Wave Optics

  • Jay Newman

In our discussions of geometric optics we completely ignored the fact that light can also behave as an electromagnetic wave. The wave packet picture of photons (introduced in Section 5 of Chapter 19) is compatible with treating light as a collection of particlelike photons that follow the rules of geometric optics only as long as the objects with which light interacts (mirrors, lenses, apertures, surfaces, etc.) are large compared to the wavelength of the light. This justifies our treatment of light thus far as traveling in straight lines except on refraction or reflection at the boundary between two media. Under other conditions, the wave packet will change its spatial extent on interacting with smaller objects and exhibit wavelike properties, some of which are discussed in this chapter

We begin this chapter by re-examining, in the context of light waves, some concepts introduced earlier in Chapters 10 and 11 for traveling mechanical or sound waves. A major idea is the principle of...


Coherence Length Destructive Interference Path Difference Michelson Interferometer Optical Path Difference 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jay Newman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Physics and AstronomyUnion CollegeSchenectadyUSA

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