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

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Action of Magnetism on Light Waves lit)

examine only one line at a time. The method of observation requires us to stop at each turn of the screw, and note the visibility of the fringes at each stopping-place. During the comparatively long time which it takes to do this the character of the radiations themselves may change. Besides, we have the trouble of translating our visibility curves into distribution curves. Hence it is rather easy for errors to creep in.

On account of these limitations of the interferometer method, attention was directed to something which should





TypelL FIG. 86

Type III.

be more expeditious, and the most promising method of attack seemed to be to try to improve the ordinary diffraction grating. The grating, as briefly explained in one of the preceding lectures, consists of a series of bars very close together, which permit light to pass through the intervals between them. The first gratings ever made were of this nature, for they consisted of a series of wires wound around two screws, one above and one below. This first form of grating answered very well for the preliminary work, but is objectionable because the interval between the wires is necessarily rather large, i. e., the grating is rather coarse. If we allow light to pass through these intervals, each interval may be considered to act as a source of light.


Light Waves and Their Uses

From eaeh of these sources it is spread out in circular waves. If the incident wave is plane and falls normally upon the grating, all these waves start from the separate openings in the same phase of vibration. Hence, in a plane parallel to the grating we should have, as the resultant of all these waves, a plane wave traveling in the direction of the normal to the grating. When this wave is concentrated in the focus of a lens, it produces a single bright line, which is the image of the slit and is just as though the grating were not present.

Suppose we consider another direction, say AC (Fig. 87). We have a spherical wave, starting from the point B, another in the same phase from the point a, etc. Now, if the direction AC is such that the distance ab from the opening a to the line through B perpendicular to AC is just one wave, then along the line BC the light from the openings B and a differ in phase by one whole wave. When ab is equal to one wave, cd will be equal to two waves; hence, along BC the light from the opening c will be one wave behind the light from a,.etc.; and if these waves are brought to a focus, they will produce a bright image of the source. Since the wave lengths are different for different colors, the direction AC in which this condition is fulfilled will be different for different colors. A grating will there