Following The Light: All About Optics

Have you ever made a mistake, even though you were sure something appeared a certain way?

You aren’t alone, and you likely aren’t to blame. It turns out a lot of what we see can influences or changes based on interactions with light.

What are optics? The branch of physics known as optics allows us to learn quite a few things about light. How it interacts with our world, and how it influences our lives.

Attempting to learn about optics can be a difficult and overwhelming process. Fortunately, we are here to help distill the information so you can develop knowledge about this fascinating part of physics. Read on to learn all about optics!

Interesting Optic Information

Before learning about optics as a discipline, we need to cover a bit of the basics of light. Light is one of the most confusing aspects of our world, even though we are always encountering it.

The first thing to know about light is that the visual spectrum is only a part of what light is.

Your eyes are constantly receiving information from sources of light. Both an object’s color and the perceived distance of an object can be determined by light.

The conventional understanding of light only pertains to the visible light spectrum. It turns out that there is a lot more to light than what we can see, and that realization has led to a lot of scientific progress.

The visible-light spectrum is only a portion of all light. The complete collection of light is known as the electromagnetic spectrum. This includes forms of light that are not visible to the human eye but are nonetheless able to be studied by other instruments, such as telescopes.

The electromagnetic spectrum can be thought of as a scale of light. The type of wavelength essentially determines the attributes of that light.

Short wavelengths give you gamma rays, X-rays, and ultra-violet rays. The medium-range waves give you the visible-light spectrum, and within the visible light spectrum, the slight changes in wavelength will cause distinctions in colors.

Beyond the visible-light spectrum, you have the larger wavelengths, which are responsible for commonly used wavelengths for radio, microwave, and infrared.

All About Optics

Here are some fun facts all about optics:

Optics, while not necessarily given that name, arguably began with the earliest discovered uses of lenses. There was a discovery in Egypt, which dates from about 3000 years ago, called the Nimrud lens

Since then, Optic information has developed quite a bit. We have learned some interesting facts about optics, including the behavior of light in regard to reflection, refraction, and dispersion.

Reflection is the behavior of light hitting a surface, and bouncing off of that surface. It has been discovered that reflection occurs with some predictable behavior. For example, the angle at which light makes contact with a reflecting surface is the same angle that it will be reflected in.

Refraction is the behavior of light when it passes through a medium instead of bouncing off of the surface. By traveling through the medium, the light’s wavelength increases, and its speed slows. This is the phenomenon that causes a utensil in a cup of water to appear slightly off when viewed from the side.

Dispersion is the behavior of light that separates the wavelengths of light. This is the phenomenon commonly seen when using a prism. The different wavelengths are separated by the intervening medium, allowing us to see the different wavelengths of light.

Diffraction is the behavior of light seemingly bending around an object. This occurs when the object and the wavelength of light are close enough that the light appears to use the object as another surface of reflection. This is seen when viewing rays of light through small slits that are close to the wavelength of the light.

Applications of Optics

A common use for optics is the mirror. Mirrors are developed by creating a surface that maximizes reflection. By creating a surface capable of maximum reflection, the mirror can create a near-perfect resemblance of the intended image.

Perhaps the most immediate benefit of Optics is the use of corrective lenses. Human eyes can often have complications limiting the functionality of the eyes. Corrective lenses allow limited eyesight to be restored for both nearsightedness and farsightedness through the use of refraction.

In both cases, corrective lenses allow the light to be redirected toward the correct location within the eye, improving vision.

Microscopes and telescopes are each a product of what we have learned about optics. Microscopes allow us to see the significantly small by using convex lenses to magnify the intended image. Telescopes, on the other hand, allow much larger or farther objects to be viewed by gathering more light than what the human eye is capable of.

Cameras are a huge innovation in the use of optics. The functionality of being able to record images is due in large part to the function of lenses within a camera. A camera’s lens refracts light onto another surface within the camera, allowing you to capture the intended image. You can see examples of modern applications with PFG Precision Optics.

Learning More About Optics

There is plenty more to learn about optics. The field is full of different types of refraction, diffusion, and tools that can help create the desired effect with light.

The field of optics has enhanced human endeavors since its development. Learn more about other interesting topics by checking out the rest of our blog!