Spie Press Book • on saleLighter Side of Adaptive Optics
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Adaptive optics has been under development for well over 40 years. It is an indisputable necessity for all major ground-based astronomical telescopes and is the foundation for laser and wavefront sensor design. Lighter Side of Adaptive Optics is a nontechnical explanation of optics, the atmosphere, and the technology for "untwinkling" the stars. While interweaving a fictional romantic relationship as an analogy to adaptive optics, and inserting satire, humor, and philosophical rants, Tyson makes a difficult scientific topic understandable. The "why" and "how" of adaptive optics has never been more enjoyable.
"Robert Tyson's numerous puns and anecdotes form a continuous stream of silliness that made me laugh and wonder what was coming next....The technical discussions on adaptive optics are not too deep, but they are really perfect for this type of book. In a very entertaining way, he describes the fundamentals of the technology. For people who are not too technical, it is very understandable, and for people with a background in the science, it's still a fun read."
--Josh Cobb, Optical systems designer and coauthor of Light Action! Amazing Experiments with Optics
"This book is fun, it is memorable and it represents superb teaching; of course the aspiring professional will need one of Tyson's many other books with their 1000 or so up-to-date references but Lighter Side awakens the interest and will be part of my library as well as that of my high school. Everything is there in a condensed and accurate form and the power of this technology is evident; it is well indexed and the references are sufficient and up-to-date."
--R. S. Shorter, "Lighter Side of Adaptive Optics, by Robert K. Tyson," Contemporary Physics, 52:4, 370, 2011 [doi: 10.1080/00107514.2011.558924].
Table of Contents
- 1 Love Is in the Air
- What is adaptive optics?
- Summary of the first chapter
- 2 The Atmosphere Has Gas
- The speed of light through stuff
- The wedding day
- Untwinkling the stars
- Seemingly random thoughts about statistics
- Big blobs and little blobs
- Summary of the second chapter
- 3 Adaptive Optics Systems and Some Cool Things About Light Beams
- How a relationship is like adaptive optics
- It doesnt phase me anymore
- Summary of the third chapter
- 4 Clever Wavefront Sensors
- Shearing interferometer
- Shack-Hartmann wavefront sensor
- Curvature sensor
- Pyramid sensor
- Summary of the fourth chapter
- 5 Laser Guide Stars, the Beacons in the Night
- Scattering is the problem
- Send in the cavalry!
- Scattering is the solution
- Thank you, sodium
- The strange case of atmospheric tilt and laser guide stars
- Summary of the fifth chapter
- 6 Mirrors that Get Bent Out of Shape
- Segmented mirrors
- Continuous-faceplate deformable mirrors
- Bimorph mirrors
- Micro-electrical-mechanical systems
- Summary of the sixth chapter
- 7 Computers That Shouldnt Crash
- A daunting problem
- Marriage counseling may work
- Summary of the seventh chapter
- 8 Other Ways To Do It
- Image sharpening
- Phase diversity
- Multidither and other hill-climbing doodads
- Summary of the eighth chapter
- 9 Putting the System Together
- Professor Smythe builds a system
- Barbara, Kenneth, and bananas
- The f-number dilemma
- The irreducible problem of multiconjugate adaptive optics
- The alphabet soup of adaptive optics acronyms
- Summary of the ninth chapter
- 10 Getting the Blasted Thing to Work Right or Even Work at All
- Its not over until its over
- Summary of the tenth chapter
- 11 Fun with Shining Lasers into Your Eyes
- Summary of chapter the eleventh
- 12 A Happy Ending
- Backword: The Leslie B. Smythe Story
- Bibliography (Some other books about adaptive optics that arent nearly as funny as this one)
A few months ago I received an email from Tim Lamkins whose official title at the time was Content Acquisition and Development Specialist, Publications for SPIE. SPIE used to be called SPIEThe International Society for Optical Engineering, but now it is called SPIE.
Tim was inquiring whether I would like to write another book on adaptive optics. My immediate reply was No!
Tim was persistent, especially with the job title Content Acquisition and Development Specialist. I told him that there were plenty of good books on adaptive optics already, some of which I wrote myself, and some of which were written by others who copied all my best ideas, but wrote them under their own names. I told Tim that there wasnt much need for another book yet. Maybe in a few years, I said.
Tim was not taking No! for an answer. He explained that the book was to be for a wider audience than the one-billionth of one percent of the population of the world who normally would buy an optics book. His vision for this book was for the masses. No math was to be involved.
I was still reluctant. I know Tim was just getting ready to offer a large advance for the book, much like Stephen King would get I presume, but he didnt need to cut the check he told me that it could be humorous.
His argument was persuasive. I could write a funny book about adaptive optics! So, here it is. If you dont find it greatly informative, technically perfect, and somewhat amusing, tell Tim.
Charlotte, North Carolina, USA