Michelson A. A. Light waves and their uses (1903)

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Light Waves and Their Uses

Very elementary considerations show that the length (I) of the wave is connected with the period (j>) of vibration of the particles (the time of one complete cycle) and the velocity (r) of transmission by the simple relation I = pv.

FIG. 6

In fact, if we could take instantaneous photographs of such a train of waves at equal intervals of time, say one-eighth of the period, they would appear as in Fig. 5. It will readily be seen that in the eight-eighths of a period the wave has advanced through just one wave length, while any particle has gone once through all its phases.

Let us next consider the superposition of two similar trains of waves of equal period and amplitude. If the phases of the two wave trains coincide, the resulting wave train will have twice the amplitude of the components, as shown in Fig. 6. If, on the other hand, the phase of one train is half a period ahead of that of the other, as in Fig. 7, the resulting ampli-

FIG. 7

iude is zero; that is, the two motions exactly neutralize each other. In the case of sound waves, the first case corresponds to fourfold intensity, the second to absolute silence.

The principle of which these two cases are illustrations is miscalled interference; in reality the result is that each wave motion occurs exactly as if the other were not there to inter

Wave Motion and Interference


fere. The name has, however, the sanction of long usage, and will therefore be retained. The principle of interference is of

FIG. 8

such fundamental importance that it will be worth while to impress it upon the mind by a few experimental illustrations.

Fig. 8 represents an apparatus devised by Professor Quincke for illustrating interference of sound. An organ