Illustration 39.2: Polarized Electromagnetic Waves

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Light is composed of a traveling wave of changing electric and magnetic fields. Click on the link for a linear wave to see an example of the electric field component of an electromagnetic wave. Click-drag to the right or left to rotate about the z axis. Click-drag up or down to rotate in the xy plane. The wave in the animation is x polarized, which means that its electric field oscillates in the x direction.

Some materials, called polarizers, will only transmit light with its electric field in a particular direction. To see an example of a linear wave with a polarizer, click on the link linear wave with polarizer. In this example light that is xy polarized is passed through a polarizer that only transmits the component of the electric field in the x direction.

The circular wave link shows an example of a circularly polarized wave, and the circular wave with polarizer link shows the effect of an x-direction polarizer on this circular wave. Exploration 39.1 deals more extensively with circularly polarized light, while Exploration 39.2 discusses polarizers.

Illustration authored by Melissa Dancy.

Physlets were developed at Davidson College and converted from Java to JavaScript using the SwingJS system developed at St. Olaf College.

OSP Projects:
Open Source Physics - EJS Modeling
Physlet Physics
Physlet Quantum Physics
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