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What Are the Three Types of Optics? Your Official Optics Guide

by Byrne Anderson
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When you think of optics, what does your mind conjure? Do you think of camera lenses and their myriad effects? Of the scope on a military rifle? Of the corrective lenses allowing the seventy-five percent of people who need vision correction to see?

The scientific field of optics covers these elements and many more through its two major subtypes. What are these subtypes, and how do they affect the study of light and vision? Here’s what you need to know.

What Is the Science of Optics, Anyway?

The science of optics is, in essence, the study of light itself. It studies how light bends and moves, interacting with the objects around it. While once the field used to refer to how light interacted with the eye and its internal mechanisms alone, it has since expanded.

Understanding the Three Types of Optics Studies

The study of optics is divided into three primary fields. The types of optics studies include physical optics, geometric optics, and quantum optics. What does each field entail? Here’s what you should know.

Understanding Physical Optics

Physical optics is the study of light in waveforms. It deals with the study of light itself, and how it behaves in its natural form, when not affected by the outside environment.

Understanding Geometric Optics

Geometric optics, on the other hand, considers light as a series of rays. Geometric optics looks at the light-bending and image-forming abilities of lenses, mirrors, and cameras.

Understanding Quantum Optics

Quantum optics is by far the most esoteric of the fields. It looks as light as a series of particles that behave in specific patterns resembling rays or waves depending on the circumstance. This concept is known as wave-particle duality.

What Are the Applications of Optics?

Now that you understand the different types of optics, you may wonder what their practical applications are in the field. Of the three, geometric optics sees the most use in our day to day lives, as the science behind lenses, cameras, rifle scopes, and other types of optical lenses like those offered on this homepage.

Physical optics also plays a role in how the cameras we use every single day work to take in the images around them. Without an understanding of this field, we wouldn’t know how to make use of light interference effects like diffraction, interference, or polarization.

Lastly, quantum optics has major implications on our understanding more complicated physics and molecular systems. Without quantum optics, the study of fields like quantum physics would prove impossible. This would halt the advance of technologies like space travel and molecular biology.

Let’s Get Back to Basics

Let’s take a moment to review what we’ve learned about the types of optics. The study of physical, geometric, and quantum optics has allowed for the evolution of visual technologies to astounding heights. If you’re curious about this topic and want to learn more about the study of optics, then check out our blog. We update each day with more helpful and informative articles like this one!

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