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Our final topic in this brief study of electromagnetic waves concerns the phenomenon of polarization, which occurs thanks to the vector nature of the waves. More precisely, the polarization of an electromagnetic plane wave concerns the direction of the electric (and magnetic) vector fields. Let us first give a rough, qualitative motivation for the phenomenon. An electromagnetic plane wave is a traveling sinusoidal disturbance in the electric and magnetic fields. Let us focus on the behavior of the electric field since we can always reconstruct the behavior of the magnetic field from the electric field. Because the electric force on a charged particle is along the direction of the electric field, the response of charges to electromagnetic waves is sensitive to the direction of the electric field in a plane wave. Such effects are what we refer to when we discuss polarization phenomena involving light.

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polarization, superimposing, electric field, chapter 20


Physical Sciences and Mathematics | Physics


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Chapter 20

20 Polarization

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