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Math requirements for Optics

  1. Jan 16, 2012 #1
    My physics dept offers an optics class with the following descriptive summary:

    Geometric optics, periodic and non-periodic waves; Doppler effect; interference and diffraction, diffraction gratings; theory of polarization of light; fiber optics and introduction to lasers

    It says the math you need is just calc sequence through multivariable calc, and only part of vector calc, not all of it.

    My physics program doesn't require a linear algebra course, so i don't trust them. is there any other math i should know of that i'll need for undergrad optics, given the topics listed above? thanks

    also does anyone know of a good undergrad optics text? thanks
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 18, 2012 #2


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    You'll probably fall over Bessel function in diffraction. Some electromagnetic theory might also help. I think you should do fine with the math you listed.
    A very good undergraduate textbook for Optics: Hecht's "Optics". I think it covers all what you listed (small doubt about lasers but I'm 96.7% sure it covers it a bit at least).
  4. Jan 18, 2012 #3
    I recommend some basic linear algebra, especially matrix multiplication, in addition to the listed mathematical prerequisites. Then you should be set. :)
  5. Jan 18, 2012 #4
    Thanks to you and all who replied. Do you mean though intro E&M or is it better to take advanced E&M before optics?
  6. Jan 18, 2012 #5
    You'll need to know how to multiply matrices for polarization problems, Fourier series and transforms, basic surface integral in polar coordinates, and some idea of Bessel functions for all the non-geometric optics. For geometric optics a solid command of the sine theorem, basic trig etc. is sufficient. You should know all the basics of EM theory and EM waves though, that will help.

    Hecht seems to be the standard, but I'd go with whatever your professor basis his notes off of.
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