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Light ray simulator? Snell's law/refraction

  1. Nov 1, 2014 #1
    I would like to simulate a light ray hitting and refracting through a transparent freeform shape.

    Any advice on software which will do this easily? I want to just draw the shape, point the light at it, and see where the beam goes.

  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 2, 2014 #2


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    You seem to be after a ray tracing program. The light from your light source can be treated as a set of parallel rays and they will all follow different paths through the system, sometimes becoming diffused and sometimes being focussed etc.. There have been many such programs written and they work using a step by step (piecewise linear) model. Ray tracing is used to model all kinds of wave propagation and Wiki discusses the basics.
    It wouldn't be too hard to write your own - if you are familiar with programming in almost any language. When I started life as a broadcast engineer, I was involved with a program that traced the progress of radio waves through the ionosphere, for predicting levels of received signals. A piece of cake, these days, for fast computer but a real slog for an old Elliot 803.

    Oh look - I just found this!
  4. Nov 2, 2014 #3
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