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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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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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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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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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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What's the size of the smallest possible CCD/CMOS pixel size?

For a given wavelength $\lambda$, is there a limit on the size of the sensor pixel, regardless of the optical equipment attached to the sensor?
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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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Free Optics Simulation Programs

I'm having an extremely difficult time finding an optics program that is easy to use and offers accurate physics simulations. I'm not asking for much, I just want to be able to simulate a laser going ...
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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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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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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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Lasing in a 2-Level system?

What exactly is the difference between 2-Level, 3-Level and 4-Level systems? Why can we not achieve stimulated emission in a two-level system using optical pumping?
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How does Fraunhofer diffraction depend on the orientation of the sides of a lens?

Matt in his answer on What does a hexagonal sun tell us about the camera lens/sensor? mentions Incidentally the number of (distinct) points to the star is equal to double the total number of ...
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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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Converting indices of refraction

If I know that the index of refraction of a given substance is 1.4 for the average wavelength (say 550 nm), and I would like to know what is the index of refraction with a wavelength of 832 nm, how ...
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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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Why would an object appear a different size when in water?

A friend of mine has a homework question and we're having some trouble figuring out what physical mechanisms come into play for this. An underwater swimmer sees a spherical air bubble that appears ...
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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 ...
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Where does the energy go, when light is blocked by polarisation

I've been looking around about LCD monitors, and how they polarise light. When a pixel needs to be black, the light is "twisted" so that it can't go through the polarising sheet in front. What happens ...
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How big would a solar sail need to be to be detected from the orbit of Pluto?

Suppose we made a solar sail out of a highly reflective material. How big would that solar sail have to be for the Hubble Space Telescope to detect it visually at the average distance of Pluto?
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How would you figure some of the methods (in order of importance) to take a picture of the supersonic bullet with the wave it produce in 1888?

It would still be almost impossible for me in 21th century to take this picture: (image courtesy of wikipedia) How would you figure some of the methods (in order of importance) to take a picture ...
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Why are lasers inefficient?

Why are lasers inefficient? Is it because of the heat lost during lasing? Why couldn't there be thermocouples or turbines in parts of the cooling circuits to extract something out of that heat?
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If I reflect light from a projector using a mirror, then is the reflected image real or virtual?

I am in a great confusion about this question. In our school, we have been taught that: A real image is an image which can be obtained on a screen. It is always inverted. A virtual image is ...
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Can a photon exhibit multiple frequencies?

Can a photon be a superposition of multiple frequency states? Kind of similar to how an electron can be a superposition of multiple spin states.
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What are the differences in using an eyepiece with a barlow instead of a shorter eyepiece?

I intend to start making visual observations, and I want to know more about the difference between using barlow lenses and one or two eyepieces and using a complete kit of eyepieces, both for ...
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What makes a good set of binoculars? [closed]

After trying a bunch of binoculars at Star Parties and the like, I have a pretty good feel for about what aperture and magnification I'd like in a new set binoculars. I'm an eyeglass wearer so a long ...
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Recently publicized experiment on destructive interference between two laser beams

Recently I've had several non-physicist friends ask me, independently of each other, about an experiment where two collinear laser beams destructively interfere along a certain length. Everybody wants ...
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Half wave plate and angular momentum

Given: A half wave plate freely floating in space. Circularly polarized light, falling perpendicularly to it. The plate changes polarisation of the beam to the opposite one. Therefore it ...
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How can we describe the polarization (of light) coming from an arbitrary angle?

In an optics lab, where all optical beams pretty much reside in a plane, it is fairly simple to describe (linear) polarizations as vertical or horizontal (or s and p). When we start talking about ...
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Optical microscope magnification limits?

Optical microscopes are quoted as having a maximum magnification of 1500x to 2000x - what is this calculated from?
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Far-field intensity from scattering of small particles

Howdy, I'm building a simulation for looking at the light field underwater. In order to verify my simulation, I'm looking for some data showing the far-field intensity that comes from single ...
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References for Radio Imaging?

I'm really intrigued by a bunch of questions like 'what do radio waves look like?' 'how much RF radiation is there in the town I live in?' 'how specifically does RF imaging work?' But I think I need ...
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What does Lijun Wang's experiment about supraluminal speed of light in a medium mean?

This is a summary from Physics World of the paper: L J Wang et al. 2000 Nature 406 277-- "Wang and colleagues begin by using a third continuous-wave laser to confirm that there are two peaks in the ...
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Explanation of Michelson Interferometer Fringe Shift

I have been working on an experiment where 2 glass microscope slides are pinched together at one end (so that there is a "wedge" of air between them) and placed in the path of a laser in one leg of a ...
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Collinearity of two infrared (10.6um) beams

I'm interested in aligning two infrared (10.6um) beams so that they are as collinear as possible. What is the best way to do this while maintaining the polarization of the two beams? Is there a ...
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Why does a glass window reflect white objects white from an atomic scatterers’ viewpoint?

Related: Is a white object always white? If you are standing in front of a glass window during the day, you can see your dim white t-shirt’s reflection in the window. The reflection is dim because ...
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Reflectivity of a glowing-hot metal surface

When a polished piece of metal (or steel in particular) is heated to incandescence, how do its reflective properties change? Given a mirror-like surface, would the object temporarily cease to act ...
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High school double lens optics question

This is a first year high school homework question (in the Finnish high school), and I'm having serious trouble solving it. I apologize for possible non-standard terms: I'm doing the translation from ...
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Focusing light into an optical fiber cable

I'm trying to focus light from a flashing light lamp throught two lens into a optical fiber cable which is around 0.8cm in diameter. flashing light: a bulb and then covered by a glass of 7.5cm x 7cm ...
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polarization of the lower mode gaussian beam

In most introductory analysis of Gaussian beam optics, Helmoltz scalar optics is assumed. Hence polarisation is ignored. But I'm not clear what are the possible orientations for the lower transverse ...
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How do head mounted displays simulate infinite focus?

First, when I say infinite focus, I am using the term from photography, perhaps incorrectly. Secondly, I believe am not talking about convergence, but about focus. If I am not mistaken, with ...
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Optimal Angular Field of View (AFOV)

Given the rather huge price differences between eye pieces at the same focal length. How exactly does the AFOV affect the view seen through the eyepiece? Are higher / lower AFOV better for certain ...
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Are two polarization states of light coherent?

Let's consider a situation: we have distant point source of unpolarized light in certain non-zero range of wavelengths (it's polychromatic). Let's divide this light into 2 beams depending on ...
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Is apparent horizon curvature lesser due to refraction of light in the atmosphere?

I have encountered this claim while searching for sources answering " Can we see the curvature of earth from the top of world's tallest building? ". Wikipedia article on horizon claims (with no ...
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How does the grid on the microwave oven window prevent microwave radiation from coming out?

If I look through the microwave window I can see through, which means visible radiation can get out. We know also that there is a mesh on the microwave window which prevents microwave from coming out. ...
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What does the Rayleigh Phase Function tell us

I am working on some radiative transfer equations, and struggling as I'm fairly new to this field. I have read about the Rayleigh Phase Function which is: $P(\theta) = \frac{3}{4}(1 + cos^2 \theta)$ ...
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Shot noise at high frequencies (can it really be ideal white noise?)

Quantum shot noise (either optical intensity noise or electrical current noise) described by the noise spectral density of $2 e I$ (electrically) or $2 h \nu P$ (optically). So it is white noise. I ...
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Why Negative refractive index is negative

$n=\sqrt{\epsilon \mu }$ Negative refractive index happens when permittivity ($\epsilon $) and permeability ($\mu $)of a material is negative. My question is, if permittivity and permeabilitity of a ...