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Figure from experiment 19 from Advanced Physics with Vernier — Beyond Mechanics


As long ago as the 17th century, there were two competing models to describe the nature of light. Isaac Newton believed that light was composed of particles, whereas Christopher Huygens viewed light as a series of waves. Both models could explain reflection and refraction, but the phenomena of diffraction and interference could be more easily explained by Huygens’ wave model. In the early 19th century, Thomas Young’s double-slit experiment provided evidence that supported the wave nature of light. This is the first of two experiments that examine the related phenomena of diffraction and interference. You will first compare the patterns that are produced when laser light passes through one or two slits and then strikes a screen. You will then focus your attention on the analysis of the double-slit interference pattern.


In this experiment, you will

  • Compare and contrast features of the patterns produced on a screen when light from a laser passes through either one or two slits.
  • Discern which features of the pattern arise from the interaction of the light with the single slit and which arise from the double slits.
  • Use the principle of superposition to explain how waves from two sources could interfere constructively or destructively.
  • Use a diagrammatic explanation of how path length differences for light passing through the two slits give rise to bright and dark fringes in the pattern.
  • From experimental parameters, predict the spacing between bright (or dark) fringes in the pattern.
  • Collect intensity vs. position data to test your predictions.

Sensors and Equipment

This experiment features the following Vernier sensors and equipment.

Additional Requirements

You may also need an interface and software for data collection. What do I need for data collection?

Advanced Physics with Vernier — Beyond Mechanics

See other experiments from the lab book.

1Behavior of a Gas
2Heat Engines
3Standing Waves on a String
4Standing Waves in a Column of Air
5Doppler Effect
7Coulomb's Law
8Mapping Electric Potential
9Factors Affecting Electrical Resistance
10Series and Parallel Circuits
11Faraday’s Law: Moving Magnet
12Faraday’s Law: Alternating Current
13Capacitors and Inductors
14RLC Circuits
15Curved Mirrors and Images
16Thin Lenses and Real Images
17Thin Lenses and Virtual Images
18Aperture and Depth of Field
21Spectrum of Atomic Hydrogen
22Planck’s Constant

Experiment 19 from Advanced Physics with Vernier — Beyond Mechanics Lab Book

<i>Advanced Physics with Vernier — Beyond Mechanics</i> book cover

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Vernier lab books include word-processing files of the student instructions, essential teacher information, suggested answers, sample data and graphs, and more.

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