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Optics II

2. Refraction and Reflection

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In this mini-lecture, we revisit refraction, focusing in particular on: (i) deriving Ibn Sahl’s Law of Refraction (also known as Snell’s Law); (ii) the critical angle, which occurs when the angle of the transmitted ray θt in a new medium is 90º from the normal; (iii) total internal reflection, which occurs when θt > 90º; (iv) how total internal reflection can be used to guide light, making optical fibres and optical networks possible; and (v) two exercises for students to try on their own.


In this course, Professor Charles Adams (Durham University) follows from his Optics I course and provides a more advanced account of optics. In the first mini-lecture, we discuss lenses, this time going into more depth by first deriving the thin lens equation and then looking at the additive property of the optical power of lenses. In the second mini-lecture, we revisit refraction, derive the Law of Ibn Sahl (also known as Snell’s Law), and introduce the concepts of the critical angle and total internal reflection. The third mini-lecture introduces the polarisation of light, including historical context on the development of polaroid sheets, as well as two demonstrations that involve light propagating through sugar syrup and a polaroid sheet. The fourth mini-lecture delves into the quantum aspects of light, introducing topics such as wave-particle duality, quantum technology, Young’s double slit experiment, the Heisenberg microscope, and complementarity.


Charles Adams is a Professor in the Department of Physics at Durham University. His principal research interests are in experimental quantum optics, in particular light-matter interactions in strongly-interacting atomic systems. He was the 2014 recipient of the Joseph Thomson Medal, awarded by the Institute of Physics (IOP) to those who have made distinguished contributions to atomic or molecular physics. In 2020, he was awarded the Holweck Prize by the French Physical Society and the IOP for pioneering work in quantum optics. Professor Adams is also a co-author of the optics textbook Optics f2f: From Fourier to Fresnel (2018).

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APA style

Adams, C. (2022, January 12). Optics II - Refraction and Reflection [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Adams, Charles. "Optics II – Refraction and Reflection." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 12 Jan 2022,

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