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 are the current experimental limits on the polarizability of the vacuum?

Many (all?) materials are polarizable at some level; meaning that when we apply an electric field across the material, there is an induced dipole moment $$ \vec{p}=\alpha(\omega)\vec{E}, $$ where ...
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230 views

Book on optics in curved space-time

As evidenced from my earlier questions on vision and curved space, I am struggling a little bit with visual perception in curved space-time. I would like a book recommendation on optics and vision in ...
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747 views

How are classical optics phenomena explained in QED (color)?

How is the following classical optics phenomenon explained in quantum electrodynamics? Color According to Schroedinger's model of the atom, only particular colors are emitted depending on the type ...
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978 views

Do mirrors have a “resolution” quality to them?

I would like to know if mirrors have a quality of "resolution" to them like a regular photograph might, or like a JPEG does. For example, if you looked to closely, or magnified a photograph, you ...
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123 views

How can results from classical optics be obtained from QFT?

Recently it came to my mind, that I have some basic knowledge about QFT and know im principle how to calculate scattering amplitudes (at least for the $\phi^4$-theory), but have no idea how to ...
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187 views

Negative radiation pressure from negative refractive index?

I see this claim being originally made by Vesselago (the discoverer of the principles of metamaterials) and indeed in contemporary papers. It means that such a metamaterial would be pulled towards its ...
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66 views

How does the atmospheric UVB attenuation of terrestrial planets compare?

On Earth, UVB (280nm - 315nm or 320nm depending on the source) undergoes extensive attenuation through the atmosphere, when observed at the planet's surface, as illustrated below: Image source ...
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130 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 ...
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How to turn water opaque by pouring the smallest quantity of matter into it? [closed]

Consider a glass of water and a glass of coffee. Their contents differ by no more than a few grams of particles coming from the roasted and ground coffee, yet the former lets almost all visible light ...
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153 views

Is radar-style 'pulse coding' (stretch, amplify, interact, and then compress) used in the optical domain?

Chirped Pulse Amplification (CPA) is an optics technique for producing short laser pulses at intensities which are high enough that the gain medium would destroy itself through nonlinear phenomena ...
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Liouville's theorem and gravitationally deflected lightpaths

It is customary in gravitational lensing problems, to project both the background source and the deflecting mass (e.g. a background quasar, and a foreground galaxy acting as a lens) in a plane. Then, ...
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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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mode-locking a laser on prime-powers' frequencies

Being rather a theoretician than an experimental physicist, I have a question to the community: Is it experimentally possible to mode-lock a laser (fixed phase relationships between the modes of the ...
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104 views

Detailed form of light waves in vacuum and how to test it experimentally?

Consider a light wave in vacuum. Do the $\vec{B}$ and $\vec{E}$ fields have to be orthogonal to each other? Since you can add constants to a solution to Maxwell's equation it doesn't seem neccesary ...
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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 ...
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How can a slowed light ray bend?

If light is traveling through air, it slows down and ends up bending. But how? If I'm running straight, and I get slowed down, shouldn't I still be running straight?
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Eyes open under water

Yesterday I looked underwater with my eyes open (and no goggles) and I realized I can't see anything clearly. Everything looks very, very blurry. My guess is that the eye needs direct contact with air ...
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609 views

How do I find the right lens for my laser?

I purchased this line laser recently and I'm running into a bit of an issue. The laser shoots out at a 120 degree angle which is perfect. However, once the laser spreads to about 4.25 inches, I need ...
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Can I calculate the size of a real object by just looking at the picture taken by a Camera?

Can I calculate the size of a real object by just looking at the picture taken by a Camera? (I think people do that) i dont understand how?(from physics point of view)
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Why is visible light used in Optical fibers (instead of other EM waves)?

Why aren't other electromagnetic waves used in optical fibres instead of visible light? Is it because the wavelength of light fits the internal reflection/refractive index of the material used for the ...
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782 views

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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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 ...
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362 views

What causes blurriness in an optical system?

The way I understand the purpose of a typical optical system is that it creates a one to one mapping between each possible incident ray and a point on a sensor plane. This is like a mathematical ...
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639 views

Huygens wave theory not applicable to lasers or parallel beams of light?

According to Huygens wave theory, every point on a wavefront acts as a secondary source of waves. Using this principle we can never have pretty narrow parallel beams of light right? Like lasers? ...
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202 views

How to delay visible light

I want to delay visible light (~450nm-600nm) by 10ns. One way would just be to have it travel about 10ft since the speed of light is about 1ft/ns. Could I reduce that length by sending it through some ...
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What happens to light in a perfect reflective sphere?

Let's say you have the ability to shine some light into a perfectly round sphere and the sphere's interior surface was perfectly smooth and reflective and there was no way for the light to escape. If ...
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How fast does light travel through a fibre optic cable?

The principle behind a fibre optic cable is that light is reflected along the cable until it reaches the other side, like in this diagram: Although I know that the light is slowed down somewhat ...
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Nonlinear polarization (second and third order)

Why does second order nonlinear polarization occur only in crystal materials with a non-centrosymmetric crystal structure? (Nonlinear effects at crystal surfaces are an exception). Why does third ...
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Slowing down light in an opaque crystal for a whole minute

I just read about a team of physicists at the University of Darmstadt, Germany, that managed to completely slow down a beam of light that traveled through an opaque crystal (article here). How is it ...
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186 views

does the beam of a laser have 'throw'?

I was thinking about Einstein's train and platform experiment and was wondering if a beam of light experiences throw? Let me explain, if I take a water hose and point it straight out and then swing ...
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121 views

What is a backlit CCD sensor, and why might I prefer it to other kinds?

I've heard Astronomers talking about backlit CCD sensors, and talking about how much better they are than other types. What are they, why might I want to get one, and what are the pros/cons of this ...
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259 views

Viewing computer screen through 3D glasses, why the asymmetry?

I have 3D glasses made up of plastic. First case: When I hold front side of the 3D glasses (by this I mean that side on which light falls) in front of a computer screen, light coming from screen is ...
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Wavefront RMS errors, mirror surface roughness and Gaussian beam scattering

What I'm interested is in the scattered power of Gaussian beams reflected from mirrors with a given surface RMS. Usually the surface RMS $\sigma_{s}$ of a mirror translates in an error for the ...
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Fairly Broad Spectrum Light Source Options

I tried this sight before to find filtering options and got fantastic results, so let's try again! I am setting up an experiment that requires light of two different frequencies (445nm and 350nm). ...
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The physics behind Google Glass' “prism”

In writing a bachelor's thesis about applicable use cases for Google Glass in retail I also strive to explain the physics behind Glass' optics. So far I've come to the following conclusions: Glass ...
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325 views

Are cylindrical mirror telescopes possible?

Is it possible to use a set of cylindrical mirrors and software correction to build an optical reflector telescope, instead of using a paraboloid reflector? By 'cylindrical' I actually mean a planar ...
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145 views

Is it possible to see light intensity fluctuate?

Solutions to Maxwell's equations shows that the $\vec{E}$ and $\vec{H}$ component are of the same phase, which means they go to maximum and zero together, therefore the intensity of the ...
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Educational applications of a small Michelson interferometer?

The community college where I teach has some nice old Michelson interferometers. There appear to be a bunch of versions of these that used to be sold (may still be sold?) which were all probably ...
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Does a perfect mirror behave the same as a blackbody radiator?

If I put a perfect mirror(i.e. reflects with no attenuation) next to a blackbody radiator its spectra should be the same as the blackbody radiator. Looking only at the spectra - is there any ...
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Is it possible to witness a circular rainbow?

What conditions would make it possible to see a naturally occurring fully 360° circular rainbow? Would it even be possible?
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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 ...
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How can I determine transmission/reflection coefficients for light?

When light rays reflect off a boundary between two materials with different indices of refraction, a lot of the sources I've seen (recently) don't discuss the relation between the amplitude (or ...
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Why doesn't my pinhole camera work?

We all know that light travels in straight a line, which can be proved by pinhole imaging as in the picture shown : But when I'm doing this little experiment with an apple, no matter how I change ...
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828 views

Homemade Spectrometer

Recently I have had ideas of how to build a spectroscope, but I'm not sure if it will work. As can be seen in the diagram, the experiment is simple: it consists of a laser that generates the light ...
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457 views

Why does burning things make them black?

It's not clear to me how burning process can transform a material which was previously capable both of absorbing and emitting photon to one which can only absorb them. I would like to hear an educated ...
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Blue light filtering

Prologue: my knowledge in these topics is fairly limited, so please feel free to point out the mistakes or the not-so-clear points, and bear with me for the oversimplicity of the language used. I was ...
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How much detail can telescopes actually provide?

For example, could the numbers / letters on a postage stamp in a randomly specified location be clearly visible from space. This is to settle a discussion with a friend that piqued my curiosity.
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455 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 ...
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How does the Kinect device work?

Some explanations of the device base it on a simple echo of light: "The camera transmits invisible near-infrared light and measures its “time of flight” after it reflects off the objects. ...
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laser pointer class III and potential eye damage

We just bought a green laser pointer on Ebay and had a discussion about the safety. The laser is low end chinese one (5 USD, free shipping :-) ) and the seller says this: Green Laser Pointer Point ...