Tour of Optics on the Web

The numbering of the applets linked on this page follows that provided in the STEP curriculum.

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As of 02-25-2010, all the links with an asterisk by them are no longer active.

1 Optics in ophthamology, indicating how eyeglasses are used to correct near-sightedness and far-sightedness
*2 Model for photon absorption and emission involving movement of electrons in different energy levels "Link is no longer active."
3 Shows wavelength/frequency dependence of photons related to energy level changes
*4 Shows the process of stimulated emission in terms of population inversion and photon amplification "Link is no longer active."
5 Shows sine wave characteristics involving amplitude, wavelength, and phase
*6 Shows propagation of an electromagnetic wave with emphasis on behavior of related electric and magnetic fields "Link is no longer active."
7 Shows EM wave propagation from several angles
8 Shows relationship between wavelength and requency for a traveling sine wave
9 Enables the viewer to observe total internal reflection and vary the parameters changing the bahaviour of the reflected and refracted rays
*10 Shows how refraction of light and total internal reflection within water droplets lead to the formation of a rainbow "Link is no longer active."
11 A very specialized reference alluding to the formation of green flashes
12 Applet showing how waves add to be in phase or out of phase
13 Applet devoted to the behavior of light passing through two narrow, adjacent slits (Young's famous double-slit interference experiment)
*14 Shows details of how light waves from two slits interfere with each other to form interference fringes on a screen "Link is no longer active."
15 Applet devoted to the basics of polarized light and the use of analyzers and polarizers to control light intensity
*16 Specialized treatment of circular polarization, how it occurs "Link is no longer active."
*17 Applet showing the effect of thin coating on opitical surfaces to increase or decrease reflection from the surface "Link is no longer active."
*18 A tutorial (no animation) on holographic data storage "Link is no longer active."
*19 Interactive optical bench simulations depicting the effect of moving source and lens on the formation of an image "Link is no longer active."
20 Interactive applet indicating the behavior of thick lenses in image formation
21 Excellent laser tutorial covering most basic aspects of laser operation
22 Another excellent laser tutorial covering all the basics of laser operation
23 Resource for many optically related devices and principles used in microscopy. Need to pick and choose depending on topic of interest
24 A basic lesson in electromagnetic waves, the electromagnetic spectrum, and characteristics of electromagnetic waves. Includes a self-check quiz. Follow the links at the end of the article to find out more about visible light and X rays.
25 This section of Physics 2000 includes background information on electromagnetic radiation as well as specific information on applications such as X rays and microwave ovens. Throughout the lesson are java applets that illustrate the concepts.
26 This Java applet shows the relations between electric field, magnetic field, and wave vector when an electromagnetic wave propagates through space. This depiction of an EM wave has an adjustable B (magnetic) component. You can click and drag the tip of the B-vector anywhere in the plane and see the effect on velocity.
27 This NASA website explains the electromagnetic spectrum and why some portions of it are blocked by the Earth's atmosphere. There are links to a self-quiz and also to lesson plans and other items.
28 This is a graphical summary of the electromagnetic spectrum.
*29 Clicking on the different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum takes you to a page that describes the wave as well as gives examples and applications. "Link is no longer active."
30 This site gives a short history of the contributions of various scientists to our understanding of light and the electromagnetic spectrum, including Isaac Newton, Thomas Young, Albert Einstein, Galileo Galileii, Olaf Romer, William Herschel, Johann Wilhelm Ritter, James Clark Maxwell, Heinrich Rudolf Hertz, M. G. Marconi, and Wilhelm Roentgen.
31 A calculator from the Hyperphysics site that will calculate wavelength or frequency as well as quantum energy
32 Liquid crystal tunable filters�Explores how liquid crystal tunable filters (LCTF) use electrically controlled liquid crystal elements to select a specific visible wavelength of light for transmission through the filter at the exclusion of all others
33 This site describes infrared radiation and how astronomers use it to learn more about the universe.
*34 Discussion on the formation of rainbows"Link is no longer active."
35 This site describes health effects of UV-B and factors that impact the amount of UV-B that reach the Earth's surface at any given location.
36 Encyclopedia article that describes X rays and their discovery, production, and applications
37 View this entire tutorial to learn more about the electromagnetic spectrum and the specific regions within it.
*38 This site has a limited explanation of the photoelectric effect with an applet that allows students to explore the work function of various metals."Link is no longer active."
*39 This page from the Patterns in Nature site describes the photoelectric effect."Link is no longer active."
40 An interactive applet showing the spectral distribution of light due to "blackbody radiation." (Click and drag the thermometer bar up or down.)
41 Java applet that shows reflection and refraction at the boundary between water and air. You can select whether the light shines from the air or the water side of the boundary and the angle at which it is directed.
42 A brief tutorial on the reflection and refraction of light. Example problems with concave and convex mirrors are worked out.
43 This site provides example problems dealing with total internal reflection and lenses.
44 This page ("The Physics Classroom") covers the law of reflection using an animated graphic. Links to other pages of "The Physics Classroom" are provided.
45 The ray nature of light is used to explain how light refracts at planar and curved surfaces; Snell's law and refraction principles are used to explain a variety of real-world phenomena; refraction principles are combined with ray diagrams to explain why lenses produce images of objects.
46 The ray nature of light is used to explain how light reflects off of planar and curved surfaces to produce both real and virtual images; the nature of the images produced by plane, concave, and convex mirrors is thoroughly illustrated.
*47 This award-winning site is a list of links to virtual labs and simulations on the topics of reflection, refraction, dispersion, lens optics, and optics problems. "Link is no longer active."
48 In this simulation it is possible to examine reflection, refraction, and total internal reflection.
49 Links to animations, slide shows, text descriptions, and interactive labs on various topics of optics. Topics include image formation and ray tracing basics, reflection off concave and convex mirrors, image formation by a diverging mirror, and converging and diverging lens labs.
50 Speed of light in transparent materials�Explores the reduction in the speed of light as a function of refractive index in common substances
51 Fiber optics work by total internal reflection. This site explains fiber optics and their applications.
*52 Deals with Newton's corpuscular theory and Huygens' theory and proof the laws of reflection and refraction. Other topics include: interference, interference sources, and polarization with Malus' law."Link is no longer active."
*53 This applet is an attempt to explain the reflection and the refraction of waves by Huygens' principle."Link is no longer active."
54 Refraction of monochromatic light�Explores how changes to the incident angle and refractive index differential between two dissimilar media affect the refraction angle of monochromatic light at the interface
*55 Slide show that describes how diffraction occurs when light passes through a single slit "Link is no longer active."
56 This HowStuffWorks page explains how light microscopes work.
57 Lots of interesting information on how a telescope works, the various types of telescopes, and telescope mounts and accessories
58 This page answers the question of why CDs and soap bubbles reflect rainbow colors in terms of constructive and destructive interference.
*59 This is a series of pages that outlines how our understanding of the atom and its structure have evolved and the contributions of various scientists to this knowledge. "Link is no longer active."
60 This applet lets you build atoms by creating neutrons and protons and adding electrons. You must keep the particles balanced as you add them or you end up with radioactive isotopes or ions that go off to bond with other ions to form molecules.
61 The links on the right side of this page from the Hyper Physics website link to various pages related to topics such as the Bohr theory, quantum numbers, atomic structure, and atomic properties. You can explore these topics and more by linking to additional sites from these pages.
*62 Tutorial on development of the current atomic theory. There are practice questions throughout. "Link is no longer active."
63 This site on Physics 2000 discusses the formation of spectral lines.
64 Tutorial on lasers and how they work
65 A slide show on laser safety from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The first part covers laser basics.
66 A tutorial/quiz covering spontaneous emission, absorption, and stimulated emission
67 The critical angle of reflection�Explores the transition from refraction to total internal reflection as the angle of the incident wave is increased at constant refractive index
68 Refraction of light�Explores how changes to the incident angle and refractive index differential between two dissimilar media affect the refraction angle of light at the interface
69 An excellent piece on the quantum theory of the atom. It is also available as a printable version in Adobe Acrobat.
70 This links goes to a series of tutorials in which the viewer can see how lens shape affects lens action
71 Prism refraction�Explores how changes in the thickness and angle of incidence of a visible light beam affect how light is refracted by a prism
72 Eye accommodation�Explores how images are created on the retina of a human eye
73 Lasers�Explores how a ruby laser crystal works when excited by a xenon flash tube
74 Concave spherical mirrors�Explores how the size and location of an object's reflected image change as the object is moved nearer to or further from a mirror
75 Concave spherical mirrors (3-dimensional version)�Explores how moving a reflected object farther away from a mirror's center of curvature affects the size of the real image formed by the mirror
76 Convex spherical mirrors�Explores how moving a reflected object farther away from the mirror's surface affects the size of the virtual image formed behind the mirror
77 Convex spherical mirrors (3-dimensional version)�Explores how moving a reflected object farther away from the mirror's surface affects the size of the virtual image formed behind the mirror
78 Color temperature in a virtual radiator�Investigates the apparent "color" of a virtual radiator (in this case, a black metal pot) as it is slowly heated through a wide temperature range by external energy
79 Diffraction of light�Explores the diffraction of a monochromatic light beam through a slit of variable aperture
80 Line spacing calculations from diffraction gratings�Examines the effects of wavelength on the diffraction patterns produced by a virtual periodic line grating of fixed line spacing
81 Light emitting diodes�Explores how two dissimilar doped semiconductors can produce light when a voltage is applied to the junction region between the materials
82 Incandescent lamp filaments�Demonstrates the subatomic activity within a conducting incandescent lamp filament that results in resistance to current flow, and ultimately leads to the emission of infrared and visible light photons (with a corresponding rise in color temperature)
83 Electromagnetic wave propagation�Explores propagation of a virtual electromagnetic wave and considers the orientation of the magnetic and electric field vectors
84 Electron excitation and emission�Explores how photon energy is absorbed by an electron to elevate it into a higher energy level and how the energy can subsequently be released, in the form of a lower energy photon, when the electron falls back to the original ground state
85 Wave interactions in optical interference�Illustrates interference by considering a pair of light waves from the same source that are traveling together in parallel and can be adjusted with respect to coherency (phase relationship), amplitude, and wavelength
86 Interference phenomena in soap bubbles�Explores how the interference phenomenon of light reflected by a soap bubble changes as a function of film thickness
87 Thomas Young's double-slit experiment�Explores how coherent light waves interact when passed through two closely spaced slits
88 Interference between parallel light waves�Illustrates interference by considering a pair of light waves from the same source that are coherent and travel together in parallel
89 Complex waveforms and beat frequencies in superposed waves�Explores the complex waveforms and beat frequencies generated by the superposition of two light waves propagating in the same direction with different relative frequencies, amplitudes, and phases
90 Laser cavity resonance modes and gain bandwidth�Explores how varying the appropriate frequencies can alter curves describing the number of cavity modes and gain bandwidth of a laser
91 Laser energy levels�Explores metastable states for both three-level and four-level laser systems
92 Spontaneous and stimulated processes�Explores the concepts of spontaneous absorption and emission, as well as stimulated emission
93 Stimulated emission in a laser cavity�Explores how laser amplification occurs starting from spontaneous emission of the first photon to saturation of the laser cavity and the establishment of a formal equilibrium state
94 Argon-ion lasers�Explores the operation of argon-ion lasers
95 Diode lasers�Explores the properties of typical diode lasers and how specialized anamorphic prisms can be utilized for beam expansion
96 Ti:sapphire mode-locked lasers�Explores the operation of Ti:sapphire lasers over a broad range of near-infrared wavelengths with variable pulse widths and an adjustable applet speed control
97 Nd:YLF mode-locked pulsed lasers�Explores the operation of a Nd:YLF multi-pass slab laser side-pumped by two collimated diode-laser bars
98 Simple bi-convex thin lenses�Explores how changes to focal length and object size affect the size and position of the image formed by a simple thin lens
99 Simple magnification�Demonstrates how a simple, thin bi-convex magnifying lens works to produce a magnified virtual image on the retina
100 Magnification with a bi-convex lens�Explores how a simple bi-convex lens can be used to magnify an image
101 Image formation with converging lenses�Uses ray traces to explore how images are formed by the three primary types of converging lenses
102 Image formation with diverging lenses�Uses ray traces to explore how images are formed by the three primary types of diverging lenses
103 Geometrical construction of ray diagrams�Explores how two representative light rays can be used to locate size and position of an image
104 Perfect lens characteristics�Explores how light waves propagate through and are focused by a perfect lens
105 Radius and refractive index effects on lens action�Explores how variations in the refractive index and radius of a bi-convex lens affect the relationship between the object and the image produced by the lens
106 Absorption filters�Explores how absorption filters pass certain wavelengths of light while blocking others
107 Interference filters�Explores how interference filters operate by selectively transmitting constructively reinforced wavelengths while simultaneously eliminating unwanted light
108 Particle and wave reflection�Explores how particles and waves behave when reflected from a smooth surface
109 Particle and wave refraction�Explores how particle theory and wave theory account for refraction at an interference between two media
110 Particle and wave diffraction�Describes the different effects predicted by wave theory and particle theory for light passing the edge of a barrier
111 Brewster's angle�Demonstrates the polarization effect on light reflected at the Brewster angle from a transparent medium
112 Polarization of light�Explores the effect of rotating two polarizers on an incident beam of white light
113 Polarization of light (3-D version)�Explores the effects of two polarizers having adjustable transmission axes on an incident beam of white light, and enables the viewer to translate the optical train in three dimensions.
114 Common reflecting prisms�Explores image deviation, rotation, and displacement exhibited by common reflecting prisms
115 Right-angle prisms�Explores light reflection and image rotation, inversion, and reversion by a right-angle prism as a function of the prism orientation with respect to incident light
116 Refraction by an equilateral prism�Explores how the incident angle of white light entering the prism affects the degree of dispersion and the angles of light exiting the prism
117 Transmission and reflection by beamsplitters�Explores transmission and reflection of a light beam by three common beamsplitter designs
118 Dielectric plate beamsplitters�Describes how coated flat glass plates produce different transmission-to-reflection ratios
119 Reflection of light�Explores the incident and reflected angles of a single light wave impacting on a smooth surface
120 Specular and diffuse reflection�Explores how light waves are reflected by smooth and rough surfaces
121 Reflection and refraction with Huygens wavelets�Illustrates the reflection and refraction of light according to the multiple wavelet concept known as the Huygens' principle
122 Antireflection surface coatings�Explores various coatings and their reflectivities as a function of incident angle