What is optics

Optics, which comes from the Latin òptica and the Greek optike (téchnē) ‘(art), is the art of making instruments that aid vision; it is that part of physics dealing with the phenomena of light.

Optics deals with what are called optical phenomena, not only to explain them but also to obtain experimental results that enable it to grow as a phenomenological and modelling discipline. There are three branches of optics: geometrical optics, physical optics, and quantum optics. Physical optics is the branch of optics that studies the phenomena of interference, diffraction, polarization of light. It embraces all those phenomena for which the simplifying assumptions of geometric optics are not valid, but where it is necessary to resort to the description of the wave nature of light as electromagnetic radiation. For this reason, optics is also considered a branch of electromagnetism, which describes the behaviour and properties of light and its interaction with matter (photometry).

Fields of application

Optics studies the behaviour of radiation at visible, infrared, and ultraviolet frequencies; however, similar phenomena are encountered in the frequencies of X-rays, microwaves, radio waves (or radio frequencies), and other ranges of electromagnetic radiation. Optics, however, constitutes a rather separate field from the physics communities; it possesses its own identity. The more strictly scientific aspects of the field are often subsumed under the terms Optical Science or Optical Physics, which nevertheless have marked interdisciplinary features with optical engineering, electrical engineering, physics, psychology, and medicine. The field of the optometric optician is an auxiliary art of the health professions. Optometric opticians possess skills in optics, optometry, contact lenses, and ophthalmology. They are familiar with the technical characteristics of optical instruments, and know how to use the equipment needed to measure visual acuity and to correct visual impairments, as well as the machinery used for cutting and grinding lenses. They are also able to use information technology tools to aid their work and to store and manage patients’ visual data.