I haven’t studied physics since my high school physics class a few decades ago. I’m sure that much has changed in the field since then; and, to be honest, I don’t remember all that much from my class. However I do remember fondly the lab experiments that we did using wave pools. I looked forward to each lab and a new experiment.
We suspended single-paned windows horizontally parallel to our lab tables from four posts. Then we put a shallow layer of water into the window. With a light above the window and white paper spread on the lab table, we could see any waves formed in the pool reflected on the paper below.
Using small motors that turned a metal rod we were able to generate waves in the pool. We could see how the waves moved uniformly through the water until striking a wall and bouncing back. Then we could observe the interaction of all these waves. It was fascinating to watch.
Eventually we started putting wave generators at either end of the pool. Then we got to see not only the waves from two generator interacting with each other, but also the patterns created as all of these waves bounced off the sides of the pool and came back. It was complex and beautiful.
The more generators we added, the more complex the interactions of the waves. By placing barriers in the pool, we could also create a combination of complex wave interactions and quiet areas of still water. In essence we could block off the interaction of waves within the barricaded area. We literally created calm within a storm.
What I remember most are the complexity and the predictability of the interactions of generated waves, waves bouncing off walls, and the barriers we set up to create calm spots. Now, so many years later, I realize that those experiments taught me as much or more about human interactions as they did about properties of light.
We create waves that interact in complex ways, and we also have the ability to set boundaries if we so choose.
How do you generate waves?
Are you able to see the patterns your waves create?
Can you see how they interact with other waves and barriers?
What boundaries will you choose to set today?