By E A Wood
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Additional resources for Crystals: a handbook for schoolteachers ; written for the Commission on Crystallographic Teaching of the International Union of Crystallography
However, it is possible to pass the light through something that will only let through light that is oscillating in one particular plane. Light oscillating in one plane only is called plane polarized light, or often simply polarized light. The thing causing the polarization of the light is called a polarizer. There are several kinds of polarizers. Every smooth, non-metallic, surface that reflects light partially polarizes it. The polarized light from such a surface is oscillating parallel to the surface (and, of course, always at right angles to the direction in which the light is traveling).
This means that the oscillation direction of the light changes gradually, as though following a screw, as the light progresses through the solution. If the sugar solution rotated the plane of polarization the same amount for all colors, then one could simply rotate the near polarizer, relative to the far one, by the right amount, and the solution would appear black between the adjusted polarizers. However, the plane of polarization of each different color of light is rotated by a different amount for a given length of path through the solution.
One needs a rather thick piece of ice, with smooth surfaces, and an area that looks black in all orientations when the ice sheet is parallel to the plane of the polarizers. A different interference figure, one with two ‘eyes’ instead of one, can be seen in a similar way with a large piece of mica between crossed polarizers. The eye of the observer must be as close to the mica as possible. Since mica does not damage the polarizers the way wet ice does, they may be held close against the mica on either side.