Build a Michelson Interferometer

Michelson was the inventor of a unique interferometer that opened up new vistas in the science of light and optics. With the interferometer, Michelson was able to determine ” with unprecedented accuracy ” the speed of light, the wavelength and frequency of light emitted by different sources, and the constancy of the speed of light through any given medium, among other feats.
Build a Michelson Interferometer - schematic

Michelson`s apparatus (actually a modified version of it) can be reasonably duplicated in the home shop or garage using a minimum of optical components. When finished, you`ll be able to use your interferometer for many of the same experiments conducted by Michelson and others. You will learn first-hand about lightwave interference and discover some interesting and useful properties of laser light. The interferometer project presented provides an excellent springboard for a science fair project. Albert A. Michelson was born in Prussia in 1872. As with many Europeans at the time, Michelson moved at the age of two with his parents to the United States. They settled in the wide expanse of Virginia City, Nevada, which was then experiencing a mining boom. Michelson`s father was not a miner but a shopkeeper. He serviced the miners and local community with his dry goods store. Even at an early age, Michelson showed great interest and adeptness in mathematics. His parents could not afford a private college but Michelson did manage to be accepted by the U. S. Naval Academy. After graduation and a short stint at sea, he accepted a job as instructor at the academy. Michelson`s foray into light and light physics came after one of his instructors asked him to prepare a demonstration of the Foucault method of measuring the speed of light. After studying the Foucault device, Michelson saw several ways that it could be made more accurate,...

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