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Homework Help: Determining the Handedness of Circular Polarized Waves

  1. Apr 10, 2013 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data
    A polarized wave in the y axis, propagates in the z axis and is incident to a quarter-wave plate. Viewing the down from -z to z, the fast axis is 45deg below the x-axis.

    Determine the polarization of the beam immediately following the quart-wave plate.

    2. Relevant equations
    Conceptual Question, I am not using equations..

    3. The attempt at a solution
    The wave must be circular but I cannot visualize how to determine whether it is left handed or right handed. I realize that if you curl your fingers in the direction that it rotates, the hand with the thumb pointing in the direction of propagation is the handedness but I can't visualize how the wave curls coming out.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 11, 2013 #2
    Haven't seen any replies yet so I am curious if there are any issues with this post.
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2013
  4. Apr 11, 2013 #3
    Well, I thought about it as I drifted off to sleep last night and I was thinking that crossing from from the slow axis (which must be orthogonal in this case) to the fast axis with the left hand allows for the thumb to be pointed in the direction of propagation. By doing this, I get a left handed curl. Is this correct? So in this case, it doesn't matter where the wave is polarized, as long as it has a non-zero component for the fast axis and a non-zero component for the slow axis, right??

    Here is the image I drew for what I am doing.

    Attached Files:

  5. Apr 11, 2013 #4
    I believe if you were to apply the image above to the problem I posted, the fast and slow axis must be switched giving a right handed circle, I think.
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