Friday, March 3, 2017


Once upon a time I went to college, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute to be precise, where I studied Physics (BS '82). Which only partly explains my fascination with light and optical phenomena in nature.

The other part is that I like colors.

In my last post I noted that the rays shooting out of the sun were an artifact of the camera and not, sadly, actually in the sky. Here is a shot showing those rays in all their glory, taken at the same time as some of the sundogs highlighted in that post. A diffraction effect caused by the lens diaphragm.

Next we have thin film interference.

First, condensation inside my supposedly waterproof binoculars. While pretty it is not something I want to see. Nope, not at all.

And here we have a natural film, perhaps a layer of iron hydroxide, on the water surface of a bog in the New Jersey Pinelands. Often thought of as pollution it is rather natural abstract art.

Next a couple of examples of "kitchen optics", optical phenomena involving everyday things. Here two plastic cups exhibiting birefringence.

The one above actually in my kitchen, that below on the desk in my office at work.

The effect is often difficult to photograph as it is very sensitive to viewing angle. Much easier to observe and enjoy with the naked eye then to line up with a camera lens.

Next some prism effects, light refracting, first in glass, as in the next three images below. Specifically, the glass patterns in the doors of our home.

The shapes and sizes change based on the time of day, time of year, both of which determine the angle in which the sunlight enters the glass, as well as the shape of the glass the light is passing through.

And of course the shape of the surface the light lands on.

And the last two of light refracted and reflected in water droplets.

Above we have an intentionally out of focus droplet to highlight the colors, here in the Roy G. Biv sequence.

And below, well I'm not sure exactly what is going on, as the colors from top to bottom appear to be green, violet, then blue, which is out of the standard sequence.

And we finish up with a light bulb in a car parked next to mine one day.

I think this is another thin film effect. What I don't know if it is intentional.

While I have an understanding of the physics involved in producing these colorful effects I still find it magical when I come upon them. I hope you find them a bit magical as well, and keep a look out for them as you go out about.

No comments: