Will light going in two directions in the same space create destructive interfer…

Will light going in two directions in the same space create destructive interference?

In general, the answer is no—there won’t be large regions of space in which the two light waves cancel one another. That’s because, while the electric fields from the two waves do add to one another at each moment, those fields go in and out of phase with one another very rapidly as the waves pass and the end result is that they do not interfere with one another over broad expanses. However, there can be points or surfaces in space at which the electric fields from the waves at least partially cancel for extended periods of time and at which there is destructive interference. These points and surfaces are often observed in experiments with single frequency laser beams.

How does alternating current affect the laser? Does it make the laser reverse?

How does alternating current affect the laser? Does it make the laser reverse?

A diode laser will only emit light (lase) when current flows through it in the proper direction. It is, after all, a diode and only conducts current in one direction. But small fluctuations in current do affect the light emission. If you run a modest current through a laser diode, so that it emits a steady stream of light, and then begin to modulate that current up and down slightly, the light emitted by the laser will modulate up and down slightly, too. In this manner, you can send sound or other information over a laser beam. This technique is useful as a private means of communicating over long distances. Only someone who can “see” the blinking laser beam can detect the information that it contains.

What does a cleaning CD do?

What does a cleaning CD do?

The optical system of the CD player must be very clean. If the final lens has dust on it, the photodiode will not see the full range of light and dark patches that it expects. A cleaning CD presumably cleans this final lens, although I’m not sure how. In principle, the whole CD player should be pretty resistant to dust problems because the laser beams are large except when they focus on the CD itself.

What is the deal with the new mini disc players?

What is the deal with the new mini disc players?

I only know how the prerecorded mini disc players work: they work a lot like CD players. However, they use a much smaller disk, made possible by intelligent data reduction. Instead of using 16 bits to represent each current measurement, the mini disk uses a variable number of bits. The recording equipment determines how many bits are needed to represent the sound accurately and eliminates unnecessary (or inaudible) details in the current measurements. The optical systems in mini disc players are the same as CD players.

Why can’t CD’s be recorded onto other CD’s?

Why can’t CD’s be recorded onto other CD’s?

Most of the CD’s you encounter are prerecorded. These CD’s were mass-produced from a master, using plastic molding techniques, followed by metal deposition and painting. Recordable CD’s, which are used now in CD-ROM applications, are written by an intense laser beam, which alters the reflectivity of the CD spot by spot to create a disk that behaves just like a prerecorded CD. However, once a CD has been “written”, it cannot be cleaned for rewriting. At present, recordable CD’s can only be written once. There are some new optical and magneto-optical techniques around that allow erasure, but I don’t think these techniques have appeared in CD’s yet.

Why can’t I record songs directly onto CD’s, like I can onto a tape?

Why can’t I record songs directly onto CD’s, like I can onto a tape?

To record CD’s, you need a much more powerful laser and a blank recordable CD. Both of these items cost lots of money. Reading a CD does not alter the CD but writing it does. You need more laser power and a special CD disk. If you tried to record a normal CD, you would not be able to restructure its aluminum layer. You would not “erase” the old material on it and would not “write” new material onto it.

Although I have heard that CD players are on average better at reproducing sound…

Although I have heard that CD players are on average better at reproducing sound, I have also heard that the best sound quality can still be had from high end phonographs. To what extent is this true?

The digitization process does introduce some distortions into the sound signal, including aliasing (confusion about high frequencies) and quantization error (round-off errors in recording the softest sounds). However, these distortions should be so small or at such high frequencies that they should be inaudible. Still, there are always some audiophiles who can hear (or claim to hear) these imperfections.

Why do CD’s skip?

Why do CD’s skip?

CD players must position their optical system very precisely, relative to the spinning disk itself. It uses very sophisticated electromechanical devices to keep it in place. But if you jar a player violently enough, it will lose its position and the audio may suffer. Most modern CD players save a short amount of information so that they are reading ahead of where they are playing. Even if they lose the track for a few hundredths of a second, they have enough music saved up that they can keep playing continuously. But if the upset is severe enough, they will run out of saved music and will go silent for a moment or two.