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Diffraction: The Enchanting Dance of Light

Have you ever seen a rainbow after a thunderstorm? Or perhaps you’ve observed the mesmerizing glow of a prism? If so, you’ve witnessed diffraction in action. Diffraction is a fascinating phenomenon that occurs when light passes through an opening or around an obstacle. It results in the bending of light waves, causing them to spread out and form intricate patterns. Let’s understand the concept of diffraction and how it can be observed using prism goggles.

Introduction to Diffraction

Diffraction is a fundamental concept in optics that describes the bending of waves, including light waves, around an obstacle. When light travels through an opening or around an obstacle, it creates multiple wavefronts, each with its own phase and amplitude. These wavefronts interfere with each other, resulting in a pattern of bright and dark bands known as “diffraction fringes.”

Diffraction occurs because light waves are not continuous but consist of a series of oscillations, or quanta. When light waves encounter an obstacle, they must fit through the opening or around the obstacle, and the space between the waves becomes smaller at the edges of the obstacle. This results in a phase shift between the waves, which causes the waves to interfere with each other and produce diffraction fringes.

Prism Goggles: A Tool for Observing Diffraction

One of the best ways to observe diffraction is by using prism goggles. Prism goggles are simple devices that consist of a prism and a pair of eyepieces. When light passes through the prism, it is refracted, or bent, causing the different colors of light to separate. The eyepieces then magnify the image of the diffracted light, making it easier to see.

To observe diffraction using prism goggles, you’ll need a light source, such as a flashlight or the sun. Direct the light through the prism and focus it on a white surface, such as a piece of paper. You should see a pattern of bright and dark bands, known as diffraction fringes, surrounding the central light spot.


Diffraction is a fascinating phenomenon that occurs when light or other waves pass through an opening or around an obstacle. By using prism goggles, we can observe the diffraction of light and appreciate the intricate patterns it creates. Understanding diffraction and its applications can help us better understand the behavior of light and other waves, and can lead to the development of new technologies and materials.

Main photo: Malcolm Lightbody/

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