

Observations are observations; facts are facts. Reluctant as he was to do so, Michelson had to report what he had found. He recorded his findings in the August 1881 (5) issue of the American Journal of Science under the title “The Relative Motion of the Earth and the Luminiferous Ether.” His conclusion was short and unmistakable. “The hypothesis of a stationary ether is erroneous,” he wrote.