Optics: 6) Experiment that changed our thinking

Hi,
today I will again write about optics but I have to return at the very beginning of 19th century when Thomas Young proved that light is behaving like a wave.


So there was this problem.

Newton thought that light has to be lot of particles, he called them corpuscles.

At the same time Huygens thought that light is behaving like a wave.


Then came this smart guy called Young. He conducted easy experiment to prove this.

The experiment is based on phenomena called interference of light. Imagine two people calling. When they both call at the same time. The called person is more likely to hear the call because they amplify the sound together. Now imagine that they want the person to hear some word that they are repeating again and again, such a word could be: RETURN!

When they call both at the same time it will make mega RETURN! And you can be sure that the person will hear it. But if one of them is slower by just a fraction of the time that it takes to say the word, whole message is destroyed:

1st person:   |return!|
–>  RETURN!
2nd person: |return!|
1st person:   |return!|
–> retuRneturn
2nd person:         |return!|
From the second example you can clearly see that if it is just a little windy the message may end up some thing like: “ertueruterut” and that is something you do not want. So light behaves in the same way. If both lasers are calling “red” at the same time you will get mega red (amplyfied red, with higher amplitude). If not well, you know what happens!

But analogies can take as only so far. There is one more problem. In my example if one person would call: “return” and the other “go away” the message should be destroyed. But with light, nothing happens, the words (colors) do not interact at all (in this way) because to interact the frequency has to be the same, this is called coherence of light.


So how did he use the interference of light to prove that light behaves like a wave? In his experiment imagine having a dark room with one small hole that leads to another two holes like this:

As the light passes through both slits it creates interesting pattern that is unique for waves.

If light would be particle you would see two lines on the right. But instead what happened was that at some places the amplitude was increased, as both sources (both slits) were calling (shining) at the same time or they were just moved by one word (one top of wave).[1] So some of the light is in consctructive interference (peaks on the black line) and some parts of the wave is in destructive (bottoms of the black line). This creates lighter parts and darker parts:

The double-slit experiment

And finally animation:

The light passing through both slits, green part is destructive, blue, red and yellow constructive.

Dragallur

If you are not still sure about this, watch the video below:

[1]By this I mean that one person starts calling: “return return return” and the second joins for the second return so they are moved by one period.

 

 

 

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3 thoughts on “Optics: 6) Experiment that changed our thinking

  1. Another favorite topic of mine when I taught physics. 🙂

    Did you know…set up the same situation with two slits. Aim a source of streaming electrons at them so they must pass through the slits. We think of electrons as particles most of the time. The electrons will produce the same bright-dark-bright-dark … interference pattern as the waves.

    Next reduce the rate of electrons so only one gets to the slits at any one time, never two. They will still form the same interference pattern as before. It just takes longer.

    Liked by 1 person

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