Spie Press BookDiscovering Light: Fun Experiments with Optics
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This book is published in cooperation with the OSA Foundation and CSIC. Click this link to go to the Open Access ebook version on the SPIE Digital Library.
Light is an element that draws together many areas of human knowledge: physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, engineering, and art. Moreover, optical phenomena and the technologies based on them are widespread in our daily lives. However, it can be difficult to understand or explain these phenomena. What is light? Where are optics and photonics present in our lives and in nature? What lies behind different optical phenomena? What is an optical instrument? How does the eye resemble an optical instrument? How can we explain human vision?
This book, written by a group of young scientists, answers these questions and many more to help you to get to know the exciting world of optics and photonics. It is intended for the general public, with an emphasis on students at all levels of secondary education. A variety of easy-to-follow experiments related to different optical phenomena and technologies are presented. All of them are preceded by an explanation of the concepts and accompanied by numerous illustrations and curiosities. All of it is meant for you to have fun with optics and photonics!
Table of Contents
- Preface by Maria J. Yzuel
- Safety rules for the use of laser pointers
- 1. What is light?
- 2. Lights sources and detectors
- 3. Optical instruments
- 4. The human eye: a biological camera
- 5. Light in nature
- 6. Light-based technologies
- Review of what we have learned
- About the Authors
Light is an element that draws together many areas of human knowledge (physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, engineering, art, etc.); moreover, optical phenomena and the technologies based on them are widespread in our daily lives. However, it can be difficult to understand or explain these phenomena.
What is light? Where are optics and photonics present in our lives? What lies behind different optical phenomena? What is an optical instrument? How does the eye resemble an optical instrument? How can we explain human vision? What are everyday optical technologies based on? Where is optics found in nature? The book you are holding, written by a group of young scientists, attempts to answer these questions and many more, and help you to get to know the exciting world of optics and photonics.
Our aim is to look at optics from all sides, covering both basic phenomena occurring in nature and the very latest applications and technologies. Although we want to reach out to anyone interested in science, we have taken care to include experiments and explanations covering the light-related topics on the syllabus for high school level. Our experience in performing demonstrations at primary and secondary schools, as well as the general public, has taught us that the best way to reach our goals is through experimentation and interpretation of results. We have developed a set of exercise cards to help you complete the different experiments step by step (color-coded by level of complexity), after which the challenge is to show what you have learned. We provide help to fully understand the experiments, with an introduction to all the necessary concepts at the beginning of each chapter, as well as plenty of interesting facts.
Chapter 1 looks at the physical properties of light, how it is described, how it travels and how it behaves on interaction with different materials. Some of the key words in this chapter are wave, photon, reflection, refraction, diffraction and interference.
In Chapter 2, we explore the different sources and detectors of light that are so commonplace in our daily lives. It includes experiments using extraordinary light emitters like lasers and building "invisible" light detectors.
Chapter 3 shows how you can use simple optical elements such as lenses, mirrors and prisms to build different optical instruments. We will focus on understanding how light travels and images are formed using these items and how we can manipulate light using optical instruments such as cameras, microscopes and telescopes.
Chapter 4 deals specifically with human vision. It contains experiments to show you how our eyes work and how they compare to complex optical instruments, their enormous capacity (color vision, depth of vision, etc.), as well as their defects (short sight, long sight, etc.).
In Chapter 5, we show you how to recreate optical phenomena in your laboratory (home or classroom) that happen every day in nature, such as mirages, rainbows, or star-gazing.
Finally, in Chapter 6 you will finally be convinced of the importance of optics in our daily lives; you will learn about technologies where light is essential, such as telecommunications, energy generation or even the food industry.
We hope you enjoy the book and that you have fun with optics and photonics.