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Optical physics

Optical physics

Optics (from ancient Greek ὀπτική "the science of visual perception") is a branch of physics that studies the behavior and properties of light.

Optics is a branch of physics that studies the behavior and properties of light, including its interaction with matter and the creation of instruments that use or detect it. Optics usually describes the behavior of visible, ultraviolet, and infrared radiation. Because light is an electromagnetic wave, other forms of electromagnetic radiation such as X-rays, microwaves, and radio waves have similar properties.

Most optical phenomena can be explained using classical electrodynamics. However, the full electromagnetic description of light is often difficult to apply in practice. Practical optics is usually based on simplified models. The most common of these, geometric optics, views light as a set of rays that travel in straight lines and bend as they pass through or reflect from surfaces. Wave optics is a more complete model of light that includes wave effects such as diffraction and interference that are not taken into account in geometric optics. Historically, the ray model of light was developed first, and then the wave model of light. Progress in the theory of electromagnetism in the 19th century led to the understanding of light waves as the visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Some phenomena depend on the fact that light exhibits wave and particle properties. The explanation for this behavior lies in quantum mechanics. When considering corpuscular properties, light is thought of as a set of particles called photons. Quantum optics uses quantum mechanics to describe optical systems.

Optical science is relevant and studied in many related disciplines, including astronomy, various fields of engineering, photography and medicine (especially ophthalmology and optometry). Practical applications of optics can be found in a variety of technologies and everyday things, including mirrors, lenses, telescopes, microscopes, lasers, and fiber optics.

Timeline

Further Resources

Title
Author
Link
Type
Date

Physics - Optics: Reflections (1 of 2) Introduction

Web

April 28, 2013

Physics - Optics: Reflections (2 of 2) Inbound and Exit Ray

Web

April 28, 2013

Physics - Optics: Refraction (1 of 3) Introduction to Snell's Law

Web

April 29, 2013

Physics - Optics: Refraction (2 of 3) Light Ray Going From Air to Glass then back to Air

Web

April 29, 2013

Physics - Optics: Refraction (3 of 3) Light Ray Through A Prism

Web

April 29, 2013

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