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.

learn more… | top users | synonyms

19
votes
6answers
3k views

Are human eyes the best possible camera?

I am not a physiologist, but whatever little I know about human eyes always makes me wonder by its details of optical subtleties. A question always comes to mind. Are human eyes the best possible ...
19
votes
4answers
2k views

Is it possible to observe interference from 2 independent optical lasers?

It seems that if the coherence length of a laser is big enough, it is possible to observe a (moving) interference picture by combining them. Is it true? How fast should photo-detectors be for ...
19
votes
1answer
12k views

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 ...
19
votes
2answers
1k views

Why is Huygens' principle only valid in an odd number of spatial dimensions?

Apparently Huygens' principle is only valid in an odd number of spatial dimensions: http://mathoverflow.net/a/5396/21349 Huygen's principle in curved spacetimes Why is this? [EDIT] This is ...
18
votes
1answer
2k views

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 ...
18
votes
7answers
11k views

How can a human eye focus on a screen directly in front of it? [closed]

I am asking this question here because I think the answer has something to do with the way light is bent as it's captured through the eye. I saw a show a while ago about tiny screens on contact ...
17
votes
3answers
2k views

Same photon or different photon?

Consider a typical optical focusing system: A small light source, then a collimating lens, then a focussing lens, and then a detector (e.g. CCD). Assume that source intensity is so low that only one ...
17
votes
1answer
1k views

Land proportions in NASA blue marble photographs

What is the explanation for the apparent size difference of North America in these two photos from NASA? Image source Image source
17
votes
3answers
3k views

Can light emit light?

How and why does the Huygens principle really work? I mean, does it always work? The Huygens principle: Every point on a wave-front may be considered a source of secondary spherical wavelets ...
17
votes
4answers
3k views

What ways are there to measure the local polarization of a laser beam?

Measuring the polarization of a laser beam is a simple enough task if the polarization is the same everywhere. You can even buy commercial polarimeters. How do you go about it if the light beam has ...
17
votes
2answers
3k views

What is an intuitive explanation of Gouy phase?

In laser resonators, higher order modes (i.e. TEM01, etc) accumulate phase faster than the fundamental TEM00 mode. This extra phase is called Gouy phase. What is an intuitive explanation of this ...
17
votes
1answer
252 views

Should a superconductor act as a perfect mirror?

I have been told that metals are good reflectors because they are good conductors. Since Electric fields in conductors cause the electrons to move until they cancel out the field, there really can't ...
16
votes
2answers
2k views

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 ...
16
votes
4answers
2k views

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 ...
16
votes
3answers
7k views

Observing lunar lander and footprints on the moon?

After Apollo 11 first landed on the Moon in 1969, there have been conspiracy theories that this never really happened and that it was all a hoax. In 2010 NASA released photos from its Lunar ...
16
votes
2answers
2k views

Why does my watch act like a mirror under water?

I have a digital watch, rated to go underwater to $100 \rm m$. When it is underwater it can be read normally, up until you reach a certain angle, then suddenly, it becomes almost like a mirror, ...
16
votes
2answers
933 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. ...
15
votes
2answers
2k views

Why does one get an illusion as moon following him?

When you run or ride bike at night if you observe the moon you feel like he moves along with you as the same speed you are going. Why?
15
votes
6answers
3k views

Lenses (refractor) or mirrors (reflector) telescope?

What differentiates, in terms of practical quality, not technical implementation, a refractor from a reflector telescope? Why would one prefer a refractor over a reflector, when reflectors come with ...
15
votes
3answers
1k views

What are these rays that appear in photograph of sun?

In many images of light emitting objects we see such rays. Why do they appear ? What is the math behind their number and direction?
15
votes
3answers
2k views

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 ...
15
votes
5answers
728 views

Why can a solution show optical rotation?

Why can a solution show optical rotation? A solution, as a liquid, is rotationally isotropic, right? So, even if the molecules are chiral, because of the random orientation of the molecules, shouldn't ...
15
votes
2answers
514 views

Why is Terahertz radiation so hard to generate?

This paper (and many others I've read) claim that searching for ways of producing THz radiation is a high-interest research topic. However, something I've just never understood is why it's so hard ...
14
votes
5answers
69k views

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, ...
14
votes
3answers
3k views

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?
14
votes
3answers
3k views

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 ...
14
votes
4answers
527 views

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 ...
14
votes
7answers
811 views

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 ...
14
votes
2answers
2k views

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. ...
14
votes
4answers
917 views

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 ...
14
votes
3answers
9k views

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 ...
14
votes
7answers
5k views

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 ...
14
votes
4answers
1k views

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 ...
14
votes
1answer
16k views

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 ...
14
votes
2answers
2k views

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 ...
14
votes
2answers
297 views

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 ...
14
votes
7answers
9k views

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 ...
13
votes
3answers
2k views

Is it possible that a person with myopia will see a blurry picture as normal? [duplicate]

I am trying to process an image in good quality to appear blurred to a normal person and good to a person suffering from myopia as seen in this source. Is it possible that a picture that is blurry ...
13
votes
6answers
15k views

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 ...
13
votes
5answers
787 views

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 ...
13
votes
3answers
2k views

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 ...
13
votes
4answers
2k views

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 ...
13
votes
6answers
4k views

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 ...
13
votes
2answers
8k views

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 ...
12
votes
4answers
1k views

Why is it so hard to make objects invisible in visible light?

We can make objects invisible in the realm of radio and infrared wavelength. We can, for example, hide a plane radar and heat signature from being detected. However, it seem, even after years of ...
12
votes
4answers
2k views

3D glasses giving the opposite effect to that expected

I have just finished watching the new Star Wars movie (The Force Awakens), and during the end credits, text is shown upon a background of stars. Wearing the 3D glasses, I noticed that the text appears ...
12
votes
4answers
463 views

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 ...
12
votes
3answers
7k views

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 ...
12
votes
6answers
4k views

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 ...
12
votes
5answers
712 views

When/why does the principle of least action plus boundary conditions not uniquely specify a path?

A few months ago I was telling high school students about Fermat's principle. You can use it to show that light reflects off a surface at equal angles. To set it up, you put in boundary conditions, ...