Skip to ContentGo to accessibility pageKeyboard shortcuts menu
OpenStax Logo
University Physics Volume 3

Conceptual Questions

University Physics Volume 3Conceptual Questions

Conceptual Questions

3.1 Young's Double-Slit Interference


Young’s double-slit experiment breaks a single light beam into two sources. Would the same pattern be obtained for two independent sources of light, such as the headlights of a distant car? Explain.


Is it possible to create a experimental setup in which there is only destructive interference? Explain.


Why won’t two small sodium lamps, held close together, produce an interference pattern on a distant screen? What if the sodium lamps were replaced by two laser pointers held close together?

3.2 Mathematics of Interference


Suppose you use the same double slit to perform Young’s double-slit experiment in air and then repeat the experiment in water. Do the angles to the same parts of the interference pattern get larger or smaller? Does the color of the light change? Explain.


Why is monochromatic light used in the double slit experiment? What would happen if white light were used?

3.4 Interference in Thin Films


What effect does increasing the wedge angle have on the spacing of interference fringes? If the wedge angle is too large, fringes are not observed. Why?


How is the difference in paths taken by two originally in-phase light waves related to whether they interfere constructively or destructively? How can this be affected by reflection? By refraction?


Is there a phase change in the light reflected from either surface of a contact lens floating on a person’s tear layer? The index of refraction of the lens is about 1.5, and its top surface is dry.


In placing a sample on a microscope slide, a glass cover is placed over a water drop on the glass slide. Light incident from above can reflect from the top and bottom of the glass cover and from the glass slide below the water drop. At which surfaces will there be a phase change in the reflected light?


Answer the above question if the fluid between the two pieces of crown glass is carbon disulfide.


While contemplating the food value of a slice of ham, you notice a rainbow of color reflected from its moist surface. Explain its origin.


An inventor notices that a soap bubble is dark at its thinnest and realizes that destructive interference is taking place for all wavelengths. How could she use this knowledge to make a nonreflective coating for lenses that is effective at all wavelengths? That is, what limits would there be on the index of refraction and thickness of the coating? How might this be impractical?


A nonreflective coating like the one described in Example 3.3 works ideally for a single wavelength and for perpendicular incidence. What happens for other wavelengths and other incident directions? Be specific.


Why is it much more difficult to see interference fringes for light reflected from a thick piece of glass than from a thin film? Would it be easier if monochromatic light were used?

3.5 The Michelson Interferometer


Describe how a Michelson interferometer can be used to measure the index of refraction of a gas (including air).

Order a print copy

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.


This book may not be used in the training of large language models or otherwise be ingested into large language models or generative AI offerings without OpenStax's permission.

Want to cite, share, or modify this book? This book uses the Creative Commons Attribution License and you must attribute OpenStax.

Attribution information
  • If you are redistributing all or part of this book in a print format, then you must include on every physical page the following attribution:
    Access for free at
  • If you are redistributing all or part of this book in a digital format, then you must include on every digital page view the following attribution:
    Access for free at
Citation information

© Jan 19, 2024 OpenStax. Textbook content produced by OpenStax is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License . The OpenStax name, OpenStax logo, OpenStax book covers, OpenStax CNX name, and OpenStax CNX logo are not subject to the Creative Commons license and may not be reproduced without the prior and express written consent of Rice University.