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

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Microscope, Telescope, Interferometer 25

ing to your notice the various methods and results which form the subject-matter of these lectures.

Before the properties of lenses were known, linear measurements were made by the unaided eye, as they are at present in the greater part of the everyday work of the carpenter or the machinist; though in many cases this is supplemented by the “touch” or “contact” method, which is, in fact, susceptible of a very high degree of accuracy. For angular measurements, or the determination of direction, the sight-tube was employed, which is used today in the alidade and, in modified form, in the gun-sight — a fact which shows that even this comparatively rough means, when properly employed, will give fairly accurate results.

The question then arises whether this accuracy can be increased by sufficiently reducing the size of the apertures.

The answer is: Yes, it can, but only up to a certain limit, beyond which, apart from the diminution in brightness, the diffraction phenomena just described intervene. This limit occurs practically when the diameter of two openings a meter apart has been reduced to about two millimeters, so that the order of accuracy is about g or f°r

measurements of angle. Calling ten inches the limit of distinct vision, this means that about of an inch is the limit for linear measurement. An enormous improvement in accuracy is effected by the introduction of the microscope and telescope, the former for linear, the latter for angular measurements. Both depend upon the property of the objective lens of gathering together waves from a point, so that they meet again in a point, thus producing an image.

This is illustrated in Fig. 19. A train of plane waves traveling in the direction of the arrows encounters a convex lens. The velocity is less in glass, and since the lens is


Light Waves and Their Uses

thickest at the center, the retardation is greatest there, gradually diminishing toward the edge. The effect is to change the form of the wave front from a plane to a spherical shell,














FIG. 19

which advances toward the focus at O, and produces at this point a maximum of light, which is the image of the point whence the waves started.

Fig. 20 illustrates the case where the convex waves diverging from a luminous point O are changed to concave waves converging to form the image at O'.

It can readily be shown that the luminous point and its image are in the same line with the center of the lens —

FIG. 20

sufficiently near for a first approximation. Accordingly, if we take separate points of an object, we can construct its image by drawing straight lines from these through the center of the lens, as shown in Fig. 21. The size of the image will be greater the greater the distance from the lens, so that