Introduction to Geometric Optics

One of the most common physical phenomena in our daily lives is the presence and behavior of light. Much of the information that we receive from our environment is transmitted by light and received by our visual system. It is formed into images then into electrical nerve signals which our brains then interpret.

These web pages are about light - the nature of light and its behavior as a ray. We will ask many questions, and explore some of the ways that physicists look at light and how it behaves. Along the way, you will find that physicists have chosen some ways of abstracting the complex behavior of light, and simplified it through the ray model of light. In this model, light is seen as a "ray" traveling in a straight line until it interacts with a material object or medium.

If this is your first unit in your physics course, or it is a unit in your physical science course, you may be apprehensive about the amount of mathematics that may be involved. Don't be. The key idea is to question what you see and keep asking questions. It is through developing your ability to ask questions and building your ability to find the answers that you will grow as a physics student.

Now some of the questions that we will confront in our work:

Some of these words refer to light. What do you think they mean?

Now return to the main page and prepare to go into the various pages on the Optics Bookshelf©. Explore the world we call GEOMETRIC OPTICS, a world where you can get a glimpse of how nature works, and can experiment with it easily.

Best of luck in your study of light!

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