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

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Light Waves and Their Uses

pieces of the same plane-parallel plate of glass. The light passes through these two tubes and is brought to a focus by the lens in condition to produce interference fringes. The apparatus might have been arranged in this way but for the fact that there would be changes in the position of the interference fringes whenever the density or temperature of the medium changed; and, in particular, whenever the current changes direction there would be produced alterations in length and changes in density; and these exceedingly

slight differences are quite sufficient to account for any motion of the fringes. In order to avoid this disturbance, Fresnel had the idea of placing at the focus of the lens the mirror Jf, so that the two rays return, the one which came through the upper tube going back through the lower, and vice versa for the other ray. In this way the two rays pass through identical paths and come together at the same point from which they started. With this arrangement, if there is any shifting of the fringes, it must be due to the reversal of the change in velocity due to the current of water. For one of the two beams, say the upper one, travels with the current in both tubes; the other, starting at the same point, travels against the current in both tubes. Upon reversing the direction of the current of water the circumstances are exactly the reverse: the beam which before traveled with the current now travels against it, etc. The result of the experiment, as before stated, was that there was produced a

The Ether


displacement of less than should have been produced by the motion of the liquid. How much less was not determined. To this extent the experiment was imperfect.

On this account, and also for the reason that the experiment was regarded as one of the most important in the entire subject of optics, it seemed to me that it was desirable to repeat it

in order to determine, not only the fact that the displacement was less than could be accounted for by the motion of the water, but also, if possible, how much less. For this purpose the apparatus was modified in several important points, and is shown in Fig. 106.

It will be noted that the principle of the interferometer has been used to produce interference fringes of considerable breadth without at the same time reducing the intensity of the light. Otherwise, the experiment is essentially the same as that made by Fizeau. The light starts from a bright flame of ordinary gas light, is rendered parallel by the lens, and then falls on the surface, which divides it into two parts, one reflected and one transmitted. The reflected