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Periodic Potential

What it shows:

Ball bearings simulate atoms in a lattice sitting at local potential minimums. Giving them energy excites the atoms and they oscillate about their equilibrium positions in these wells; only with large amounts of energy can they be truly dislocated.

How it works:

A piece of wood 100 × 25 × 2cm acts as the ‘potential’ structure of the lattice. The atoms, 3cm diameter ball bearings sit at the bottom of a cosine varying potential cut to about 10cm depth in the wood by a jig saw.The balls are held in the 2-dimensional...

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Microwave Tunneling analog

3 cm microwaves and prisms made of plastic beads demonstrate total internal reflection in one prism, and coupling of the evanescent wave to a second prism. An audio signal corresponds to the one kiloHertz modulation of the microwaves.

The prisms are made of foam core board, cut and hot glued, then filled with small pony beads.

...

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Tunneling Analog

What it shows:

In quantum mechanics, it is possible for a particle to tunnel through a potential barrier because its wave function has a small but finite value in the classically forbidden region. Here we use FTIR as an optical analog of this quantum mechanical phenomenon.

How it works:

A 45°-90° prism will deflect a beam of light by total internal reflection. When two such prisms are sandwiched back-to-back and pressed together, the air-glass interface can be made to vanish and the beam then propagates onward undisturbed. This...

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Optical Analog of Uncertainty Principle

What it shows:

In the Heisenberg uncertainty relation, the momentum of a particle cannot be known with any greater accuracy than h/∆x where h is Planck's constant and ∆x is the uncertainty in spatial position. The more you localize its spatial position, the less certain you become about its momentum. An optical illustration for this is the diffraction of light though a slit.

How it works:

For a laser beam, the transverse momentum is pretty well known (i.e. it's zero) but you have no localization of its spatial x coordinate. You...

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Tether-ball Catastrophe

What it shows:

An accelerated electric charge radiates energy. So according to classical physics, an electron in orbit about an atomic nucleus should emit electromagnetic radiation by virtue of its orbital motion. As it radiates energy, the radius of its orbit decreases. The electron should spiral into the nucleus amidst a burst of radiation in about 10-16 seconds.

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Wien's Displacement Law

Changes in the spectral intensity distribution of a hot tungsten filament are observed as the temperature is varied.

wien

How It Works

A slide projector (Beseler Slide King II) with a 1kW lamp and adjustable lens is plugged into a Variac. The light from the projector passes through an inline...

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Sugar Syrups

What it shows:

Certain materials (sugar in this experiment) are optically active because the molecules themselves have a twist in them. When linearly polarized light passes through an optically active material, its direction of polarization is rotated. The angle of rotation depends on the thickness of the material and the wavelength of the light.

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Circular Polarization

What it shows:

A linear polarizing filter followed by a quarter-wave plate whose slow and fast axes are at 45° to the axis of the polarizer becomes a circular polarizing filter, and incident unpolarized light emerges as circularly polarized light. This will not work if the order of the polarizer and wave plate is reversed. A quarter-wave plate converts circularly polarized light into linearly polarized light.

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Polarization by Absorption

What it shows:

Polaroid filters absorb one component of polarization while transmitting the perpendicular components. The intensity of transmitted light depends on the relative orientation between the polarization direction of the incoming light and the polarization axis of the filter.

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Brewster's Angle

What it shows:

When unpolarized light is reflected from a non-metallic surface, the reflected ray is plane polarized parallel to the reflecting surface if

θi + θr = 90°

or

tanθi = n

where θi = incident ray (Brewster's angle), θr = refracted ray, n = refractive index

How it works:

We use a black vinyl sheet 1m×4m as the reflecting surface, which has a Brewster angle of 57°. A theatrical spot lamp 1 is used to give a 50cm circle...

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Rayleigh's Criterion

What it shows:

The criterion for the resolution of two sources is that the central maximum of the single slit interference pattern of one source falls on the first minimum of the pattern of the second source.

How it works:

Each laser beam passing through the slit will form a diffraction pattern on the screen. With the aperture closed down, the pattern will be spread out and the central maxima of both sources will overlap giving a blurry image. Opening up the aperture and the diffraction patterns will get narrower, until the point...

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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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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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Frustrated Total Internal Reflection

What it shows:

In quantum mechanics, it is possible for a particle to tunnel through a potential barrier because its wave function has a small but finite value in the classically forbidden region. Here we use FTIR as an optical analog of this quantum mechanical phenomenon.

How it works:

A 45°-90° prism will deflect a beam of light by total internal reflection. When two such prisms are sandwiched back-to-back and pressed together, the air-glass interface can be made to vanish and the beam then propagates onward undisturbed. This transition, from...

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Fiber Optics

What it shows:

Light is transmitted by a bundle of optical fibers and/or a coiled length of plastic rod, regardless of the twists and turns in the path it must negotiate. Total internal reflection keeps the light confined.

How it works:

A HeNe laser is used as the source of light. The bundle of optical fibers consists of a very large (but unknown) number of individual glass fibers measuring 0.05 mm (0.002") in diameter. About 30 cm of the bundle is exposed at the end while the rest of the length is protected by a rubber sheath....

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