Glass Slide Reflectance from Vector Amplitudes

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Feynman [1]: "The situation today is, we haven't got a good model to explain partial reflection by two surfaces; we just calculate the probability that a particular photomultiplier will be hit by a photon reflected from a sheet of glass."


This Demonstration shows the light amplitude vectors and their relationship to the thickness of a glass slide and its reflectance. The surface reflection amplitude vectors plotted are based on the time it takes for red light to bounce off the surface and the bottom of the glass slide. Total amplitudes can be composed of a vector sum of partial amplitudes. Probabilities are then calculated from the squares of the total amplitudes. For example, the norm of the difference of the two vectors is squared to calculate the reflectance (which is a kind of probability) of the glass slide. A visual representation of the relationship between the thickness of a glass slide and its light reflectance can thereby be constructed.


Contributed by: Gha Young Lee (January 2015)
Open content licensed under CC BY-NC-SA




[1] R. P. Feynman, QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985.

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