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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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 ...
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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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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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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 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 ...
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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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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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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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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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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 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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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 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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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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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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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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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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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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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 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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a wierd image of sun

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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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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What are the various kinds of Cassegrain telescopes, and what benefits and drawbacks does each have?

Many hobby or amateur telescopes are of the Newtonian design, but most of the professional telescopes that I know about are some kind of Cassegrain (a very specific kind, I believe). In general, ...
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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?
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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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Put a sensor at the focal length, behind, or in front?

My intuition tell me that at the focal length a convex lens all the light converges to a point. Following that logic, it would make sense to me that a camera chip would either need to go slightly in ...
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What causes a ring-like image around light of the moon?

I just encountered an interesting image in sky. As you can see in following images there was a ring-like image around light of the moon. I don't know if it was clouds but it was looking like it is far ...
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Why is the Ritchey–Chrétien telescope preferred in professional astronomy?

Hubble, as well as numerous other professional telescopes, use the Ritchey–Chrétien design. What optical and instrumental advantages does this kind of telescope have for professional astronomy?
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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 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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Quantum shot-noise and the fluctuation dissipation theorem

Classically, shot noise observed in the signal generated by a laser incident on a photodiode is explained as being due to the quantization of light into photons, giving rise to a Poisson process. In ...
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Circular polarization of variable-frequency light by 3D cinema glasses

A dominant method to obtain 3D images in the cinemas seems to be circular polarization. Separate pictures are projected with (alternating) circular polarization filters and passive glasses of the ...
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Why do mirages only appear on hot days?

A previous question asked why the road sometimes appears wet on hot days. The reason is that when there's a temperature gradient in the air, it causes a gradient in the index of refraction, causing ...
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Interference of polarized light

Does polarized light interfere?
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Why does the sky look black in pictures taken from the summit of everest?

In pictures taken from the summit of Mount Everest (such as this one), the colour of the sky is a very dark blue or even black in some pictures. I remember from my own experiences of hiking in the ...
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Why does your reflection stay the same size when you move further away from the mirror?

This was an experiment I saw in my son's workbook. It said to mark out the top of your forehead and the bottom of your chin on a mirror using a whiteboard marker. Then slowly move backwards, and ...
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Why use lasers for intense, localized heat instead of some other light source?

Lasers are used in various industrial processes that need intense, localised, heat (3d printers and laser cutters come to mind). My question is: why use lasers? There are many other (cheaper, ...
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Why do we see laser beams?

A laser produces a coherent beam of photons with particular $\mathbf{k}$ and $\mathbf{\omega}$. So, if there is no particular $\mathbf{k}_0$ directed toward our eyes, why do we see laser beams? I ...
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The principle behind door peepholes

Hotels usually install peepholes in their doors so that a person inside a suite can see who is at the door without having to open it. I understand that there should be a convex lens within the ...
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Two mirrors facing each other

What happens when you place two mirrors facing each other? Is it possible to have an infinite amount of reflections?
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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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Why do rainbows have distinct colors?

When I searched on the Internet for the reason of formation of rainbows, I got many explanations like this one & this. All the explanations consider only one spherical water droplet (like this ...