Students’ interpretations of interference patterns for low intensity light and electron beams often use classical pictures and trajectory-based reasoning

Quantum and Nuclear


For example, some students believed that photons follow straight-line paths when passing through double-slit apparatus.

  • A series of simple demonstrations is used to introduce the idea of superposition of waves. Students can then try graphical methods of showing superposition, taking into account the idea of an algebraic sum, to show how the waves can produce patterns.

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  • The formation of interference patterns due to superposition is introduced in these lesson resources. They build from simple interferences to more complicated examples.

    Teachers can use the lesson notes to refresh students’ ideas about interferences and superposition before demonstrating that electron beams will cause interference patterns, showing wavelike behaviour.

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  • These videos cover a wide range of approaches to teaching area of quantum and nuclear physics. This includes the meaning of interference patterns and the significance of their formation even when intensity is very low. The formation of patterns where the intensity indicates that single electrons or photos are passing through the double slits is discussed, highlighting the wavelike behaviour.

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  • Dutt, A., () Making the Transition from Classical to Quantum Physics, Teaching Science, 57 (4) 33-36.

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