Category Archives: Optics basics

Optics basics: Coherence

In previous optics basics posts, the interference of waves has played a major role.  When two or more monochromatic (single-color) waves are combined, they form a pattern of light and dark regions, in which the combined light fields have constructively … Continue reading

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Optics basics: Polarization

In a previous ‘basics’ post, I discussed the three major branches of optical science. My specialty, physical optics, involves the study of the wave properties of light. In particular, there are three major phenomena in physical optics: interference, diffraction, and … Continue reading

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Optics basics: Defining the velocity of a wave

How do we define how fast a wave is going? The question at first glance seems obvious. When we discussed harmonic waves in a previous post, we observed that the velocity of the wave could be measured by measuring how … Continue reading

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Optics basics: What is a wave? Part IV: Important quantities

To conclude my discussion of optics basics, I want to introduce some of the standard quantities used to describe waves and wave propagation. Unlike previous ‘basics’ posts, this one will necessarily deal with a little bit of algebra and perhaps … Continue reading

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Optics basics: What is a wave? Part III: Diffraction

In part II of my series on ‘What is a wave?’, I addressed one of the two most significant behaviors of waves, namely interference, the ability of a wave to ‘interact’ with itself. The second behavior of waves which is … Continue reading

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Optics basics: What is a wave? Part II: Interference

In the first part of my series on ‘What is a wave?’, I attempted to give a broad definition of a wave, so that we can identify them when we see them. In this part, I will address two of … Continue reading

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Optics basics: What is a wave? Part I (updated)

As I’ve mentioned a number of times before, my optics specialty is physical optics, which is the study of the wave properties of light. In order to understand those wave properties, however, it is important to understand what a ‘wave’ … Continue reading

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