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"White" light rays

Discussion in 'Lighting' started by Roger Breton, Jan 20, 2004.

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  1. Roger Breton

    Roger Breton Guest

    I was asked: how are the waves arranged, spatially, in a white beam? When
    that beam is dispersed with a prism or grating the individual component
    light rays present in that beam are spread out spatially according to their
    wavelength / refractive index / frequency. But the question is how are the
    individual component light rays arranged spatially in the first place in the
    original white: are they sandwiched together, overlapping each other,
    serially arranged, randowmly distributed around the axis of propagation?

    Roger Breton
  2. Don Stauffer

    Don Stauffer Guest

    All mixed together, generally, though the exact source of the light can
    have some effect. If it is a radiating black body, all frequency/color
    photons are mixed together throughout the wavefront. If the beam passes
    through an aperture that causes diffraction, the diffraction wings will
    have some variation in distribution with color.
  3. There is only one electric field in the beam. It varies as a function of
    time as the sum of the sine function of the different frequencies.

    It is very similar to sound waves: your eardrum vibrates as a function
    of times as the sum of any sine waves, and the ear sorts this out as a
    kind of Fourier analyzer.
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