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"As the rate of technological development speeds up, the gap between science fiction and what we’re living now is getting narrower all the time."
- Richard Morgan

  A device that looked at the 'ether' pervading space as a means of determining gravitation field strength.  

Knowing gravitational field gradients is extremely helpful when navigation around crowded parts of space, like planets and their moons.

As the vessel roared through frozen space, Richard Greer gazed apprehensively at the rapidly expanding gravity lines in the etherometer at his elbow...

Commander Wormser returned his gaze to the etherometer and stared in tremulous horror at the swiftly widening gravity lines which were flickering across it's opalescent surface.

From Spawn of the Red Giants, by Frank Belknap Long, Jr..
Published by Astounding Science-Fiction in 1937
Additional resources -

The theory that there must be an 'ether' needed to transmit electromagnetic radiation had many adherents well into the twentieth century. Shown below is a 1932 German apparatus intended to measure ether drift.

(Ether drift apparatus)

The device was described as follows:

It consists of four arms on a perpendicular axis, containing a series of mirrors, lenses, and reflecting plates. A ray of light enters at the top of the device and is bounced back and fourth thousands of times, finally emerging at the bottom, where its passing leaves a record on a photographic plate.

The experiment demonstrated that if there was any drift, it must be less than one and a half miles per second.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Spawn of the Red Giants
  More Ideas and Technology by Frank Belknap Long, Jr.
  Tech news articles related to Spawn of the Red Giants
  Tech news articles related to works by Frank Belknap Long, Jr.

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