I completed the first year of my bachelor in Physics and astronomy in July. One of the courses was 'Waves and Optics' which we used the second half of Alonso & Finn's 'Fields and Waves' for.

I remember not fully understanding the material concerning reflection and refraction, especially when it came to the Fresnel relations, crystals and the so-called index of refraction ellipsoid. I felt like Alonso & Finn didn't quite explain these concepts clearly and/or left out many important details in the discussion, and our professor didn't put much effort into clarifying them either. I did far better in more theoretical courses (Real Analysis II, Classical Mechanics, Electromagnetism) so I'm wondering why this particular subject didn't quite resonate with me.

In fact I feel like this is a bit of a gap in my knowledge of elementary physics, so I'd like to brush up on the subject. Any recommendations concerning the literature?

  • $\begingroup$ I like the book by Hecht. $\endgroup$ – secavara Aug 30 '18 at 11:41

This topic is quite commonly covered in multiple textbook on Electromagnetic Theory. It is a staple of any EEng curriculum so classics include (but are not limited to):

  1. Elements of Electromagnetics by Sadiku,
  2. Engineering electromagnetics and Waves, by Inan, Said and Inan,
  3. Engineering electromagnetics by Hayt and Buck

These 3 are mid-level textbooks, with much greater details than Alonso and Finn, but also with a greater level of mathematical sophistication. More physics-oriented texts at the same level include

  1. Electromagnetism by Pollack and Stump,
  2. Foundation of electromagnetic theory, by Reitz and Milford.

All these use complex numbers (including complex impedences), treat the problem including polarization, and use vector calculus, although vector calc does not enter in this specific topic.

There are plenty of others. For some strange reason the physics-oriented texts tends to have “electromagnetism” or “electromagnetic theory” or “electrodynamics” in the title, whereas the engineering-oriented ones tend to have “electromagnetics” in the title.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.