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

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Application of Interference Methods 57

of this small ball. This force is so exceedingly small that it is difficult to measure it by an ordinary balance, even if the microscope is employed. But by the interference method the approach of the large ball to the small one produced a displacement of seven whole fringes. The number of fringes can be determined to something of the order of one-twentieth of the width of one fringe.

We therefore have with this instrument the means of measuring the gravitation constant, and thence the mass of the whole earth, to within about T* T of the whole. By still more sensitive adjustment it would be possible to exceed this degree of accuracy.

An instrument in which the interferometer is used for testing the accuracy of a screw is shown in Fig.

53. The screw which was to be tested by this device was intended to be used in a ruling engine for the manufacture of ditfraction gratings. Now, it is necessary, in ruling gratings, to make the distance between the lines the same to within a small fraction of a micron. The error in the position of any of the lines must be less than a ten-millionth part of an inch. Ordinarily a screw from the best machinists has errors a thousand times as great. The screw must then be tested and corrected. The testing is often done with the microscope, but here the microscope is replaced by the inter

FIG. 52

5S Light Waves and Their Uses

ferometer, with a corresponding increase in the delicacy of the test.

I will conclude by showing how to measure the length of light waves by means of the interferometer. By turning


FIG. 53

the head attached to the screw, one of the interferometer mirrors (namely C, Fig. 39) can be moved very slowly. This motion will produce a corresponding displacement of the interference fringes. Count the number of interference fringes which pass a fixed point while the mirror moves a given distance. Then divide double the distance by the number of fringes which have passed, and we have the length of the wave. Using a scale marked from 0 to 10. made of such a size and placed at such a distance that, when a beam of light reflected from a mirror attached to tin* screw moves over one division, a difference in path of one-