0206.2 - Part II OPTICS 1 Optics Prior to the opening up of...

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Unformatted text preview: Part II OPTICS 1 Optics Prior to the opening up of the electromagnetic spectrum and the development of quantum mechanics, the study of optics was only concerned with visible light. Reflection and re- fraction were first described by the Greek philosophers and further studied by the medieval scholastics and used in the design of crude magnifying lenses and spectacles. However, it was not until the seventeenth century that there arose a strong commercial interest in developing the telescope and the compound microscope. Naturally, the discovery of Snells law and the observation of diffractive phenomena, stimulated serious speculation about the physical na- ture of light. The corpuscular and wave theories were propounded by Newton and Huygens, respectively. The corpuscular theory initially held sway, but the studies of interference by Young and the derivation of a wave equation for electromagnetic disturbances by Maxwell seemed to settle the matter in favor of the undulatory theory, only for the debate to be resurrected with the discovery of the photoelectric effect. After quantum mechanics was de- veloped in the 1920s, the dispute was abandoned, the wave and particle descriptions of light became complementary, and Hamiltons optics-inspired formulation of classical mechanics was modified to produce the Schr odinger equation. Physics students are all too familiar with this potted history and may consequently re- gard optics as an ancient precursor to modern physics that has been completely subsumed by quantum mechanics. However, this is not the case. Optics has developed dramatically and independently from quantum mechanics in recent decades, and is now a major branch of classical physics. It is no longer concerned primarily with light. The principles of optics are routinely applied to all types of wave propagation: from all parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, to quantum mechanical waves, e.g. of electrons and neutrinos, to waves in elas- tic solids (Part III of this book), fluids (Part IV), plasmas (Part V) and the geometry of spacetime (Part VI). There is a commonality, for instance, to seismology, oceanography and radio physics that allows ideas to be freely transported between these different disciplines. Even in the study of visible light, there have been major developments: the invention of the laser has led to the modern theory of coherence and has begotten the new field of nonlinear optics. An even greater revolution has occured in optical technology. From the credit card white light hologram to the laser scanner at a supermarket checkout, from laser printers to CDs and DVDs, from radio telescopes capable of nanoradian angular resolution to Fabry-Perot systems that detect displacements smaller than the size of an elementary particle, we are surrounded by sophisticated optical devices in our everyday and scientific lives. Many of these devices turn out to be clever and direct applications of the fundamental principles that we shall discuss....
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0206.2 - Part II OPTICS 1 Optics Prior to the opening up of...

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