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The Optics of LifeA Biologist's Guide to Light in Nature$
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Sönke Johnsen

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691139906

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691139906.001.0001

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Scattering with Interference

Scattering with Interference

(p.151) Chapter Six Scattering with Interference
The Optics of Life

Sönke Johnsen

Princeton University Press

This chapter studies wave interference. Light does not bend in a lens, it does not bounce off the surface of glass, and it does not spread out after passing through a small hole. All of these are illusions. It only appears that light bends, bounces, and spreads out. The effects that people see—reflection, refraction, colors in soap bubbles—come from the fact that photons interact with one another in an unusual way. The interaction is often referred to as wave interference because it can be described mathematically much like the interference of water waves, but the reality of it is considerably stranger. The strangeness is discussed in more detail in the last chapter, but a hint of it can be seen from the fact that photons appear to interfere with one another even if they are emitted one at a time, which water waves obviously do not do.

Keywords:   wave interference, light, reflection, refraction, photons

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