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

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Microscope, Telescope, Interferometer 39

in such a way as to show the extreme delicacy of the interferometer in measuring exceedingly small angles. For this purpose two of the

mirrors, C and D, have been mounted on a piece of steel shafting P two inches in diameter and six inches long. When the length of the paths of the two pencils is the same to within a few hundred thou- g sandths of an inch, the interference fringes in white light are readily observed, or may be projected on the screen. If, now, the steel shafting be twisted, one of the paths is lengthened and the other diminished, and for every

movement of one two-hundred-thousandth of an inch there would be a motion of the fringes equal to the width of a

FIG. 35




ing the end of the shafting be-

FlG. U7


tween thumb and forefinger, the exceedingly small force which may thus be applied in this way is sufficient to twist


Light Waves and Their Uses

FIG. 38

the solid steel shafting through an angle which is very readilv observed by the movement of the fringes across the field.

The form of interferometer which has proved most generally useful is that shown in Fig. 38. The light starts t ^ from source S and separates at

the rear of the plate A, part of it being reflected to the plane mirror C, returning exactly, on its path through A, to O, where it may be examined by a telescope or received upon a screen. The other part of the ray goes through the glass plate A, passes through B, and is reflected by the plane mirror D, returns on its path to the starting-point A, where it is reflected so as nearly to coincide with the first ray. The plane-parallel glass B is introduced to compensate for the extra thickness of glass which the first portion of the ray has traversed in passing twice through the plate A. Without it the two paths would not be optically identical, because the first would contain more glass than the second.

Some light is reflected from the front surface of the plate A, but its effect may be rendered insignificant by covering the rear surface of A with a coating of silver of such thickness that about equal portions of the incident light are reflected and transmitted.

The plane-parallel plates A and B are worked originally in a single piece, which is afterward cut in two. The two pieces are placed parallel to each other, thus insuring exact equality in the two optical paths AC and AD.

The foregoing principles are applied in concrete form in the instrument shown in Figs. 39, 40. A rigid casting serves