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Good resource for understanding light waves?

  1. Apr 13, 2008 #1
    In a general physics class, one of the things we are studying is light waves. Optics is my biggest struggle within physics anyway, and now my book is explaining what happens when a laser is pointed through a barrier with holes on it. It includes some trigonometric formulas for...I don't even get what the formulas are for.

    I'm very lost on this part, so I was hoping someone could point me to a website, or maybe even a book I can get at the library that explains this phenomenon. I think part of the problem is just that I need a good illustration. The illustrations in my textbook are clunky and cluttered and I can't really see what is going on.

    I tried googling, but I can't really find anything, probably in part because I'm not sure what exactly to google. The section heading is just called "Interference," but that applies to all sorts of stuff with waves.

    I appreciate any help!
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 13, 2008 #2


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    I believe you want "diffraction".

    Don't worry, I think every single one of us hates optics with a passion. At least, everyone I know that went on to postgrad did...
  4. Apr 13, 2008 #3
    Ah! Google seems to know what I'm looking for when I search for diffraction. We did diffraction in the previous physics course, but it was just about what happens when you shine a light from one material through to the other. I probably should have made the connection, but I didn't. Thank you. :-)

    And I'm glad I'm not the only one who hates optics!
  5. Apr 13, 2008 #4


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    No, that's refraction. These are different phenomena. Refraction, I have no clue as to how it works. Diffraction on the other hand is simple enough. I have no clue as to how it works either.

    Shut up and calculate :rolleyes:
  6. Apr 13, 2008 #5
    Oh, I see. Thanks for the correction.
  7. Apr 13, 2008 #6


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    Oh, optics is not always that bad. You get to play with lasers.
  8. Apr 13, 2008 #7


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    That's physics in general. I have the feeling that - especially in modern physics - one first calculates, and then tries to assign a meaning to the answer. Which may be - especially in modern physics - infinite.
  9. Apr 13, 2008 #8


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    In other cases it tends to be more of "pour some liquid nitrogen on this 30kV arc lamp and THEN shut up and calculate". This is just drab.
  10. Apr 14, 2008 #9

    Andy Resnick

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    Can you post either a picture or one of the trig formulas? That would provide some context. Those of us who not only enjoy optics, but make our living by it, would be able to better assist.
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