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687
INTERFERENCE OF LIGHT


when we use white light, and thus have systems of bands of every visible wave-length superposed, the band A will be red at its edges, the next bright bands will be blue at their inner edges and red at their outer edges. But, after a few bands are passed, the bright bands due to one kind of light will gradually fill up the dark bands due to another; so that, while we may count hundreds of successive bright and dark bars when homogeneous light is used, with white light the bars become gradually less and less defined as they are farther from A, and finally merge into an almost uniform white illumination of the screen.

If D be the distance from O to A, and P be a point on the screen in the neighbourhood of A, then approximately OIP-OZP = / {D'1+('u+éb)2} ~ v' {D2+(u - § b)2} =ub/D, where 0102 =b, AP =u.

Thus, if A be the wave-length, the places where the phases are accordant are given by

1¢=n)D/b (I),

n being an integer.

If the light were really homogeneous, the successive fringes would be similar to one another and unlimited in number; moreover there would be no place that could be picked out by inspection as the centre of the system. In practice A varies, and (as we have seen) the only place of complete accordance for all kinds of light is at A, where u=o. Theoretically, there is no place of complete discordance for all kinds of light, and consequently no complete blackness. In consequence, however, of the fact that the range of sensitiveness of the eye is limited to less than an “ octave, ” the centre of the first dark band (on either side) is sensibly black, even when white light is employed; but it should be carefully remarked that the existence of even one band is due to selection, and that the formation of several visible bands is favoured by the capability of the retina to make chromatic distinctions within the visible range. The number of perceptible bands increases pari passu with the approach of the light to homogeneity. For this purpose there are two methods that may be used.

We may employ light, such as that from the soda fiame, which possesses ab initio a rather high degree of homogeneity. If the range of wave-length included be 55505, a corresponding number of interference fringes may be made visible. The above was the number obtained by A. H. L. Fizeau. Using vacuum tubes containing, for example, mercury or cadmium vapour, A. A. Michelson has been able to go much farther. The narrowness of the bright line of light seen in the spectroscope, and the possibility of a large number of Fresnel's bands, depend upon precisely the same conditions; the one is in truth as much an interference phenomenon as the other.

In the second method the original light may be highly composite, and homogeneity is brought about with the aid of a spectroscope. The analogy with the first method is closest if we use the spectroscope to give usa line of homogeneous light in simple substitution for the artificial flame. Or, following J. B. L. Foucault and Fizeau, we may allow the white light to pass, and subsequently analyse the mixture transmitted by a narrow slit in the screen upon which the interference bands are thrown. In the latter case we observe a channelled spectrum, with maxima of brightness corresponding to the wave-lengths bu/(nD). In either case the number of bands observable is limited solely by the resolving power of the spectroscope, and proves nothing with respect to the regularity, or otherwise, of the vibrations of the original light.

In lieu of the biprism, reflectors may be invoked to double the original source of light. In one arrangement two reflected images are employed, obtained from two reflecting surfaces nearly parallel and in the same plane. Glass, preferably blackened behind, may be used, provided the incidence be made sufficiently oblique. In another arrangement, due to H. Lloyd, interference takes place between light proceeding directly from the original source, and from one reflected image. Lloyd's experiment deserves to be better known, as it may be performed with great facility and without special apparatus. Sunlight is admitted horizontally into a darkened room through a slit situated in a window shutter, and, at a distance of 15 to zo ft., is received at nearly grazing incidence upon a vertical slab of plate glass. The length of the slab in the direction of the light should not be less than 2 or 3 in., and for some special observations may advantageously be much increased. The bands are observed on a plane through the hinder vertical edge of the slab by means of a hand-magnifying glass of from 1 to 2 in. focus. The obliquity of the reflector is, of course, to be adjusted according to the fineness of the bands required.

From the manner of their formation it might appear that under no circumstances could more than half the system be visible. But according to Sir G. B. Airy's principle (see below) the bands may be displaced if examined through a prism. In practice all that is necessary is to hold the magnifier somewhat eccentrically. The bands may then be observed gradually to detach themselves from the mirror, until at last the complete system is seen, as in Fresnel's form of the experiment. The fringes now under discussion are those which arise from the superposition of two* simple and equal trains of waves whose directions are not quite parallel. If the two directions of propagation are inclined on opposite sides of the axis of x at small angles a, the expressions for two components of equal amplitude are cos ¥{Vt-x cos a-y sin a},

and cos ¥{Vt-x cos a. + y sin u.},

so that the resultant is expressed by

2 cos 2lX§ cos ¥{Vl-x cos al,

from which it appears that the vibrations advance parallel to the axis of x, unchanged in type, and with a uniform velocity V/cos a. Considered as depending on y, the vibration is a maximum when y sin a is equal to O, K, 2), 3), &c., corresponding to the centres of the bright bands, while for intermediate values sk, i§), &c., there is no vibration.

From (I) we see that the linear width A of the bands, reckoned from bright to bright or dark to dark, is

A =>.D/11 <2>

The degree of homogeneity necessary for the approximate perfection of the n“' Fresnel's band may be found at once from (I) and (E). For if du be the change in u corresponding to the change dk. t en

du/A=nd>/A (3).

Now clearly du must be a small fraction of A, so that dk/A must be many times smaller than 1/n, if the darkest places are to be sensibly black. But the phenomenon will be tolerably well marked il' the proportional range of wave-length do not exceed I /2141, provided, that is, that the distribution of illumination over this range be not concentrated towards the extreme parts. V

So far we have supposed the sources at Oi, O2 to be ma thematic ally small. In practice, the source is an elongated slit, “host direction requires to be carefully adjusted to parallelism with the reflecting surface or surfaces. By this means an important advantage is gained in respect of brightness without loss of definition, as the various parts of the aperture give rise to coincident systems of bands.

The question of the admissible width of the slit requires consideraf tion. We will suppose that the light issuing from various paris of the aperture is without permanent phase-relations, as when the slit is backed immediately by a flame, or by an incandescent filament. Regular interference can then only take place between light coming from corresponding parts of the two images, and a distinction must be drawn between the two ways in which the images may be situated relatively to one another. In Fresnel's experiment, whether carried out with the mirrors or with the biprism, the corresponding parts of the images are on the same side; that is, the right of one corresponds to the right of the other, and the left of the one to the left of the other. On the other hand, in Lloyd's arrangement the reflected image is reversed relatively to the original source; the two outer edges corresponding, as also the two inner. Thus in the first arrangement the bands due to various parts of the slit differ merely by a lateral shift, and the condition of distinctness is simply that the projection of the width of the slit be a small fraction of the width of the bands. From this it follows as a corollary that the limiting width is independent of the order of the bands under examination. It is otherwise in Lloyd's method. In this case the centres of the systems of bands are the same, whatever part of the slit is supposed to be operative, and it is the distance apart of the images (b) that varies. The bands corresponding to the various parts of the slit are thus upon different scales, and the resulting confusion must increase with the order of the bands. From (1) the corresponding changes in u and b are given by du= -n)D db/172; "

so that

du/A =-n db/b ' (4).

If db represents twice the width of the slit, (4) gives a measure of the resulting confusion in the bands. The important point is that the slit must be made narrower as n increases if the bands are to retain the same degree of distinctness.

§ 6. Achromatic Interference Bands.—We have already seen that in the ordinary arrangement, where the source is of white light entering through a narrow slit, the heterogeneity of the

light forbids the visibility of more than a few bands. The scale