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Huygens' principle

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Huygens' principle is a method of analysis applied to problems of wave propagation. It recognizes that each point of an advancing wave front is in fact the center of a fresh disturbance and the source of a new train of waves; and that the advancing wave as a whole may be regarded as the sum of all the secondary waves arising from points in the medium already traversed. This view of wave propagation helps better understand a variety of wave phenomena, such as diffraction.

For example, if two rooms are connected by an open doorway and a sound is produced in a remote corner of one of them, a person in the other room will hear the sound as if it originated at the doorway. As far as the second room is concerned, the vibrating air in the doorway is the source of the sound. The same is true of light passing the edge of an obstacle, but this is not as easily observed because of the short wavelength of visible light.

The interference of light from variously distant areas of the moving wave front accounts for the maxima and minima observable as diffraction fringes. See, for example, the double-slit experiment.

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