Optical engineering calculations can benefit greatly from the use of computer
simulation and visualization software. A wide range of commercial software is
available for nearly all needed optics calculations, including ray tracing, wavefront propagation, thin film calculators, and much more. Many of these programs include features that go well beyond what is generally needed to perform calculations, and this sophistication can drive up the price of these packages.
Gaining the ability to develop simple simulators can also be part of the educational process of learning optical engineering. Writing computer simulators can enhance a student’s understanding of the physics that underlies the equations, and subtleties expressed in the equations can be more easily observed. These programming skills provide the capability to change how the results are viewed, and sophisticated visualization software can provide new insight into how an optical system actually performs.
This chapter focuses on geometrical optics and introduces the basics of paraxial imaging. It will provide insight into how to begin writing simple simulation and visualization computer code for ray-transfer matrices, ray tracing, and imaging. The chapter closes with some basic glass equations describing optical dispersion. The presented material builds on the skills acquired in the previous chapters of this book. We will start by looking at the Lensmaker’s equation for object–image relationships and then move to using these in the ray-transfer matrix formalism. Finally, we will look at how to estimate and interpolate the index of refraction of glasses from a few data points.
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