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To run the experiment, Young allowed a beam of light to pass through a pinhole and strike the card. If light contained particles or simple straight-line rays, he reasoned, light not blocked by the opaque card would pass through the slits and travel in a straight line to the screen, where it would form two bright spots. This isn’t what Young observed. Instead, he saw a bar code pattern of alternating light and dark bands on the screen. To explain this unexpected pattern, he imagined light traveling through space like a water wave, with crests and troughs. Thinking this way, he concluded that light waves traveled through each of the slits, creating two separate wave fronts. As these wave fronts arrived at the screen, they interfered with each other. Bright bands formed where two wave crests overlapped and added together. Dark bands formed where crests and troughs lined up and canceled each other out completely.Young’s work sparked a new way of thinking about light. Scientists began referring to light waves and reshaped their descriptions of reflection and refraction accordingly, noting that light waves still obey the laws of reflection and refraction. Incidentally, the bending of a light wave accounts for some of the visual phenomena we often encounter, such as mirages. A mirage is an optical illusion caused when light waves moving from the sky toward the ground are bent by the heated air.


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