But they didn’t. The aether therefore did not exist. And that observational pebble, gathering speed as it rolled downhill, produced an avalanche which swept away classical physics and cleared the field for Albert Einstein’s theories of relativity—one of which, the general theory, encapsulates the modern description of gravity.
It is therefore poetic justice that the latest attempt to sweep away Einstein’s version of the world in its turn also relies on an interferometer. This time, though, the beams travelling through it are made not of light, but of atoms.
The second big difference, besides relativity, between classical and modern physics, is quantum theory. This depends on all waves also being particles, and all particles waves. So it is possible to make an atomic wave-beam, split it, and recombine it just as if it were light. And that is precisely what a team led by Robert Bingham of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and Charles Wang of Aberdeen University, both in Britain, plan to do. Their device should be sensitive enough to detect irregularities in the space-time continuum caused by quantum gravity—the much-sought next step after general relativity. And on the way there, for those of a practical bent, it may help in the search for submarine oilfields. (...) Read original article in full here