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.

learn more… | top users | synonyms

5
votes
3answers
512 views

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 ...
5
votes
4answers
912 views

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 doesn'...
5
votes
4answers
7k views

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 ...
5
votes
4answers
250 views

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?
5
votes
1answer
508 views

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 ...
5
votes
3answers
232 views

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?
5
votes
4answers
189 views

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 ...
5
votes
2answers
782 views

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?
5
votes
2answers
854 views

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?
5
votes
4answers
4k views

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, ...
5
votes
2answers
1k views

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 ...
5
votes
2answers
1k views

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 ...
5
votes
2answers
458 views

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. ...
5
votes
4answers
2k views

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 ...
5
votes
5answers
3k views

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 ...
5
votes
2answers
696 views

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 ...
5
votes
2answers
245 views

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 ...
5
votes
2answers
106 views

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 ...
5
votes
2answers
179 views

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 ...
5
votes
2answers
124 views

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?
5
votes
1answer
207 views

How is Fermat's least time principle proven?

How is Fermat's least time principle proven? Or it is what usually is observed and is basis for the theories?
5
votes
2answers
1k views

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 ...
5
votes
2answers
133 views

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 ...
5
votes
2answers
347 views

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 ...
5
votes
2answers
394 views

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 ...
5
votes
3answers
4k views

intensifying a light source

When trying to intensify a beam of light by refracting it through a lens, (as in a lighthouse fresnel system or similar railroad style switch lamp from years past), is the beam intensity increased by ...
5
votes
2answers
332 views

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 ...
5
votes
3answers
736 views

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: ...
5
votes
2answers
6k views

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 ...
5
votes
3answers
12k views

Clarification needed in the concept of apparent depth & real depth

I understood the concept of apparent depth from here: But one thing I didn't understand is, will there be difference in the real depth and apparent depth when we are looking not at an angle as ...
5
votes
1answer
3k views

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 ...
5
votes
1answer
192 views

Why does Feynman say that Huygens' principle is not correct for optics?

I am reading Feynman's famous paper Space-Time Approach to Non-Relativistic Quantum Mechanics, and in section 7 he says: Actually, Huygens' principle is not correct in optics. It is replaced by ...
5
votes
1answer
82 views

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 ...
5
votes
2answers
243 views

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 ...
5
votes
1answer
114 views

Capture reflecting image

Suppose you have following installation: ...
5
votes
2answers
3k views

Fresnel distance and Geometrical limit

I read about the geometrical limit of wave theory. The source from where I read had a slightly different explanation to provide than here(The more rigorous answer is too complicated for me to ...
5
votes
1answer
142 views

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 ...
5
votes
4answers
577 views

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 ...
5
votes
1answer
850 views

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. ...
5
votes
1answer
227 views

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 ...
5
votes
1answer
228 views

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?
5
votes
1answer
5k views

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 ...
5
votes
1answer
51 views

Optical Retroreflectors: How Are the Faces So Accurately Righted?

This question is about Optical Retroreflectors (corner cubes) and how the extreme precision in their manufacturing is achieved. I suspect there is interesting basic physics involved, which is why the ...
5
votes
1answer
82 views

Why are UV protective eyeware Orange?

Many industrial processes use uv as a curing agent. When one uses such a process, one must protect one's eyes from the radiation. Most uv protective gear I have seen is tinted orange? Does this ...
5
votes
1answer
115 views

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?
5
votes
2answers
792 views

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 ...
5
votes
4answers
483 views

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 ...
5
votes
2answers
2k views

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 (http://en.wikipedia.org/...
5
votes
1answer
606 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 ...
5
votes
4answers
4k views

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 ...