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 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 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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Is wearing 3D glasses from the cinema as sunglasses hurtful to the eyes?

I heard a few times that using them as sunglasses is hurting the eye since UV light is not filtered, but the pupil is wider than it would be w/o wearing them because the visible light is dimmed. I ...
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Why does the refractive index depend on wavelength? [duplicate]

Why do different wavelength get impeded more or less when in different materials? Moving with the same speed, but a longer physical distance would imply that the fields oscillate less times in the ...
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Why don't waves with different wavelengths interfere with each other in white-light?

The book I'm reading about optics says at some point that "each color (wavelength) contained in the white light interferes only with itself". But why is this so? Edit: I moved the rest of the ...
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Operator norm directly from phase space representation of photonic quantum operator

I'm interested in calculating the operator norm of a Hermitian operator, say $B$, acting on the Hilbert space of square integrable functions. The context is I have an optical system in all its ...
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How does infrared light 'erase' phosphorescence on zinc sulfide?

I found some sheets of zinc sulfide in my basement that phosphoresce green for up to 24 hours or so after exposure to bright light in the violet range or shorter. One of the first things I tried was ...
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Photon energy - momentum in matter

$E = h\nu$ and $P = h\nu/c$ in vacuum. If a photon enters water, it's frequency $\nu$ doesn't change. What are its energy and momentum : $h\nu$ ? and $h\nu/c$ ? Since part of it's energy and momentum ...
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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 ...
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Why is my shadow deformed and not the shadow of the ceiling? [duplicate]

Look at these two photos of my shadow from sunlight. Case 1: My shadow is separated from the shadow of the ceiling and my head is round. Case 2: But when I walk a little more and the shadow of my ...
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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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234 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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Stimulated Emission in QED

The explanations of stimulated emission which I have found all describe the phenomenon in terms of non-relativistic quantum mechanics. How might you describe it in a field theory such as QED? In ...
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Why can I turn light red or blue by holding my finger up to it?

This is a difficult phenomenon to explain. Imagine you have an opaque object partially covering a very bright light source, for example, an object held up against the sky. The left hand diagram is ...
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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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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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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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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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Explain reflection laws at the atomic level

The "equal angles" law of refection on a flat mirror is a macroscopic phenomenon. To put it in anthropomorphic terms, how do individual photons know the orientation of the mirror so as to bounce off ...
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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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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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675 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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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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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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What was Newton's own explanation of Newton's rings?

What was Newton's own explanation of Newton's rings? Newton advocated a corpuscular theory of light, but his rings would most conveniently be explained by a wave theory. How did he explain his own ...
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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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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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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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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 deep is a rainbow?

My cousin shot this photo of a rainbow in front of a mountain. In the picture it is clear that the mountain is behind the rainbow (the rainbow blocks the view of the mountain), whereas the nearby ...
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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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Is manufacturing roughness really the only reason we don't see optical interference in thick dielectrics like windows?

I had always kind of wondered why we didn't see interference in things like windows -- we were taught that the condition is that the thickness of the film/slab/medium just has to be an integral number ...
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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 ...