Lord, Richard C. Formerly, Department of Chemistry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Pau, Stanley College of Optical Sciences, The University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona.
- Additional Readings
Physical optics is the study of the physical properties and behavior of electromagnetic waves and their interactions with matter. The optical range of wavelengths may be taken as the range from about 1 nanometer (4 × 10−8 in.) to about 1 millimeter (0.04 in.). More narrowly, physical optics deals with the relationship between the atomic structure of a system and the absorption, emission, and propagation of light inside the system. The chief founder of this branch of science was Michael Faraday, who in 1845 provided the first clue to the electromagnetic nature of light by showing that the optical properties of glass could be altered by a magnetic field. Branches of physical optics include wave optics and Fourier optics. Fourier optics utilizes the mathematical technique of the Fourier transform to analyze the propagation of light and the formation of images. See also: Faraday effect; Fourier series and transforms; Wave optics
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