The subfield of optics in which light propagation is approximated in terms of rays. It mainly includes reflection and refraction on surfaces.

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20answers
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A mirror flips left and right, but not up and down

Why is it that when you look in the mirror left and right directions appear flipped, but not the up and down?
109
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2answers
6k views

Why do sunbeams diverge even though the sun is much more than a few kilometers away?

Consider this picture of sun beams streaming onto the valley through the clouds. Given that the valley is only (at a guess) 3km wide, with simple trigonometry and the angles of the beams, this ...
57
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4answers
6k views

Is it possible to start fire using moonlight?

You can start fire by focusing the sunlight using the magnifying glass. I searched the web whether you can do the same using moonlight. And found this and this - the first two in Google search ...
38
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5answers
4k views

If a lens focuses all incoming light to a point, how do we get 2D images?

How do lenses produce 2-dimensional images, if a lens bends all incoming rays of light to intersect at the focal point? Shouldn't this produce a single dot of light on a screen placed at the focal ...
25
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5answers
2k views

Is it possible to focus the radiation from a black body to make something hotter than that black body?

My previous question wasn't specific enough. I'll try to be more specific. Let's imagine we have a hot body let's say 6000K hot that emits lots of thermal radiation. Let's assume 1kW of radiative ...
22
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3answers
108k views

Virtual vs Real image

I'm doing magnification and lens in class currently, and I really don't get why virtual and real images are called what they are. A virtual image occurs the object is less than the focal length of ...
18
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2answers
3k views

Does light reflect if incident at exactly the critical angle?

A lot of textbooks and exam boards claim that light incident at exactly the critical angle is transmitted along the media boundary (i.e. at right-angles to the normal), but this seems to violate the ...
16
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2answers
830 views

Can't seem to reconcile geometric optics and wave optics

I was looking at a physics situation involving light, and I can make the correct derivation assuming light is a ray of a given intensity (geometric optics), energy conservation checks out, everything. ...
11
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3answers
1k views

How many times can light revolve around a black hole?

Take a light ray approaching a black hole from infinity which goes out again to infinity. What is the maximum finite rotation it can describe? (I know it can loop around indefinitely in the ...
11
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2answers
354 views

Why does a blue sky at dusk appear nearly black through a telescope?

Earlier this evening I was looking at the Moon through my cheap toy telescope (x150 magnification) when I noticed a (rather mundane) optical effect I couldn't explain. The Sun had just dipped below ...
11
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1answer
439 views

light ray 'entropy'

Is there something like an entropy law for light rays? I came up with the following experiment: A black box has two circular holes in it, a small and a large one. I don't care about there ...
10
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2answers
186 views

How do a microscope's optics expose defects in the user's vision?

I've got cataracts in both eyes. My vision is correctable to 20/30, so the cataracts are essentially a non-issue in daily living. But when I use a microscope, which I do daily, (binocular, zoom ...
9
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3answers
3k views

Why Does Passing Light Through a Slit Make it Coherent?

Related: Why incoherent source of waves have to be passed though a single slit for double slit interference pattern to occur? If you have a an incoherent light source, why does passing it through a ...
8
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2answers
116 views

Is light red shifted in optical tweezers?

This is a question I put to my supervisor during my PhD many years ago, and never really got a satisfactory answer to. In an optical tweezers, assume that a beam of light is used to move a glass ...
7
votes
8answers
3k views

Is it possible to make glasses that make everything brighter, but do not magnify or focus?

Corrective glasses are usually intended to help focus light on your retina. Supposing I had good vision already, but simply wanted more light, could I make glasses that would send more light into my ...
7
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2answers
1k views

Do all light rays from a point passing through a thin lens converge at the image?

I have often seen diagrams, like this one on Wikipedia for a thin convex lens that show three lines from a point on the object converging at the image. Do all the other lines from that point on the ...
7
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2answers
1k views

Can you shake your reflection's hand?

For a spherical mirror, an object at the mirror's center has an image that is also at the center. Its magnification is $-1$. For a video showing this, see here. If you stand slightly behind the ...
6
votes
3answers
990 views

Reflection at intersection of two mirrors

Consider two mirrors, which intersect at an angle. Let us talk about geometric optics. If we draw a light ray intersecting the mirrors at their point of intersection, how will it reflect? What will ...
6
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5answers
434 views

Trapping a lightray

Given a solid whose interior is a hollow sphere with perfectly reflecting mirrors. A small hole is drilled in the sphere and a photon is sent in at some angle. Will it always eventually exit through ...
6
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3answers
6k views

Software for geometrical optics

Is there any good software for construction optical path's in geometrical optics. More specifically I want features like: draw $k \in \mathbb{N}$ objects $K_1,\dots,K_n$ with indices of refraction ...
5
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2answers
493 views

Converting indices of refraction

If I know that the index of refraction of a given substance is 1.4 for the average wavelength (say 550 nm), and I would like to know what is the index of refraction with a wavelength of 832 nm, how ...
5
votes
2answers
10k views

Why do things that are far away seem smaller?

As you see things that are far smaller, a funny question about this: Imagine there are many people in a row (all are same height) ...
5
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3answers
469 views

Will a prism widen a monochromatic beam?

The representation of the experiment which demonstrates that white light consists of many colors, invariably shows that the beam of white light is broadened inside the prism and is some what more ...
5
votes
2answers
359 views

How to place a mirror parallel to a wall?

For one of my experimental setup I need to place a mirror perfectly parallel to a wall. It can be placed at any distance from the wall. I would like to use any method other than direct measurement. I ...
5
votes
1answer
146 views

Options to correct rectangular laser beam profile?

We recently switched to a 405 nm laser diode which has a terrible beam profile -- it is a well-defined rectangle with an aspect ratio of about 10:1. The image below shows the collimated beam which ...
4
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2answers
697 views

Goldfish perspective

What does the world look like from the Goldfish point of view, from inside a spherical aquarium? If our eyes were inside, would we be able to see the straight lines, focus on different objects and ...
4
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2answers
2k views

How to make the projected image smaller by adding one ore more lenses in front of the built in projector lense?

I have a projector that creates a large image, even if the distance to the screen is short. The device is very small, approximateley 10x10 cm if you look from above. The height is only 3 cm. I ...
4
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4answers
581 views

Why do the passing objects' shadows run in the direction of the moving train?

While travelling in the train on the sunset, I have noticed the strange phenomenon. The shadows of the lonely trees and lampposts, that stay along the railroad, are moving on the wall in the same ...
4
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3answers
797 views

Virtual images in (plane) mirrors?

The following image is taken from teaching physics lecture Was man aus virtuellen Bildern lernen kann (in German): Now the cited paper claims that the left hand side is the correct picture to ...
4
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2answers
191 views

Plano-convex lenses

When the spherical side of a planoconvex lens is towards the source we will see reduced aberrations normally we use it for the beam collimation. When we use two planoconvex lenses configuration why we ...
4
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2answers
3k views

How to find the principal point in an image?

I need to find the principal point in an image. Its a point where the principal axis intersects the image sensor. Due to misalignment this point is not at the center of image always(or image sensor). ...
4
votes
1answer
205 views

On the optics of high-resolution surveillance drones

In this youtube video (which is an except from a documentation I believe) a DARPA development for a high-resolution surveillance camera is presented. This question is regarding the optics that are ...
4
votes
1answer
231 views

Reconciling total internal reflection and the evanescent Wave

I understand that light is guided in a dielectric waveguide via total internal reflection. My question is regarding the origin of power contained in the evanescent field traveling along the direction ...
4
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0answers
140 views

How to calculate desired light path in continuous medium with gradient refraction index

See the Figure below. $O:(0,0)$ is the disk center of light source $\odot{O}$ with radius $3$. Then the profile light rays of disk $O$ from the view point $B:(-14,0)$ is defined by segments $DB$ ...
4
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2answers
156 views

Examples in which the light maximizes the optical path length

I posted a similar question about geodesics on Math.SE. Many sources (Wikibooks for instance) claim that the light could maximize the optical path length in some cases. But I don't think it's actually ...
4
votes
0answers
108 views

Blonde hair looking green at certain angle

I have a friend who has blonde hair. And when look at an oblique angle, there's a tinge of light green in her hair. I've heard that the copper ion in pool water can make blonde hair green, but her ...
3
votes
2answers
177 views

Is it possible to focus the sun in such way?

Imagine the sliding part of the mirror is controlled by computer and opens on intervals. Is it possible to increase the power of the beam by making it bounce between the mirrors thus going through ...
3
votes
3answers
6k views

Cladding of optical fibers

Why do optical fibers usually have a cladding? Ok, if you put make a bundle of optical fibers this prevents that light leaks from one fiber to another fiber in contact. However, are there other ...
3
votes
1answer
154 views

Why a star commonly exhibits 6 rays?

Have you realized, that often the photo of a star shows 6 rays spreaded symmetrically around it, independently of the camera chosen? Do you have idea of what kind of optical phenomena is behind it?
3
votes
3answers
3k views

Why should optical fibers be thin?

What are the reasons that optical fibers have to be thin (small radius of the fiber)? Is there a good picture which explains this in detail?
3
votes
2answers
224 views

Shack-Hartmann wavefront sensor concepts, pupil conjugate planes?

I am just starting to looking at the application of wavefront abberommtery to measure abberations in the human eye. I am confused over the pupil conjugate planes, do you use relay lenses to image the ...
3
votes
1answer
1k views

Beam splitters- Direction of use

There are two cases I'm asking about. The square in the middle is a cube beam splitter in the same orientation for both cases. We are looking at the beam splitter from the top. In the first case, ...
3
votes
2answers
243 views

How did ancient physicists around 500 BC decide that the earth is spherical?

One of the standard stories that is given for this (and is mentioned in Aristotle) is that the hull of a ship disappears first as it sails towards the horizon on a calm sunny day. Is this a myth, or ...
3
votes
3answers
682 views

Snell's law starting from qft? [duplicate]

Can one "interpret" Snell's law in terms of QED and the photon picture? How would one justifiy this interpretation with some degree of mathematical rigour? At the end I would like to have a direct ...
3
votes
3answers
6k views

How do contact lenses work?

I understand how telescope, microscope and glasses work. But how do contact lenses work?
3
votes
2answers
370 views

Redirecting light beams from beam splitters

I'm doing a project where I am taking a laser beam and sending it through a beam splitter. As I understand, approximately 50% of the light will go pass through and 50% will be reflected. So this means ...
3
votes
1answer
334 views

Which lens parameters determines it's format?

I'm working with a megapixel sensor with a 1/2" format. I would like to know which parameters have to be taken into account in order to design a lens that can be fit with 1/2" format. The light ...
3
votes
2answers
263 views

Is there a mathematical equivalence between gravitational optics and quantum optics or are they mathematically incompatible theories?

I know that massive gravitational bodies will curve the path that light travels. I think that quantum optical mediums also bend light. I am still confused of whether quantum optical mediums actually ...
3
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1answer
53 views

Measuring parallaxes from the moon

If one were to measure star parallaxes from the moon, what (if any) changes would you have to make compared to someone making the calculation from earth? What about on another planet in our solar ...
3
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2answers
2k views

Fermat's principle to prove the law of reflection

Fermat's principle tells that a light ray will follow a path from point $A$ to point $B$ so that the optical path length of this path is an extremum over neighboring paths. I wanted to use this ...