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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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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How does light know which path is fastest?

We know from Fermat's principle of least time that light follows the fastest path. But how does light know which path is the fastest?
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A telescope with a bunch of small mirrors

Together with colleagues we got this question. Imagine to take small mirrors, the size for example of a dentist mirror, and stick them to a wooden frame with a parabolic shape. Each mirror is flat, ...
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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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What is the difference between surface plasmon and surface plasmon polariton?

I'm trying to understand this reading article linked below and I still don't know how to explain this simply, without need to derive everything mathematically. Can someone just write here how do SP's ...
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How are X-rays focused? Specifically in XRD. Well do they even focus X-rays in XRD?

I read in a government website that reflecting an x-ray from a parabolic mirror followed by a reflection from a hyperbolic mirror results in focusing the x-ray, but this was for astronomical purposes. ...
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How do “holographic plates” work?

I asked a question about laser stage lighting over at Audio Video Production, and received an excellent answer that explained that laser clusters are generated from a single beam via something called ...
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Why does light reflect more intensely when it hits a surface at a large angle?

I mean, what is happening at a microscopic level to cause this behavior? Here's what I got from Wikipedia: On Reflection (physics)#Reflection of light it says that "solving Maxwell's equations for a ...
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what happens inside linear polarizer sheet (at microscopic level) when unpolarized light falls on it?

(1) What happens at microscopic level when unpolarized light falls on a linear polarizer sheet ? i.e. Due to what thing inside polarizer sheet, only those EM waves are passed whose plane of vibration ...
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On unfocused images, their information content and possible restoration

So, when an image is out of focus the light of any given point of the object does not refocus exactly at one point on the screen, but is spread out around a region, such that the light of the image at ...
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Real limits on the maximum obtainable resolution of an optical system

The maximum obtainable angular resolution of an optical system with some given aperture is well known, but it seems to me that this isn't a real theoretical limit. The assumption is that you are going ...
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A photon travels in space for 10 billion years. What are the odds it will arrive here without interacting with a atom on the way?

Space isn't a perfect vacuum and I wonder how an image of a galaxy can travel billions of years without becoming diffused by photon collisions with space matter?
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Optics alignment of a confocal scanning microscope

I am facing a challenge in my project regarding optical alignment. See the figure: The challenge is with the vertical optical system alignment. I considered placing a mirror and check back if the ...
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Jones vector and matrices

With Jones vectors and matrices one can describe the change in polarization of a EM wave. What is the convention of the reference coordinate system; Is it fixed or does it change whenever the ...
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Filming light in motion?

Regarding this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y_9vd4HWlVA, which claims to "film" light in its motion. Is it not an absolute nonsense? Even if photons could even be "seen" (meaning, returning ...
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Accuracy of various optical instruments

I understand that this may not be the type of question allowed here, but I'm not sure. Feel free to close this if you feel that it shouldn't be here I'm planning on carrying out a certain set of ...
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Determining the refractive index of a foil

(59th Polish Olympiad in Physics, final stage, experimental part, 2010) You have at your disposal: a sample of blue foil of a homogeneous material, placed between two glass panes in a ...
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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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Beam splitters and Mach-Zender interferometers

I have a question (my very first here) related to 50/50 beam splitters as used in the Mach-Zehnder interferometers (see for example the Wikipedia page). Let's concentrate on the input beam splitter: ...
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Optimal slit width in Young's double slit experiment

I'm trying to do Young's double slit experiment at home. Note that I don't have a laser, only a torch. I could get a bulb or use a candle though, if it helps I built the slits by cutting into a ...
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How to place a mirror parallel to a wall?

For one of my experimental setup I need to place a mirror perfectly parallel to a wall. It can be placed at any distance from the wall. I would like to use any method other than direct measurement. I ...
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How to determine divergence of a LED source from a single biconvex lens

I'm trying to determine the divergence angle of light from a single lens that is completely illuminated by a high power LED. Most optics textbooks only deal with imaging optics and I'm having a hard ...
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A Difficulty with Liquid Metal Mirror Telescopes

"Another difficulty is that a liquid metal mirror can only be used in zenith telescopes" [Wiki] Why is that? Why can't a series of flat mirrors be used to reflect light coming from any angle to be ...
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Is a Perfect/Lossless Mirror possible?

In traditional mirrors, some of the input light is absorbed by atoms in the mirrors surface and are 'lost' as heat, degrading the quality of the reflected image. Could this loss be compensated by an ...
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Capture reflecting image

Suppose you have following installation: ...
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Why does static electricity not make a charged body reflective?

If mirrors work by deflecting photons by free electrons in surface layer of mirror, so it could be possible to take a glass pane and provide it with extra free electrons by giving it massive static ...
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Is it possible to surpass the diffraction limit for telescopes?

Telescopes have angular diffraction limit depending on the observed wavelength and aperture diameter. I've read that it's possible to go beyond the limit for microscopes. But is it possible to do the ...
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Do wide-angle videos make the first-person view seem slower than perceived in real life?

I considered posting this on other SE sites such as Audio-Video Production and Photography, but I didn't feel I'd get the definitive, fact-based (rather than experience-based) answer I'm seeking. ...
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Optics Paradox?

Imagine we have two lens, one convex and one concave, spaced in such a way that the convex lens is before the concave lens. Now each lens has its own focus length and both are spaced such that the ...
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Newton's color Disk

How does Newton's color disk work? Newton's disk - Take a circular white color disk, make 7 equal intersections and paint section with respective VIBGYOR colors, now when you spin the disk in certain ...
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Why is optical orbital angular momentum (OAM) called “topological charge”?

The terminology "topological charge" is frequent in lots of research papers related to optical vortex or optical OAM, it is used to represent the optical OAM. Why? How to comprehend it?
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Why does light travel in a straight line through a liquid?

So I was reading a document that stated that when traveling through a material (I'll use a liquid here, maybe water), a photon actually always traveled at 300,000 km/s, it was just that it ...
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Question about the wave nature of light

I quote from my textbook, " Consider two vertical slits S1 and S2 placed parallel to each other, and a string is passed through them. The end B is fixed and A is given jerks perpendicular to its ...
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What is the minimum optical power detectable by human eye?

If one is in complete darkness, what is the minimum optical power that the eye can "see" (let's say in 500-600 nm range). I found that for 510 nm, 90 photons can be detected ...
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492 views

3D movie glasses making white light look red and blue

While waiting for a 3D movie to start, I was playing with the glasses they give you. I understand each lens has different polarized filters, so the left and right superimposed images on the screen go ...
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Efficiencies of Coupling Light into a Fiber

I am in AMO Physics and work a lot with optics. I just wanted to get an idea of what coupling efficiencies one "should" get in a "reasonable time"* by coupling light into a fiber using different ...
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What sets the resolution on analog film?

When taking a picture with old fashioned film what sets the resolution of the picture? Is it the wavelength, or the chemical makeup of the film?
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What is the specific meaning of “Fourier frequency” (as opposed to simply “frequency”)?

I've noticed that many journal articles (in optics) use the phrase "Fourier frequency" to describe, well, the frequency of something. Google scholar search for "Fourier frequency". Example: ...
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Mirror “roughness”

In optics one of "diffraction-limited" criteria is wavefront tolerance: a textbook example is is optical system with 1/4 wavelength limits producing image of a point source with 68% of the energy ...
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How would you design an experiment to grok optical phenomena?

I've been toying with the idea of making a 3D scanner that uses an IR distance sensor to find position vectors of an object in space and then translates that into a 3D computer model. One of the ...
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Diffraction Pattern when not perpendicular

In single slit diffraction, we always assume that our waves are perpendicularly aimed towards the slit. But what if we aimed our waves with different angles ( for example 60 deg)? If we send the ...
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Options to correct rectangular laser beam profile?

We recently switched to a 405 nm laser diode which has a terrible beam profile -- it is a well-defined rectangle with an aspect ratio of about 10:1. The image below shows the collimated beam which ...
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Optical mode leakage through a layer of gold

The geometry of my semiconductor device is given below. The blue regions are gold, the grey ones - gallium arsenide (n-doped to $2.9 \times 10^{15} \mathrm{cm^{-3}}$). The dimensions are μm, i.e. it ...
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Is my simulation result for unpolarized light correct?

This is a follow-up of this question. After that, I picked up some knowledge of FDTD (an algorithm for solving Maxwell's equations) and simulated following scene: Pic 1 As the picture shows, a ...
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Optical absorption — what are the common ranges and mechanisms?

So let's say you do some reflection/transmission spectroscopy of a material. It's clear that it's absorbing in some range. What would be your first step in identifying the source of the absorption? ...
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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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Is this a Fata Morgana?

I took this photo. Above the horizon there is a thick layer that looks like a cloud, but it surely isn't. Is this a Fata Morgana? What do you think? EDIT: I think the more appropriate name is ...
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What's the physical significance of using fourier transform for diffraction?

I am studying some basic idea of diffraction and there mention in far field, the diffraction pattern could be understood by Fourier transform. But I just don't understand what's the physical fact for ...
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Photon statistics of an incandescent light source

We usually calibrate the cameras on our microscopes by capturing 20 images of a blurry (not sharp) fluorescent particle. For each pixel in this stack of 20 images we calculate the intensity variance. ...
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Long, blurry reflections in wet road [duplicate]

When driving on a wet highway at night, any surface emitting or reflecting light will have a reflection right under it that is blurry and seems to stretch to infinity. This is not exactly what I am ...