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Seeing the Light: Optics Without Equations
Author(s): William L. Wolfe
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Book Description

Seeing the Light: Optics Without Equations is written for nonscientists and explains the concepts of light, waves, photons, refraction, reflection, diffraction, etc., without using equations. This book will be useful as background information for any course in optics, for those who need a basic understanding of optics for their research or other activities, and for the curious. It is divided into five sections: Basic Concepts is followed by Optics in Nature, where the familiar phenomena we observe every day are explained without math. Next is Optical Components, which covers prisms and mirrors, followed by Optical Instruments, which includes instruments ranging from simple otoscopes to intercontinental ballistic missiles to clear air turbulence detectors. A final section on Experiments describes seminal experiments such as those that proved relativity and the wave and photon natures of light. Technical appendices are included for readers who want to dig into the math.

Book Details

Date Published: 17 November 2022
Pages: 488
ISBN: 9781510652125
Volume: PM349

Table of Contents
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The Author

1 Optical Phenomena
1.1 Light
1.2 Polarization
1.3 Refraction
1.4 Reflection
1.5 Interference
1.6 Diffraction
1.7 Scattering
1.8 Absorption and Emission
1.9 Propagation
1.10 The Red Shift
1.11 Fermat’s Principle
1.12 Reciprocity
1.13 Resolution
1.14 Aberrations
1.15 Ray Tracing
1.16 Radiometry and Photometry

2 Optics in Nature
2.1 Blue Skies
2.2 Blue Water and Blue Ice
2.3 The Green Flash
2.4 Hummingbirds
2.5 Lightning
2.6 Mirages
2.7 Mosquitoes
2.8 Pit Vipers
2.9 Rainbows
2.10 Sundogs and Halos
2.11 Sunsets

3 Optical Components
3.1 Baffles
3.2 Beam Splitters
3.3 Blackbodies
3.4 Cone Channel Condensers
3.5 Detectors
3.6 Diffractions Gratings
3.7 Fibers
3.8 Filters
3.9 Lasers
3.10 Lenses
3.11 Mirrors
3.12 Polarizers
3.13 Prisms
3.14 Retroreflectors
3.15 Sources

4 Optical Instruments
4.1 Aeronautical Optics
4.2 Aerospace Navigation
4.3 Automotive Optics
4.4 Autonomous Vehicles
4.5 Ballistic Missile Detection and Interception
4.6 Binoculars
4.7 Borescopes
4.8 Cameras
4.9 Camping Optics
4.10 Colorimeters
4.11 Colposcopes
4.12 Communications
4.13 Computer Optics
4.14 Emissometers
4.15 Endoscopes
4.16 Gyroscopes
4.17 Flyfishing Optics
4.18 Holography
4.19 The Human Eye
4.20 Infrared Cameras
4.21 Interferometers
4.22 Laser Damage
4.23 LASIK
4.24 LIDAR
4.25 Loupes
4.26 Medical Thermographs
4.27 Microscopes and Magnifiers
4.28 Missile Guidance
4.29 Multispectral Images
4.30 Ophthalmoscopes
4.31 Otoscopes
4.32 Periscopes
4.33 Photolithography
4.34 Photonic Greenhouses
4.35 Plumbing Snakes
4.36 Polarimeters
4.37 Printers and Scanners
4.38 Projectors
4.39 Radiative Coolers
4.40 Radiometers
4.41 Rangefinders
4.42 Reflectometers
4.43 Remote Sensors
4.44 Remote Thermometers
4.45 Solar Panels
4.46 Spectacles
4.47 Spectrometers
4.48 Spy Satellites
4.49 Stealth Optics
4.50 Stereoscopes
4.51 Stroboscopes
4.52 Submarine Communication
4.53 Teleprompters
4.54 Telescopes
4.55 Television Sets
4.56 Theodolites, Transits, Sextants, and Octants
4.57 Underground Object Detection
4.58 Submarine Wake Detection
4.59 Warehouse Optics
4.60 Weather Satellites
4.61 Windows

5 Optical Experiments
5.1 Galileo’s Heliocentricity
5.2 Newton’s Colors
5.3 Herschel’s Infrared Discovery
5.4 Young’s Double-Slit Experiment
5.5 Poisson/Arago Diffraction Spot
5.6 Fizeau’s Speed of Light in Materials
5.7 Michelson Morley Experiment
5.8 The Photoelectric Effect
5.9 Blackbody Spectra
5.10 Relativity Tests
5.11 The COBE-DIRBE Experiment

Appendix A1 Phenomena
Appendix A2 Optics in Nature
Appendix A3 Components
Appendix A4 Instruments
Appendix A6 Foundations Introduction

I have been involved with optics all my adult life; it has been my entire career. It has been wonderful, enjoyable, illuminating, and fascinating. It has been colorful, delightful and spectracular. I have decided to share this pleasure with those who do not have a mathematical or scientific background. I share their art and literature; I want them to be able to share my fascination with optics. If this book were in another series, it might be called Optics for Dummies, but I disagree. It is optics for those who do not have the mathematical tools of calculus and the like to delve through a regular text. Maybe it should be Optics for Smarties, those who want to be smarter about our world.

Optics is all around us. I wake in the morning while it is still dark and look at the time projected on the ceiling from the LED clock on my bedstand. As it gets lighter, I check the LED clock on the wall. I flick on a light and go to the bathroom. Next, I go to the full-length mirror to see if I am still all there and to a convex one to check my beard. In the kitchen I see another LED clock and indicators on my microwave oven. There are also lights on my cooktop to show if a burner is hot. Someone turns on the light when I open the refrigerator to get breakfast. I peer through my double pane, insulated windows to see if there is a rainbow, and I notice the beautiful, blue sky. All this happens before I get in my car with its headlights, taillights, turn indicators, night vision sensor, dashboard lights, flip mirrors, and convex objects closer than they appear mirrors. There is even more optics the further I go. Traffic lights, retroreflectors, neon signs and white lines painted on the road.

In this book, I have tried to describe optical phenomena without any math. I have also steered away from quantum mechanical concepts and relativity. For those of you who want or need to see the math, it is in the appendices where appropriate.

I have also avoided the somewhat pedantic and crusty writing in the passive voice of the usual scientific texts. This is a topic with vitality, irony and humor that is truly colorful and brilliant. I think writing in the first, second, and third person is more appropriate. I think it also is a better way to portray my love and enthusiasm of the topic. I have attempted to make this text gender neutral by using an equal number of feminine and masculine pronouns.

William L. Wolfe
May 2022

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