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

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Light Waves and Their Uses

monochromatic light will appear when these two images have been made to coincide with the help of the adjusting screws ss. The fringes in white light appear only when the lengths of the two paths AD and AC are the same. The

FIG. 40

width and the position of the fringes in the field of view can be varied by slightly moving the adjusting screws. We shall have occasion to discuss this particular form of interferometer in a subsequent lecture.


1. The objection to the wave theory of light, that light moves in straight lines while sound waves can bend around an obstacle, is shown to be groundless, since we have seen that if the sound waves are sufficiently short they cast a sound shadow, while by devices which take into account the

Microscope, Telescope, Interferometer 43

extreme minuteness of light waves their bending around obstacles may be readily observed.

2. The extreme minuteness of light waves renders it possible to utilize the microscope and the telescope as instruments of great precision. These instruments depend on the property of the objective of gathering together waves from a point so that they are concentrated in the diffraction pattern which is called the image.

3. The accuracy of measurement is still further increased by modifying the telescope or microscope so as to utilize only two pencils, thus converting these instruments into interferometers.

4. By the device of separating the two pencils and reuniting them by reflections from plane-parallel surfaces, the fringes may be made as large as we please without diminishing the brightness of the light, and hence the accuracy of measurement may be correspondingly increased.