Interference and Diffraction

Poisson's Spot

Diffraction produces a bright spot where Poisson believed there would be darkness.

Poisson's Spot

What It Shows

Edge diffraction around a 1/8" diameter steel ball bearing results in a visible spot in the center of its shadow. In 1818 this result—to the chagrin of Siméon D. Poisson—...

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Single Photon Interference

Wave/particle duality observed in Young's double slit experiment with camera sensitive to individual photons.

What it shows:
In this demonstration we perform the double-slit interference experiment with extremely dim light and show that even when the light intensity is reduced down to several photons/sec, the audience can see the familiar Young's double-slit interference pattern build up over a period of time. This addresses the question of how can single photons interfere with photons that have already gone through the apparatus in the past, or with those that...

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Edge Diffraction

What it shows:

A point light source will produce seemingly sharp shadows which turn out to be not at all sharp when viewed under magnification. Narrow interference bands are seen within the shadow of a straight edge while more complicated shapes yield more complicated interference bands and striations.

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Hear the Wall Bend

What it shows:  A room-size laser interferometer with audio signal output. A standing wave is produced whenever a wave is reflected back on itself. A resonant cavity requires a second reflection so that the twice reflected wave has the opportunity to be in phase with the original wave. Here, laser light is reflected from a half-silvered mirror (mounted on a wall) so as to return to the laser and be reflected again by the laser. Movement of the wall by half a wavelength is sufficient to change the cavity formed between laser mirror and wall mirror from one resonant...

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Thin Film Interference

What it shows:

Waves reflecting from two surfaces can interfere constructively and destructively. In this case it is light waves that are being reflected from the front and rear surfaces of thin soap or oil films. The interference produces a pattern of beautiful colors in white light, or dark and light bands in monochromatic light.

How it works:

Our two most visually dramatic illustrations of thin film interference use either a soap film suspended in air from a 19 cm diameter circular frame, or a very thin layer of oil floating on top of water....

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Newton's Rings

What it shows:

Waves reflecting from two surfaces can interfere constructively and destructively. In this case it is light waves that are being reflected at glass/air and air/glass interfaces. The interference produces a concentric ring pattern of rainbow colors in white light, or dark and light rings in monochromatic light.

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