Light Science pp 119-148 | Cite as

Interference and Diffraction

  • Thomas D. RossingEmail author
  • Christopher J. Chiaverina


In Chap.  2 we learned about several interesting properties of waves, including constructive and destructive interference. Figure  2.8 illustrates the constructive and destructive interference that occurs when two wave pulses travel in opposite directions on a one-dimensional medium such as a rope.


Glossary of Terms


The spreading of waves when they pass through an opening or around a barrier.


The superposition of two identical waves to create maxima and minima.


An instrument that splits a light beam with a half-silvered mirror and creates an interference pattern between the two beams when they recombine after traveling two different paths.

Newton’s rings

An interference pattern of concentric circles formed by multiple reflections between a flat glass surface and a convex surface.

photonic crystal

Three-dimensional, periodic, sub-wavelength structure fashioned from semi-transparent material.


A technique used by painters to create colors by partitive (additive) mixing of small dots of paint.

resolution, limit of

The ability to separate the images of two objects that are very close to each other. The images can no longer be resolved when their diffraction patterns overlap.

Further Reading

  1. Falk, D. S., Brill, D. R., & Stork, D. G. (1986). Seeing the Light. New York: John Wiley & Sons.Google Scholar
  2. Hewitt, P. G. (2014). Conceptual Physics, 12th ed. Boston: Pearson.Google Scholar
  3. Kirkpatrick L. D., & Wheeler, G. F. (1995). Physics: A World View, 2nd ed. Philadelphia: Saunders College Publishing.Google Scholar
  4. Riley, B. (1995). Colour for the Painter. In T. Lamb and J. Bourriau, eds., Colour Art and Science, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Rossing, T. D. (1990). The Science of Sound, 2nd ed. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesleys.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas D. Rossing
    • 1
    Email author
  • Christopher J. Chiaverina
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Music, Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA)Stanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  2. 2.New Trier Township High SchoolWinnetkaUSA

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