Scientists Say: Diffraction

When light hits an object, this is how it finds a way around

This is a diffraction pattern made when a laser beam passes through a tiny circular hole in a plate.

Wisky/Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

Diffraction (noun, “Dih-FRACK-shun”)

This is the bending or turning of a wave when it hits an object. The term often comes up in discussions of light hitting an edge or slit. The light wave is scattered in a pattern after hitting that slit or edge. The size of the scatter is related to the size of the object that caused the light to bend.

In a sentence

Using a laser pointer and the principles of diffraction, you can find out the thickness of a single human hair.

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Bethany is the staff writer at Science News for Students. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology from Wake Forest University School of Medicine.

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