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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How much light can pass through a point?

Analogy: an infinite number of lines can pass through a point. Is there a limit on the number of lasers that can pass through a point? Obviously, with lasers the “point” would be a sphere with the ...
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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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Optical explanation of images of stars?

Very often when viewing pictures of the cosmos taken by telescopes, one can observe that larger/brighter stars do not appear precisely as points/circles on the image. Indeed, the brighter the light ...
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What does an atom radiate: a wave packet or a single photon?

What does an atom radiate: a wave packet or a single photon?
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Why are color values stored as Red, Green, Blue?

I learned in elementary school that you could get green by mixing blue with yellow. ...
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How do you calculate power at the focal point of a mirror?

I'm a Mechanical Engineering student and I'm working on my senior project, so I need help. My project is about designing a solar dish having a diameter of 1.5 meters and a focal length of 60cm. so at ...
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Focusing Light with Flat Mirrors

What is the best way to focus (sun)light using flat mirrors? My goal is to start a fire. Cutting the mirrors is easy.
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Why is an opaque body opaque?

When does a body qualify to be called an opaque body? Is it anybody which cannot let visible light through it or is there any other definition? And when and how does a body allow radiations through ...
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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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Visibility of moon-based laser from Earth

If someone (or some robot) on the moon were to point a laser at the Earth, how many watts would the laser need, to be easily seen with the un-aided eye from Earth? Obviously this depends on a number ...
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Focusing and collimating laser light on a table top scale

I am looking for a summary of practical methods of focusing and collimating laser light, which I guess are contradictory objectives, or are they? For example, when I use typical small diode lasers, ...
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Why does the colour of a thing change when under huge magnification?

For instance, this image: shows human eyelashes close up. The lashes look green, in fact the whole surface area has a strange tint of green Why is this?
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Laser beam shaping

Hi I like to build a laser pointer that reflects different shapes for a project I am working on. I know this can be done with Diffractive Optical Elements. Are there other options? DOEs are expensive. ...
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how does a sniper scope work?

How does a sniper rifle scope enables us to pinpoint the exact location even though the lens in situated 5-6 inches above the muzzle. The bullet leaves the muzzle and hits the target exactly where the ...
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Is there a lens that would invert my vision?

Would I be able to invert my vision by mounting a particular lens in front of each eye? I am currently able to achieve this by mounting a right-angled triangular prism across both eyes. The specific ...
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Dark matter is electrically neutral

I would like to know how come if dark matter was electrically charged it would reflect light. What are the equations or the logic behind it?
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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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Distance of objects in car mirrors

We've all seen that label on our passenger side mirrors that says, "Objects in mirror are closer than they appear." Why is this? Further, why does it only apply to the passenger side mirror, and not ...
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Why do things that are far away seem smaller?

As you see things that are far smaller, a funny question about this: Imagine there are many people in a row (all are same height) ...
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Light Polarizer and the Second Law of Thermodynamics

I have stumped myself with a thought experiment of my own devising. Suppose I take a beam of wholly depolarised, but otherwise plane wave light. Its von Neumann entropy per photon is $\log(2)$ nats ...
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How would an X-ray mirror work?

I was wondering if light can be reflected how can someone reflect X-ray of what material does it need to be made of and is its design completely different to that of our original mirrors? Does this ...
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Will a prism widen a monochromatic beam?

The representation of the experiment which demonstrates that white light consists of many colors, invariably shows that the beam of white light is broadened inside the prism and is some what more ...
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Why does light diffract only through slits?

We can see diffraction of light if we allow light to pass through a slit, but why doesn't diffraction occur if we obstruct light using some other object, say a block? Why are shadows formed? Why ...
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Can anyone explain to me why light is not dispersed into a spectrum through a parallel glass slide, but only through a prism?

The question pretty much sums up what I need to know. Why is it that light only gets dispersed into a spectrum when travelling through two non-parallel sides(like a prism) and not through something ...
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Infinite total internal reflection

Suppose that I have a block of some transparent material, glass, for instance, with a certain index of refraction. Suppose that the transparent material is placed in air or in any other transparent ...
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Why can't we perfectly focus light-abberations aside

I don't understand why there is necessarily a diffraction limitation on optical systems. Where does this limitation in focusing light come from?
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Where in the atmosphere is the blue light scattered?

I have searched Wikpedia and the Physics Stack Exchange archieves, and I cannot find the answer to these two related questions. If it is, please guide me to where this information is located. If ...
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Why is night vision lacking color?

When I look through night vision with a video camera or see it in movies it always seems to be sort of grey or white. Why doesn't night vision have color?
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Possibility of making an experiment in a classroom to simulate DNA diffraction

I am a TA in a structural chemistry class. The professor want me to show students how Watson and Crick determined the structure of DNA from X-ray diffraction results of DNA crystals. The professor ...
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Why must an integrating sphere be a sphere?

Why must an integrating sphere be a sphere? Why can't it be an integrating cube? What is the difference? Could I use a cube to measure total illuminance like an integrating sphere does?
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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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Why does a laser beam stay collimated?

I am looking for a simple way of explaining the collimation of a laser beam. The typical discussion of the two slit experiment of quantum theory relies heavily on the Huygens principle. Its ...
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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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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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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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Why is diamond transparent while graphite is not?

Diamond and graphite are both made of the same atom, carbon. Diamond has a tetrahedron structure while graphite has a flat hexagonal structure. Why is diamond transparent while graphite is not (at ...
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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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Why doesn't the sun reflect off Earth's oceans from space like a billiard ball?

According to Phil Plait, Earth is proportionally smoother than a billiard ball (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2008/09/08/ten-things-you-dont-know-about-the-earth). The water surface ...
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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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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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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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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 ...