Optics

Optics is the study of the properties and behavior of light. In this section you can learn about everything from holograms to lasers and lenses.

Learn More / Page 2

We first reported on the possibility of an invisibility cloak last year. Now a different invisibility cloak is making the news -- one that uses metamaterials to redirect light away from the wearer.

By Cameron Lawrence

An invisibility cloak seems perfectly believable in the magical world of Harry Potter, but in the real world, it's impossible, right? Not so fast.

By William Harris & Robert Lamb

NASA's Mars rovers are sending 3-D images to Earth, so we can see depth and texture on the Martian surface. And how do we see this depth and texture? 3-D glasses, of course! Check out how they work.

By Marshall Brain

Advertisement

You're driving down the road on a sunny day, and you see a puddle of water coming up. You look again and it's gone! What happened? You’ll be able to answer that question if you read our miraculous mirage article.

By Tom Harris

The human eye misses a lot -- enter the incredible world of the microscopic! Explore how a light microscope works.

By Craig Freudenrich, Ph.D.

For centuries, curious observers have probed the heavens with the aid of telescopes. Today, both amateur and professional scopes magnify images in a variety of ways.

By Craig Freudenrich, Ph.D.

Just about everyone has seen a television show or movie in which a criminal suspect is questioned while detectives watch from behind a one-way mirror. How does a piece of glass manage to reflect light from one side while remaining clear on the other?

Advertisement

Some of the brightest minds in history have focused their intellects on the subject of light. Einstein even tried to imagine riding on a beam of light. We won't get that crazy, but we will shine a light on everything scientists have found so far.

By William Harris & Craig Freudenrich, Ph.D.

Imagine wearing a T-shirt with lettering on it while brushing your teeth. Why are the letters on the T-shirt reversed in the mirror, while your head appears right side up?

When I stand at the water's edge and look out over the ocean, how far away is the horizon? Is there an equation to figure it out?

I have a thin piece of plastic mounted on the back window of my RV. It magnifies things so I can see better when I'm backing up. How can such a thin piece of plastic magnify things? A regular glass magnifying lens would have to be curved on both sides and much thicker.

Advertisement

Lasers are used in CD players, dental drills, eye surgery, and even tattoo removal. But what exactly is a laser? There are numerous types, but all lasers work basically the same way. Learn how they generate such concentrated beams of light.

By Matthew Weschler