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 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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863 views

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 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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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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463 views

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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225 views

Third-order susceptibilities of metals?

Can anyone point me to a source for measurements of the third-order nonlinear electric susceptibilities $\chi^{(3)}$ of various metals? Specifically in relation to the AC Kerr effect, so measurements ...
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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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Why does a laser beam diverge?

I was wondering why a laser beam diverges. If all the photons are in the same direction, I would imagine that it would stay that way over a long distance. I am aware that a perfectly collimated beam ...
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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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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 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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What direction does the evanescent wave point?

On wikipedia they say that the evanescent wave has a magnitude of: $$E=E_0 e^{\alpha y-j\beta x}$$ Where $j=\sqrt{-1}$, but what direction does this vector point in and why? (let us say the boundary ...
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294 views

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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1answer
521 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 ...
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Suntan: UV absorption vs daytime

I guess that these questions were being asked by many people on the Northern Hemisphere during this summer (and other summers) and someone may give a nice, coherent answer. The general question is how ...
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540 views

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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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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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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549 views

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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Are coherent states of light 'classical' or 'quantum'?

Coherent states of light, defined as $$|\alpha\rangle=e^{-\frac{|\alpha|^2}{2}}\sum_{n=0}^\infty \frac{\alpha^n}{\sqrt{n!}}|n\rangle $$ for a given complex number $\alpha$ and where $|n\rangle$ is a ...
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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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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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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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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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Glowing light around my shadow during sunrise

This morning I was jogging when the sun came rose. I was in the middle of wheat-fields and noticed that there was a glow around the upper part of body's shadow on the fields. At first I thought that ...
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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 ...
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274 views

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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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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Interference of polarized light

Does polarized light interfere?
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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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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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Why does the index of refraction change the direction of light?

I've been studying in optics the macroscopic maxwell's equations, and how electromagnetic fields propagate through different mediums. Over there, the index of refraction appears, as a complex function ...
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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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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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468 views

Fully destructive interference

I'm aware that this is somewhat of a frequently asked question (not only here), and i've dug through respective answer for a few hours before i decided to ask here. None of those answers helped me ...
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Complex numbers in optics

I have recently studied optics. But I feel having missed something important: how can amplitudes of light waves be complex numbers?
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Wavelength used in manufacturing of integrated circuits (IC)

How is it that the silicon ICs industry can burn ICs of a dozen nanometers using photolytography with UV laser of about 193 nanometers? Since the gates are smaller than the wavelength, for example ...
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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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Where does energy go in destructive interference? [duplicate]

I have read that when two light waves interfere destructively, the energy contained within is transferred to other parts of the wave which have interfered constructively. However, I am having some ...
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Is reflection instantaneous?

I was wondering while reading "On the Electrodynamics of moving bodies" by Albert Einstein (1905) (Translated to English). In the paper, he describes the time as being: by definition that the ...
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935 views

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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The optics of vortex (in water): why there is a bright ring?

This picture is from this YouTube video from "Physics Girl", which shows how you can generate vortices in a swimming pool by using a plate: And there she explains the creation of the shaded circle ...
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Spatial coherence of SLED light (width of active region?)

As far as I know, super-luminescent diodes (a.k.a. SLEDs) have a very similar structure to laser diodes, except that the front faces of the active region are tilted to prevent the sort of reflections ...
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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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1answer
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Why does the chief ray not bend like other rays at the optical axis but goes straight?

1 pg In this picture the chief ray is not bending which is going through the optical axis. It passes straight while other rays from the same object are refracted because they change the medium.
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What makes some laser beams visible and other laser beams invisible?

What makes the beam of some lasers: visible? such as the ones used in clubs or such as the laser pointers sold at amazon which if pointed to the sky look like a solid visible beam of light ...
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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 ...