Chasing the Light: Einstein's Most Famous Thought Experiment
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At the age of sixteen, Einstein imagined chasing after a beam of light. He later recalled that the thought experiment had played a memorable role in his development of special relativity. Famous as it is, it has proven difficult to understand just how the thought experiment delivers its results. It fails to generate problems for an ether-based electrodynamics. I propose that Einstein’s canonical statement of the thought experiment from his 1946 “Autobiographical Notes,” makes most sense not as an argument against ether-based electrodynamics, but as an argument against “emission” theories of light.