Thursday, June 16, 2011

Young's double slit

Physics World writes:
Most discussions of double-slit experiments with particles refer to Feynman's quote in his lectures: "We choose to examine a phenomenon which is impossible, absolutely impossible, to explain in any classical way, and which has in it the heart of quantum mechanics. In reality, it contains the only mystery." Feynman went on to add: "We should say right away that you should not try to set up this experiment. This experiment has never been done in just this way. The trouble is that the apparatus would have to be made on an impossibly small scale to show the effects we are interested in. We are doing a "thought experiment", which we have chosen because it is easy to think about. We know the results that would be obtained because there are many experiments that have been done, in which the scale and the proportions have been chosen to show the effects we shall describe".
It also lists the Top 10 beautiful experiments:
1 Young's double-slit experiment applied to the interference of single electrons
2 Galileo's experiment on falling bodies (1600s)
3 Millikan's oil-drop experiment (1910s)
4 Newton's decomposition of sunlight with a prism (1665-1666)
5 Young's light-interference experiment (1801)
6 Cavendish's torsion-bar experiment (1798)
7 Eratosthenes' measurement of the Earth's circumference (3rd century BC)
8 Galileo's experiments with rolling balls down inclined planes (1600s)
9 Rutherford's discovery of the nucleus (1911)
10 Foucault's pendulum (1851)
So the double slit is 2 of the top 5.

The fascination with this experiment cootinues today. You would think that everything interesting that could be said was said 200 years ago.

Just 10 years ago, a simple variant of it called the Afshar experiment caused a stir. There are explanations of it, but no consensus.

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