What is Diffraction?

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What is Diffraction?

Diffraction has something to do with all types of waves. The man responsible for coining the term diffraction is Francesco Maria Grimaldi. Diffraction is derived from the Latin word diffringere, which means to break into pieces. At first, it was referred to lights hitting an obstacle and breaking up into different directions. In 1665, Grimaldi’s observation about diffraction was published.

Isaac Newton was one of the early scientists who also studied Grimaldi’s discovery. According to Newton, the effects are inflexion of light rays. James Gregory followed and made his own observation using a feather from a bird. His observation was considered to be the first grating diffraction discovered.

In 1803, Thomas Young made his own experiment. His experiment demonstrated interference from two closely spaced slits. He explained that light radiating on the slits must transmit as waves. In 1815, calculations of diffraction were made public. It is all because of Augustin-Jean Fresnel’s exceptional studies. Thus, the wave theory of light was born and was later on given advanced studies by Christiaan Huygens.

As observed by Grimaldi, diffraction refers to various phenomena that take place when a wave bumps into an obstacle. Classical physics illustrated diffraction as the noticeable bending of waves around obstacles and the spreading out of waves after passing through small openings.

When it was said that diffraction occurs with all waves that means it include sound, water, light and electromagnetic waves. Electromagnetic waves are visible lights, x-rays and radio waves. Diffraction that occurs with matter, which have wave-like properties at the atomic level can be look at carefully through quantum mechanics.
What are the examples of diffraction? In everyday life, people can experience or catch sight of diffraction. When diffraction involves light, the result is colorful. Rainbows in the sky are examples of diffraction. The rainbow pattern you see in Compact Discs and Digital Video Discs exhibits the same light wave bending. Another good example of light wave bending is the hologram usually seen in credit cards.
You may also see a bright ring around a source with very bright light. One good example is the sun, where the bright ring is a product of light wave bending. The same is also exhibited or seen on the edges of the moon. A shadow of an object may also show evidence of diffraction and these are the small fringes you see in its edges.

Water like the waves from the ocean diffract around obstacles. Sound also diffracts and it is the reason why you can hear sounds even if the speakers of a radio is inside the house. To some applications, diffraction is also used especially in the lenses of cameras, microscopes and telescopes.

Today, many of our modern devices are products of the observation of Grimaldi. The discovery of diffraction made a great deal in many studies. Radio waves had been utilized well for communication. Camera lenses are products of diffraction. The discovery of electromagnetic waves helped build modern medical instruments like the x-ray machine. Improvement of light bulbs is also a product of diffraction.


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