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The Young's double slit exp. and some general waves

  1. May 11, 2009 #1
    I was reading about the classic Young's double slit experiment and I had a few questions regarding secondary wavelets a.k.a Huygen's wavelets. I proceed with the following questions assuming you know the experiment.

    The crucial point behind the explanation to the experiment is that light emerging from the original source, forms secondary wavelets at the 2 following slits. And from here on, books continue explaining things but I shall stop here for I have some questions.

    Q1 - The secondary wavelets do not form only at the slit, but they form everywhere. Why do we consider the secondary wavelets only formed at the slit? Why not in front of it? Why not behind it?

    Q2 - From the definition of secondary wavelets, I do not understand why nobody seems to discuss why they do produce a 'backlash' effect. Shouldn't the secondary wavelets travel backwards to affect the source itself and cause trouble?

    The books I have come across seem to skip discussing these issues. Is there something I have not understood?
  2. jcsd
  3. May 11, 2009 #2


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    Homework Helper

    My understanding is that the "backlashes" of the secondary wavelets interfere with each other and with the original wavelet, so that normally all you see is a single wave propagating outwards from the source. However, when the light passes through a slit, most of the wavelets generated before the slit get blocked by the wall; it's only those wavelets which are centered in the slit itself that can propagate through. And if the slit is thin enough, it looks like just a single wavelet at each slit.

    I wouldn't take the Huygens wavelet interpretation too literally, though... it's a nice way to intuitively figure out what happens at something like a slit, but verifying the details gets extremely complicated.
  4. May 11, 2009 #3

    Doc Al

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    Staff: Mentor

    Read what I wrote about the obliquity factor in this thread: https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=236864
  5. May 11, 2009 #4
    Thanks Doc!
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