Optics is the study of light, and its interaction with matter. It includes topics such as imaging systems, fiber optics, lasers, quantum optics, and more.

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Why does the road look like it's wet on hot days?

Often, I'll be driving down the road on a summer day, and as I look ahead toward the horizon, I notice that the road looks like there's a puddle of water on it, or that it was somehow wet. Of course, ...
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Is it possible to 3D print a mirror to create a high quality telescope?

Is it possible to 3D print a mirror with todays available materials? If so, would there be a reduction in image quality?
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How far would you need to displace your eyes to get meaningful depth perception of the stars?

The question follows from xkcd cartoon "Depth Perception (941)". I've isolated the frames that describe the concept here. In words, one could theoretically point two cameras at the sky, and ...
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Optical equivalent of a superconductor

Is there some material state that can propagate light indefinitely without dissipation or absorption, like superconductors are able to transmit current indefinitely? If not, then the question is, why ...
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Would you see a rainbow from refraction when the sun is in front of you?

I know how rainbows are formed, and why. Usually it is said that the Sun must be behind the observer, in order for its light to be totally reflected inside the droplet and then reach the observer. ...
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Are these sunglass lenses linearly polarized or what?

This is a difficult question to phrase, so please bear with me. I found some cheap sunglasses and pulled out the plastic lenses which are polarized. For clarity, I have labeled them as lens-1 and -2 ...
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GHz rate single photon counting

The fluorescent lifetimes of molecules used in biological applications tend to be in the sub-ns to a few ns timescale (let's say 0.8-4). The most direct methods to measure lifetimes typically involve ...
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Car headlights glass - why such uneven shape/texture?

Why does the glass on my car's headlights have such a strange shape/texture? Are there physics-based explanations or insights for these features? Wouldn't it be better if it was just transparent and ...
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What longest time ever was achieved at holding light in a closed volume?

For what longest possible time it was possible to hold light in a closed volume with mirrored walls? I would be most interested for results with empty volume but results with solid-state volume may ...
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Nonlinear optics as gauge theory

the widely used approach to nonlinear optics is a Taylor expansion of the dielectric displacement field $\mathbf{D} = \epsilon_0\cdot\mathbf{E} + \mathbf{P}$ in a Fourier representation of the ...
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Physics of Focusing a Laser

The temperature that a solar death ray can produce is limited due to the solid angle of the sun itself. Entropic arguments dictate that you can't focus the sun's light to create temperatures higher ...
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What is a general definition of impedance?

Impedance is a concept that shows up in any area of physics concerning waves. In transmission lines, impedance is the ratio of voltage to current. In optics, index of refraction plays a role similar ...
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How does a photon travel through glass?

This was discussed in an answer to a related question but I think that it deserves a separate and, hopefully, more clear answer. Consider a single photon ($\lambda$=532 nm) traveling through a plate ...
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Aspherical lenses

It's known that single spherical lens cannot focus parallel beam of monochromatic light into single point. Could you suggest how should aspherical lens look like to be able to focus in single point ...
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Is there a limit to the resolving power of a mirror telescope?

Like, if you hammered out the asteroid 16 Psyche into a 1 mm thick iron foil disc telescope mirror with 2.4x the radius of the Sun, could you resolve details on the surface of an exoplanet? At what ...
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Will high power laser penetrate mirror?

Many nations are developing hi-energy laser weapon. My question is, what if target is coated with mirror like coating? Can laser (since laser is still light) penetrate mirror? If it can then how is it ...
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Why does light change direction when it travels through glass?

This was explained to me many years ago, by a physics teacher, with the following analogy: "If someone on the beach wants to reach someone else that is in the water, they will try to travel as much ...
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Are Fresnel lenses widely used for solar electricity? If not, why not?

I was just wondering why Fresnel Lenses are not widely used in the production of solar electricity. Their use there would mean that you could produce heat within a fraction of a second, up to a few ...
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Is true black possible?

Black is the absence of light because it absorbs light, but when we create black paint or black objects, light is always reflected, either in all directions in matte or smoothly in shiny black ...
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What causes multiple colored patches on a wet road?

I was going to school (after a rainy hour) when I saw some patches of shiny colours lying on road. Some small children surrounded that area and thought that it's a rainbow falling on the Earth. (For ...
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Do high/low pass lenses exist?

For an experiment I will hopefully be soon conducting at Johns Hopkins I need two different lenses. The first needs to allow all wavelengths above 500 nm to pass (thus a high pass filter) and cut off ...
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Why are so many different types of objects white, yet appear gray when they are wet?

There are many things with different textures that appear white – salt, beer foam, paper, shaving cream, snow, talcum powder, white paint, etc. The most common answer is all of the frequencies must be ...
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Why are objects opaque?

I have been searching the internet for answers to this question, but haven't found a convincing one. I would appreciate any response. I understand why objects are opaque/black. For example when ...
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Can the speed of light become complex inside a metamaterial?

The speed of light in a material is defined as $c = \frac{1}{\sqrt{\epsilon \mu}}$. There are metamaterials with negative permittivity $\epsilon < 0$ and permeability $\mu < 0$ at the same time. ...
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Why is a plastic bag transparent in infrared light?

This is a classic trick to do with a IR camera: Bu why is the plastic bag transparent, while the glasses aren't? I've also heard that water is not transparent in IR light. What causes this ...
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Sun in front of horizon after sunset; mirage or reflection?

The day before yesterday, I observed sunset while flying over the eastern Mediterranean. After the sun set, it seemed to 'continue' in front of the horizon. I managed to snatch a picture (sorry for ...
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Light “diode” and 2nd law of thermodynamics

If I had a light "diode" - an object that only allowed light (at least for a range of frequencies) to travel through it in one direction, would this necessarily allow violations of the 2nd Law of ...
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Does the speed of medium affect the path of light?

Let's say I shine a laser from a stationary medium into a moving medium (suppose the water is moving very quickly) perpendicular to the interface and back to a stationary medium like this: (Note: ...
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What does f/4.6 mean in a telescope and how important is this value? [closed]

In some specifications for telescopes, I saw a value marked as f/4.6. What does it mean exactly, and how important is when it comes to choosing a telescope?
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How come an anti-reflective coating makes glass *more* transparent?

The book I'm reading about optics says that an anti-reflective film applied on glass* makes the glass more transparent, because the air→film and film→glass reflected waves (originated from a paraxial ...
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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 ...
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Optics of the eye - do we see Fourier transforms?

I've recently been learning about Fourier optics, specifically, that a thin lens can produce the Fourier transform of an object on a screen located in the focal plane. With this in mind, does the ...
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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 ...
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How would a fractal refract light?

A fanciful Pink Floyd reference has led me to wonder what white light passing through an object with an infinitely complex surface would do. Would it exit from a single chaotically-chosen point on the ...
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Formulation of Transformation optics using a Material Manifold

Dear Community, recently, Transformation optics celebrates some sort of scientific revival due to its (possible) applications for cloaking, see e.g. Broadband Invisibility by Non-Euclidean Cloaking ...
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Why is M42 red in the pictures, but green when observed at the eyepiece?

I saw magnificent images of the Orion Nebula (M42) in pictures from Wikipedia, However, when observed with a telescope, the nebula appears green hued, and I can't see any of the characteristic red ...
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How big should a lens of a telescope be so we can see the American flag on the Moon from the Earth's surface? [duplicate]

How big in diameter should the lens of the imaginary telescope to be so we can see the American flag from e.g. some observatory in Hawaii?
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Optics: Derivation of $\vec\nabla{n} = \frac{d(n\hat{u})}{ds}$

I have been given this formula from optics here, with no background: $$\vec\nabla{n} = \frac{d(n\hat{u})}{ds}$$ Where $n$ is the refractive index and $\hat{u}$ is a unit vector tangent to the path ...
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Why do green lasers appear brighter and stronger than red and blue lasers?

This is mostly for my own personal illumination, and isn't directly related to any school or work projects. I just picked up a trio of laser pointers (red, green, and blue), and I notice that when I ...
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Do eyeballs exhibit chromatic aberration?

Fairly straightforward question. If not, why not? I suspect that if they do, it is not perceived due to the regions of highest dispersion being in one's region of lowest visual acuity.
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Batman spotlight in the sky

I have noticed that obstructing a spotlight typically results in a blurred shadow unlike the crisp batman symbol in the comics of batman. Is there a way to create a spotlight with a crisp batman ...
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What causes atoms to have their specific colors?

I understand that light (color) is part of the electromagnetic spectrum, and that it depends on what wavelengths are reflected/absorbed. Though what property of an individual atom gives it its color? ...
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Maximum theoretical bandwidth of fibre-optics

Ignoring hardware at either end and their technological limitations, what is the maximum theoretical bandwidth of fibre optic cables currently in use / being deployed in a FTTH type situations? I ...
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Why does sunset over a body of water cause a path of light stretching towards the horizon?

Have you ever notice the sunset's image in the sea? It's like long light path to the end of the horizon! I've attached a sample of this: How can we explain this? I know that it can happen even in ...
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Why aren't there compression waves in electromagnetic fields?

I just started learning about optics, and in the book I'm reading they explain how the electrical field caused by a single charged particle could be described by a series of field lines, and compare ...
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How is squeezed light produced?

Ordinary laser light has equal uncertainty in phase and amplitude. When an otherwise perfect laser beam is incident onto a photodetector, the uncertainty in photon number will produce shot noise with ...
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Microtops sunphotometer sun target optics

For atmospheric radiation observations, a portable piece of equipment such as the Microtops sunphotometer (pictured below) is useful. Image source: Solar Light However, while I can borrow this ...
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Amateur moon laser ranging

Questions first, then my rough estimations: 1) Is it possible to perform moon laser ranging with amateur motorized 114mm telescope? My calculations suggest that for 1mJ laser it should receive ~2 ...
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Why is a 1mW laser dangerous?

In our Physics lab we have a 1 milliwatt (0.001W) helium neon laser. Despite the low power, we were cautioned not to even look at reflections of the beam as it could cause permanent eye damage - why ...
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How “How to See Without Your Glasses” works?

If you see through small enough aperture, you can see things without glasses. How does this trick work?