Optics, Physics tutorial

Introduction to Optics:

Optics is a branch of physics which studies electromagnetic radiation (for illustration, light and infrared radiation), its interactions by matter, and instruments employed to collect information due to such interactions. The Optics as well comprises the study of sight.

We can as well stated Optics as a branch of physics which comprises the behavior and properties of light, comprising its interactions by matter and the construction of instruments which utilize or detect it. Optics generally explains the behavior of visible, ultraviolet and infrared light. As light is an electromagnetic wave, the other forms of electromagnetic radiation like X-rays, microwaves and radio waves show alike properties.

However most of the people relate the term 'optics' by the engineering of lenses for eyeglasses, microscopes and telescopes, in physics the word more broadly signifies to the study of the behavior of light and its interactions by the matter. The connection to eye-glasses and the similar is not accidental, though: the growth of different optical tools led scientists to study more intimately the behavior of the light that such tools channeled.

Nowadays, we might roughly group the study of optics into three wide subfields of study: Geometrical optics, Physical optics and Quantum optics.

Geometrical optics:

Geometrical optics is basically the study of light as rays. It is the branch of optics which explains light propagation in terms of rays. The rays are bent at the interface among the two dissimilar media and might be curved in a medium in which the refractive index is the function of position. The ray in geometric optics is perpendicular to the wave-front in the physical optics.


The term Reflection is the sudden change in the direction of propagation of a wave which hits the boundary between two dissimilar media.  At least a few portion of the incoming wave remains in the similar medium. Suppose that the incoming light ray forms an angle θi by the normal of a plane tangent to the boundary. Then the reflected ray forms an angle θr by the normal and lies in the similar plane as the incident ray and the normal.

Law of reflection: θi = θr

Specular reflection takes place at smooth and plane boundaries. Then the plane tangent to the boundary is the boundary itself. Reflection at rough and irregular boundaries is diffuse reflection.  The smooth surface of the mirror reflects light specularly, as the rough surface of the wall reflects light diffusely.

The reflectivity of a material surface is the fraction of energy of the oncoming wave which is reflected through it. The reflectivity of a mirror is almost 1.


The term Refraction is the change in direction of propagation of a wave if the wave passes from one medium into the other and changes its speed.  Light waves are refracted if crossing the boundary from one transparent medium into the other as the speed of light is dissimilar in different media.  Suppose that the light waves meet the plane surface of a piece of glass after traveling initially via air.

Then what happen to the waves as they pass to the glass and go on to travel via the glass?  The speed of light in water or glass is less than the speed of light in the vacuum or air. The speed of light in a particular substance is v = c/n, here 'n' is the index of refraction of the substance.  General values for the index of refraction of glass are between 1.5 and 1.6, in such a way that the speed of light in glass is around two-thirds the speed of light in air. The distance between wave fronts will thus be shorter in the glass than in air, as the waves travel a smaller distance per period 'T'.

If 'f' is the frequency of the wave and T = 1/f is the period, that is, the time interval between successive crests passing a fixed point in the space, then λ1 = v1T = cT/n1 and λ2 = v2T = cT/n2, or λ12 = n2/n1.

Physical optics:

Physical optics is the study of light as waves. It is the branch of optics which treats light propagation as a wave phenomenon instead of a ray phenomenon, as in the geometric optics. It is the branch of optics mainly concerned by the wave properties of light, the superposition of waves, the deviation of light from its rectilinear propagation in a way other than that considered through geometrical optics, the interaction of light by the matter, and the quantum and corpuscular features of light.


Whenever two or more waves arrive at the similar point, they superimpose themselves on one other. More particularly, the disturbances of waves are superimposed whenever they come altogether - a phenomenon termed as superposition. Each and every disturbance corresponds to a force, and forces add. When the disturbances are all along the similar line, then the resultant wave is a simple addition of the disturbances of the individual waves, that is, their amplitudes add.


As an outcome of the superposition of waves, interference can be observed. The Interference is an effect caused due to two or more waves.

Constructive interference: Whenever two similar or identical waves arrive at the similar point precisely in phase the crests of the two waves are accurately aligned, as are the troughs. This superposition generates pure constructive interference. As the disturbances add, constructive interference might generate a wave which consists of twice the amplitude of the individual waves, however consists of the similar wavelength.

Destructive interference: Whenever two similar or identical waves which arrive precisely out of phase, that is, accurately aligned crest to trough, they might generate pure destructive interference. As the disturbances are in the opposite direction for this superposition, the resultant amplitude might be zero for the destructive interference, and the waves entirely cancel.


A special case of interference is termed as diffraction and it occurs if a wave hits the barrier of an edge or aperture. At the edge of the barrier, a wave is cut off, and it makes interference effects by the remaining part of the wave fronts. As almost all the optical phenomena comprise light passing via an aperture of certain kind - be it an eye, a sensor, a telescope or whatever - diffraction is occurring in nearly all of them, however in most of the cases, the effect is negligible. Diffraction in general makes a 'fuzzy' edge, however in certain cases (like Young's double-slit experiment) diffraction can cause phenomenon of interest in their own right.

Concept of Dispersion of Light:

Dispersion is the breaking up of or separation of white light into its component colors whenever it is passed via a glass prism.

This is due to the fact that different colors of white light travel at various speeds via the glass. As an outcome of which each and every color is refracted in a slightly different direction or angle via the glass. That is each and every color has its own velocity, wavelength and refractive index of refraction. Therefore, white light is split up into seven colors: Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet.


Polarization is the phenomenon irregular to transverse waves, that is, waves which vibrate in a direction perpendicular to their direction of propagation. The light is a transverse electromagnetic wave. Therefore a light wave traveling forward can vibrate up and down (that is, in the vertical plane), from side to side (that is, in the horizontal plane), or in an intermediate direction. Generally a ray of light comprises of a mixture of waves vibrating in all the directions perpendicular to its line of propagation. If for certain reason the vibration remains constant in direction, the light is stated to be polarized.

Quantum optics:

Quantum optics is the study of light as particles. It is the branch of optics mainly dealing with light as a stream of photons, each having a quantum of energy proportional to the frequency of light if it is considered as the wave motion.

Laser: It can be abbreviated as light amplification through stimulated emission of radiation. It is a device that makes and amplifies the electromagnetic radiation of a specific frequency via the method of stimulated emission. The radiation emitted through a laser comprises of a coherent beam of photons, all in phase and having the similar polarization. Lasers encompass lots of uses, like cutting hard or delicate substances, reading data from compact disks and other storage devices and establishing straight lines in the geographical surveying.

Characteristics of Laser Light:

1) Coherent: Different portions of the laser beam are associated to each other in the phase. These phase relationships are maintained over long adequate time in such a way that interference effects might be seen or recorded photographically. This coherence property is what makes holograms probable.

2) Monochromatic: The laser light comprises of essentially one wavelength, having its origin in the stimulated emission from one set of the atomic energy levels.

3) Collimated: Due to the reason of bouncing back between mirrored ends of a laser cavity, those paths that sustain amplification should pass between the mirrors numerous times and be extremely almost perpendicular to the mirrors. As an outcome, laser beams are extremely narrow and don't spread very much.

Electromagnetic spectrum:

The electromagnetic or EM spectrum is the range of all kinds of EM radiation. Radiation is the energy which travels and spreads out as it goes - the visible light which comes from the lamp in your house and the radio waves which come from a radio station are two kinds of electromagnetic radiation. The other kinds of EM radiation which make up the electromagnetic spectrum are infrared light, microwaves, ultraviolet light, X-rays and gamma-rays.

The electromagnetic spectrum comprises of the totality of all the electromagnetic radiation. It is made up of photons; the whole thing in the electromagnetic spectrum is at times termed to as light, however the word at times signifies to only the human-visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

The electromagnetic spectrum is the word employed through scientists to explain the whole range of light that exists. From radio waves to gamma rays, most of the light in the universe is, however, invisible to us!

Most of the parts of the electromagnetic spectrum are employed in science for spectroscopic and other probing interactions, as ways to study and characterize the matter. Moreover, the radiation from different portions of the spectrum has found numerous other uses for communications and manufacturing.

Applications of optics:

Optics is the part of day by day life. The ubiquity of visual systems in biology points out that the central role optics plays as the science of one of the five senses. Most of the people take advantage from eyeglasses or contact lenses, and optics is integral to the functioning of numerous consumer goods comprising cameras. Rainbows and mirages are illustrations of optical phenomena. The Optical communication gives the backbone for both the Internet and modern telephony.

Human eye:

The human eye is one of the most valuable and sensitive sense organs. The light is entering to our eye via a thin membrane termed as Cornea and falls on a light sensitive screen termed as Retina. Cornea forms a transparent bulge in front of the eye-ball. The eyeball is just about spherical in shape of diameter 2.3 cm. We can determine a structure termed as IRIS behind the cornea. Iris is a dark macular diaphragm and regulates the amount of light entering the eye. The eye lens makes an inverted real image (as similar to in a mirror) of the object on the retina. The retina is a fragile membrane having vast number of light sensitive cells. Such light sensitive cells get activated and produce electrical signals. These signals are sent to the brain through the optic nerves the brain then interprets such signals and processes the information which we are seeing the image. These methods occur rapidly and that is why we sense like we see the image at the instant we stare at them.

Optical instruments:

Single lenses encompass a variety of applications comprising photographic lenses, corrective lenses and magnifying glasses as single mirrors are employed in the parabolic reflectors and rear-view mirrors. It is the combination of the number of mirrors, prisms and lenses generates compound optical instruments that encompass practical utilizations. For illustration, a periscope is merely two plane mirrors aligned to let for viewing around obstructions. The most well-known compound optical instruments in science are the microscope and the telescope that were both discovered by the Dutch in the late 16th century.

Microscopes were initially developed by just two lenses: an objective lens and an eyepiece. The objective lens is necessarily a magnifying glass and was designed by an extremely small focal length whereas the eyepiece usually consists of a longer focal length. This consists of the effect of generating magnified images of the close objects. Usually, an additional source of illumination is employed as magnified images are dimmer due to the conservation of energy and the spreading of light rays over a bigger surface area. The modern microscopes, termed as compound microscopes encompass mostly lenses in them (generally four) to optimize the functionality and improve the stability of image.

The very first telescopes, termed as refracting telescopes were as well developed by a single objective and eyepiece lens. In contrary to the microscope, the objective lens of the telescope was designed by a big focal length to ignore the optical aberrations. The objective focuses an image of a distant object at its focal point that is adjusted to be at the focal point of an eyepiece of a much smaller focal length. The major goal of a telescope is not essentially magnification, however instead collection of light that is determined through the physical size of the objective lens. Therefore, telescopes are generally pointed by the diameters of their objectives instead of by the magnification that can be changed through switching eyepieces. As the magnification of a telescope is equivalent to the focal length of the objective divided by the focal length of the eyepiece, smaller focal-length eyepieces cause bigger magnification.


The optics of photography comprises both lenses and the medium in which the electromagnetic radiation is recorded, whether it be a plate, film, or charge-coupled device. The photographers have to consider the reciprocity of the camera and the shot that is summarized via the relation:

Exposure ∝ Aperture Area × Exposure Time × Scene Luminance

In other words, the smaller the aperture (that is, giving greater depth of focus), the less light coming in, therefore the length of time has to be increased (that is, leading to possible blurriness whenever motion takes place).

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