Constructive interference

Destructive Interference

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Interference (the principle of superposition)

When two or more waves come together, they will interfere with each other. This interference may be constructive or destructive. If you take two waves and bring them together, they will add wherever a peak from one matches a peak from the other. That's constructive interference. Wherever a peak from one wave matches a trough in another wave, however, they will cancel each other out (or partially cancel, if the amplitudes are different); that's destructive interference.

The most interesting cases of interference usually involve identical waves, with the same amplitude and wavelength, coming together. Consider the case of just two waves, although we can generalize to more than two. If these two waves come from the same source, or from sources that are emitting waves in phase, then the waves will interfere constructively at a certain point if the distance traveled by one wave is the same as, or differs by an integral number of wavelengths from, the path length traveled by the second wave. For the waves to interfere destructively, the path lengths must differ by an integral number of wavelengths plus half a wavelength.

Important equations for interference

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