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Proceedings Paper

Bi-centenary of successes of Fourier theorem: its power and limitations in optical system designs
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Paper Abstract

We celebrate the two hundred years of successful use of the Fourier theorem in optics. However, there is a great enigma associated with the Fourier transform integral. It is one of the most pervasively productive and useful tool of physics and optics because its foundation is based on the superposition of harmonic functions and yet we have never declared it as a principle of physics for valid reasons. And, yet there are a good number of situations where we pretend it to be equivalent to the superposition principle of physics, creating epistemological problems of enormous magnitude. The purpose of the paper is to elucidate the problems while underscoring the successes and the elegance of the Fourier theorem, which are not explicitly discussed in the literature. We will make our point by taking six major engineering fields of optics and show in each case why it works and under what restricted conditions by bringing in the relevant physics principles. The fields are (i) optical signal processing, (ii) Fourier transform spectrometry, (iii) classical spectrometry of pulsed light, (iv) coherence theory, (v) laser mode locking and (vi) pulse broadening. We underscore that mathematical Fourier frequencies, not being physical frequencies, cannot generate real physical effects on our detectors. Appreciation of this fundamental issue will open up ways to be innovative in many new optical instrument designs. We underscore the importance of always validating our design platforms based on valid physics principles (actual processes undergoing in nature) captured by an appropriate hypothesis based on diverse observations. This paper is a comprehensive view of the power and limitations of Fourier Transform by summarizing a series of SPIE conference papers presented during 2003-2007.

Paper Details

Date Published: 18 September 2007
PDF: 16 pages
Proc. SPIE 6667, Current Developments in Lens Design and Optical Engineering VIII, 66670D (18 September 2007);
Show Author Affiliations
Chandrasekhar Roychoudhuri, Univ. of Connecticut and Femto Macro Continuum Storrs (United States)

Published in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 6667:
Current Developments in Lens Design and Optical Engineering VIII
Pantazis Z. Mouroulis; Warren J. Smith; R. Barry Johnson, Editor(s)

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