Light Science


This web page contains John Reid's notes on Light Science, as last updated in 2006, Optics Java applets and web page links.

The course covers 7 broad areas:

For each section you can access the PowerPoint slides, a 6-to-a-page summary of these slides and the lecturer's accompanying notes. The notes contain the core optics and omit various illustrations and discussion within the lectures themselves. They were intended to be helpful for revision. Clicking on the simulations within the slides will NOT operate them; you have to go to the sources referenced in the java applets section. Various 'security' measures since they were first introduced make the Java applets now harder to access. I have added a more recent talk on the nature of light.

SLIDES AND NOTES (all pdf files):

The Nature of Light (a talk by John Reid on the changing perceptions through the centuries)

Maths concepts used from time to time in the course.

Reading list and comments.

Course exercises, Raytrace assignments, continuous assessment work, exam questions and revision questions are not given here since the delivery of the course has evolved since these notes were written.

Optics Java applets

Click on a name and you will be taken to the java applet selected. Then read the instructions.


Snell's law Refraction Refraction Mirror image  
Multiple reflections (1) Multiple reflections (2) Mirror game    
Total internal reflection Reflecting prism Underwater light Fisheye Transverse wave
Transverse & longitudinal waves Phase change Circular wavefronts Huygens' Principle (1) Huygens' Principle (2)
EM wave (1) EM wave (2) Fermat's Principle Fastest path Prism deviation
Prism dispersion Planck's radiation law All radiation laws Solar spectrum Hydrogen line spectrum
Line spectra of elements Gas discharge spectra Hydrogen wavefunctions He/Ne laser   
Polarisation Polarising filter Polaroid transmission     
Crossed polarisers Optical rotation Calculator display LCD Laptop pixel
Birefringent polarisation Polarising microscope Birefringence Interference  
Adding waves Wave addition Single slit diffraction 2-slit pattern 2-slit pattern (2)
Laser speckle        


Occasional Optics Links

At the moment this is simply a list of references to optics related material, only slightly organised

For a wide range of related interest sites, look at the Physics Web Optics Resources web page.

A search site specialising in optics is

Quicktime movies illustrating electromagnetic waves, and much more, from Iowa State University

A wide-ranging optics website is offered by Molecular Expressions

There is a great deal on fibre (fiber) optics on the web. A useful fibre optic tutorial is given by the firm Nanoptics

Kent State University's Liquid Crystal Institute has an excellent site detailling current science involving liquid crystals.

An excellent site covering the use of the Michelson interferometer is available from the University of Nantes.

A good site that gets you in to microscopy and imaging comes from the University of Arizona, with links to introductory and advanced pages

More Physics Java applets from the virtual physics library. More from Walter Fendt

Lots of simple optics java applets from Kentucky State University

Interactive shockwave programs from Kansas State University

I can't resist adding the page of Dan Russell from Kettering University that has plenty of animated diagrams to accompany his course on waves and vibrations

Animated optics pictures from Siltec Ltd.

An example of the rising importance of aspheric optical components is illustrated by the company Bentec Services Ltd. (Canada).

Explore dispersion and deviation from a triangular prism of variable material in an applet from Rice University called CrystalLab

The Royal Ontario Musuem has a page of little gem movies in QuickTime, showing the effects of rotating gems of different cut and refraction. Well worth a look.

Java applets with an emphasis on the numerical, can be found in French at Cabri Java

Calculation tools to find the angle of the sun and the sun positions at regular intervals

Descriptions of Berkeley's Optics Demonstrations are available on-line

A time-line of discoveries in optics, electricity and magnetism is hyperlinked with biographies of contributers.

Colour systems throughout history

Physics Home

Content John S. Reid
Last updated May 2015