Ray Optics & Geometrical Optics (Introduction)

Ray Optics

In describing the nature of light, numerous theories have been described. One of the oldest and most simplest of explanations of the nature of light is Ray Optics. In variable contrast to Wave Optics, Electromagnetic Optics or Quantum Optics, the theory of Ray Optics describes light as obeying a set of geometrical rules. Ray Optics assumes that the wavelength of light is infinitesimally smaller than the objects that light “rays” interact with. Ray Optics is also referred to as Geometrical Optics due to the geometrical nature of the understanding of the theory and the manner of calculations involved.


Ray Optics has limitations and does not describe many phenomenon. However, Ray Optics or Geometrical Optics is is useful in determining the conditions in which light travels and is guided within various mediums, such as in relation to a lens, mirror or glass fiber. Optical rays may also be described as vectors which point in the direction of travel of a light ray.


The above diagram describes the relationship between Ray Optics to other important theories regarding the nature of light. Electromagnetic Optics describes light as an electromagnetic wave phenomenon and therefore assesses light using concepts applied to electromagnetic radiation, such as the form of electric field waves and magnetic field waves coupled. Wave Optics approximates this wave phenomenon as a scalar wave. Electromagnetic Optics, Wave Optics and Ray Optics encompass what is known as Classical Optics. To describe the nature of light in a manner consistent with quantum mechanics, the theory of Quantum Optics meets these purposes.


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