Hologram Essay

981 words - 4 pages

HologramsToss a pebble in a pond -see the ripples? Now drop twopebbles close together. Look at what happens when the two setsof waves combine -you get a new wave! When a crest and a troughmeet, they cancel out and the water goes flat. When two crestsmeet, they produce one, bigger crest. When two troughs collide,they make a single, deeper trough. Believe it or not, you'vejust found a key to understanding how a hologram works. But whatdo waves in a pond have to do with those amazing three-dimensional pictures? How do waves make a hologram look like thereal thing?It all starts with light. Without it, you can't see. Andmuch like the ripples in a pond, light travels in waves. Whenyou look at, say, an apple, what you really see are the waves oflight reflected from it. Your two eyes each see a slightlydifferent view of the apple. These different views tell youabout the apple's depth -its form and where it sits in relationto other objects. Your brain processes this information so thatyou see the apple, and the rest of the world, in 3-D. You canlook around objects, too -if the apple is blocking the view ofan orange behind it, you can just move your head to one side.The apple seems to 'move' out of the way so you can see theorange or even the back of the apple. If that seems a bitobvious, just try looking behind something in a regularphotograph! You can't, because the photograph can't reproducethe infinitely complicated waves of light reflected by objects;the lens of a camera can only focus those waves into a flat, 2-Dimage. But a hologram can capture a 3-D image so lifelike thatyou can look around the image of the apple to an orange in thebackground -and it's all thanks to the special kind of lightwaves produced by a laser.'Normal' white light from the sun or a lightbulb is acombination of every colour of light in the spectrum -a mush ofdifferent waves that's useless for holograms. But a laser shineslight in a thin, intense beam that's just one colour. That meanslaser light waves are uniform and in step. When two laser beamsintersect, like two sets of ripples meeting in a pond, theyproduce a single new wave pattern: the hologram. Here's how ithappens: Light coming from a laser is split into two beams,called the object beam and the reference beam. Spread by lensesand bounced off a mirror, the object beam hits the apple. Lightwaves reflect from the apple towards a photographic film. Thereference beam heads straight to the film without hitting theapple. The two sets of waves meet and create a new wave patternthat hits the film and exposes it. On the film all you can seeis a mass of dark and light swirls -it doesn't look like anapple at all! But shine the laser reference beam through thefilm once more and the pattern of swirls bends the light to re-create the original reflection waves from the apple -exactly.Not all holograms work this way -some use...

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