What is Optics?

You rely on optics every day. Your smart phone camera and screen, wireless mouse, and all your blue-tooth devices are technologies enabled by utilizing our knowledge of optics. Optics is the science of light, more specifically, optics is a branch of physics describing how light behaves and interacts with matter. 

Think of it this way: The power and special properties of light can be used to explore the universe, monitor the environment, and even solve crimes. By utilizing their knowledge of how light behaves under different conditions, scientists and engineers create technology that makes your life easier.

Start your exploration of the science of light by checking out some of the topics below! Whether you’re looking for fun experiments, easy activities, cool projects, interesting facts, or other resources related to optics, you’ll find it all here

Fermat's Principle Rays are traced through an optical system using Fermat’s Principle, which says that the rays of electro-magnetic (E&M) radiation (Light) follow only the fastest route when they travel from one point (A) to another (B).
Lenses and Mirrors A lens is a transparent device with two curved surfaces, usually made of glass or plastic, that uses refraction to form an image of an object.
Geometrical Optics Geometrical optics, or ray optics, is frequently used to study how images form in optical systems.
Power of Ten People find it cumbersome to speak of units of measurement like "one ten thousandth of a billionth" of an inch, or even "ten to the minus thirteenth" (10-13) inches; so they devise different names.
Optics is both science and engineering Optics involves both science and engineering. Optics is a field of such variety that scientists and engineers with all kinds of interests contribute to it. Optics is a vibrant and growing field with a rich history.
Optics is rays, waves, and photons Science and engineering have always relied on models to explain and predict the behavior of the physical world, and optics is no exception. Three important models are used to describe optical phenomena, and each is based on one of the three different ways of describing EM Rad.
Color and Light Here we ask how color is sensed by the viewer. To answer the question we need to specify how color is described and how color information is received by the eye. The starting point of an understanding of color is a description of light.
Color, Thin Films, and Interference The colors of nature are all around us and are produced by different aspects of the interaction of light with matter. The most common is light interacting with colored pigments.
Holograms You've probably got a hologram in your pocket or purse right now. Just look at a credit card.
Lasers DVD players. Eye surgery. Science fiction movies. These are some of the ways in which lasers are used but there are many others, as well.
Lenses and Geometrical Optics We use lenses and mirrors everyday but sometimes don't really understand how and why they do what they do.

Polarized Light Light of a single color can be described as a wave with a specified wavelength or as a photon with a specified energy.
Pi Day Learn about Pi and help us celebrate the never ending number.
Optical Diagnosis Using Optics to discover the mysteries of the body.
Optics in Surgery Laser/Tissue interaction (or the application of lasers in therapeutic and surgical procedures with human tissue) has become more common in recent years.
The Reflection of Light What is it about objects that let us see them? Why do we see the road, or a pen, or a best friend? If an object does not emit its own light (which accounts for most objects in the world), it must reflect light in order to be seen.
How do Chameleon's Change Color? A chameleon’s skin can quickly and dramatically change color; its eyes allow it to look in almost all directions without moving its head, and it even has a rudimentary third eye!
Snell's Law, Reflection, and Refraction In order to follow the quickest path through a system, a ray changes direction as it travels from a medium of one refractive index to another medium that has a different refractive index.
What is a Rainbow? When sunlight encounters a drop of water in the atmosphere it can produce a colorful rainbow because the amount that light rays are bent as they pass in and out of the raindrop depends on the wavelength (or color) of the light.
Why do the Stars Twinkle? Stars are actually very large, but they are very far away so they look small. In fact, stars are so far away from Earth that we commonly refer to them as being infinitely far away, which results in their looking like a point source of light.
Aberrations Aberrations are errors in an image that occur because of imperfections in the optical system. Another way of saying this is that aberrations result when the optical system misdirects some of the object’s rays.
Dispersion If you’ve ever seen a rainbow or a prism split what appears to be white light into its rainbow of color components, you’ve seen dispersion.
Why is the sky blue? Why are sunsets red? Take a look at light through a prism and notice all the different colors that you can see. Light that looks white to our eyes is actually made up of many different colors.
The Eye The eye is a sophisticated, one-lens system for imaging visible light.


Optics: : [op-tiks] - noun


A branch of physics that studies electromagnetic radiation (for example, light and infrared radiation), its interactions with matter, and instruments used to gather information due to these interactions. Optics includes the study of sight.

1541, from M.Fr. optique, obtique (c.1300), from M.L. opticus "of sight or seeing," from Gk. optikos "of or having to do with sight," from optos "seen, visible," from op-, root of opsesthai "be going to see," related to ops "eye," from PIE *oqw- "eye/see" (see eye). Optics "science of sight and light" is from 1579; optician is first attested 1687, after Fr. opticien.