Home Page of the Lectures "PHYS 3300 / AEP 3300: Modern Experimental Optics", Fall 2010

Georg Hoffstaetter

(607)255-5197, 120 Newman Lab, Georg.Hoffstaetter@cornell.edu
(607)254-8981, 226 Wilson Lab, www.lepp.cornell.edu/~hoff
Teaching Assistant: David Bernat, (917) 825-7193, 226 Space Science Building, dwb29@cornell.edu

Literature Dates
Quizzes and Final Exam
Academic Integrity

Fr 08/ 27/ 2010 110 Clark Hall
First lecture
08/ 30/ 2010
405 Clark Hall
First laboratory

10/ 09 - 10/ 12 No lab on 10/12
Fall break
12/ 01/ 2010 405 Clark Hall Last laboratory
12/ 03/ 2010
110 Clark Hall
Last lecture
TBD TBD, 14:00-16:30 405 Clark Hall (Optics Lab) Final exam
Mo 13:25 - 16:25 405 Clark Hall
13:25 - 16:25 405 Clark Hall
12:20 - 13:10 110 Clark Hall

Before new experiment

Lab reports due
Any day please schedule 120 Newman Lab Office hours, Prof. Hoffstaetter
We 12:20-13:20 226 Space Sciences Office hours, TA


Related material:


The following 5 subjects will be covered. A laboratory report has to be produced for each one of them. Tables 2, 4, 6 will perform experiment 2 when the other tables are working on experiment 1, similarly experiments 3/4 and 5/6 are exchanged between these tables.

1) Reflection and Refraction

All tables: To work on during 08/30/2010-09/15/2010 for table 1, 3, 5.
As preparation, read Hecht chapter 4, especially section 4.3, 4.4, 4.5, 4.6 and 4.7, and of course read the lab manual for experiment 1.

2) Polarized Light

All tables: To work on during 09/20/2010-09/29/2010 for table 1, 3, 5.
As preparation, read Hecht chapter 4, especially section 4.6 and chapter 8, especially section 8.1, 8.2, 8.3, 8.4, 8.5, 8.6, and 8.7, and of course read the lab manual for experiment 2.

3) Geometrical Optics

All tables: To work on during 10/04/2010-10/20/2010 for table 1, 3, 5.
As preparation, read Hecht chapter 5, especially section 5.1 to 5.5, and of course read the lab manual for experiment 2.

4) Interference

All tables: To work on during 10/25/2010-11/03/2010 for table 1, 3, 5.

5) Fresnel vs. Fraunhofer Diffraction and Fourier Optics

To work on during 11/08/2010-11/24/2010 for table 1, 3, 5..

6) One experiment of your choice

All tables: To work on during 11/29/2010-12/01/2010 for table 1, 3, 5.

Some comments for class and lab:

08/27/2010: 1st class - Today you will learn the importance of careful and clean experimental science, and the significance of an experiment's uncertainty. A presentation about uncertainty analysis was shown in this and the following class.
08/30/2010: 1st lab session - Today you will identify the provided equipment, complete the equipment inventory, and align the laser on your optical bench. You will then start to set up experiment 1 (for odd table numbers) and 2 (for even table numbers).
09/01/2010: 2nd lab session - Today you will align your laser carefully and think which effects limit the uncertainty of your measurement. And then design an experiment that reduces the dominant error as much as possible. For experiment 2 it will turn out that the laser intensity is the most limiting quantity. On the board you will learn why the laser intensity is unstable, why it is even more unstable after a polarizer, and how to reduce the uncertainty in spite of the fluctuating laser intensity. For that, you observe the intensity fluctuation during the measurement of each data point, and recored the data point at the maximal laser intensity.

Lab report

The structure of your lab report should follow these guidelines:

   1. Title
   2. Author
   3. Abstract
         1. Describing the goal of the experiment
         2. The method used for achieving it
         3. A short summary of the results
         4. A list of especially interesting findings
   4. Introduction
         1. Describing the background of the topic being investigated. Why is the goal of the experiment of interest?
         2. How have similar measurements been done in the past, why is it done again here?
         3. Include general theory, meaning theory that does not only apply to your experiment. For experiment 1, for example, the introduction should mention Snell's law.
   5. Theory
         1. Review of the theory that is used in the experiment. Here you should use some judgment on whether a theory is very general and should be in the introduction, or whether it is more special to the experiment, and should therefore be in this section. The theory of Fresnel's equations is general and should be in the introduction. Brewster's angle is a corollary of that theory and could therefore also be in the introduction. However, you could also take the view that it is the specific corollary that you use for experiment 2, and you could therefore put it into this theory section.
         2. Derivation of general formulas that will be used. For experiment 1C, for example, this would include the derivation of how n is related to the minimum angle of refraction. For experiment 2, for example, the last equation in the manual with tan over sin to get the difference between the phase advances in the overhead transparency should be derived here. But as I said in class, it might be a challenge to derive it without help, so you do not have to include a derivation. For this time, just reference the lab manual. But describe well which angles have to be used in for this formula.
   6. Experimental setup and results
         1. Graph of setup. For experiment 1C, for example, you could describe how the prism is mounted and how you measured the minimum angle.
         2. Quantities measured'
         3. Sources of errors
         4. Data and their errors in graphs
         5. Data evaluation leading to the measurement result and its error estimate
         6. Error analysis. Complex formulas for the error analysis should be in an appendix
   7. Conclusion
         1. Summary of results
         2. List of especially interesting findings
         3. Suggestion of improvements or how to continue the work
   8. Acknowledgments

Example paper

Quizzes and Final Exam

Before you can start your experiment, you have to read the relevant sections of this manual and of the textbook by Hecht. Then you have to pass a short oral quiz in the laboratory. Furthermore you must hand in the report of your previous experiment. The final exam covers the material that was covered in class as well as the experiments.

Auxiliary material for the final exam

1. One handwritten page of formulas
2. No computers, but calculators
3. No lab manual
4. Book: Optics by Hecht
5. No cell phones


Prerequisite physics courses at Cornell: Physics 214 or Physics 218

List of math courses at Cornell.
Mathematical topics that will be useful for this laboratory: Complex functions, Taylor Series, Vectors, Fourier Series, Linear algebra.


The laboratory reports are due before a new experiment can be started. They account for 85% of the grade. The lab reports are due one week after the completion of the experiment. The grade of unexcused late reports will be reduced by 10% per week. The final exam is worth 15%. Each laboratory report will be graded according to the following scheme: Each experiment will be separated into 5 sub-experiments, and for each sub-experiment 4 points can be obtained for "Theory", "Experimental Description", Data Taking", and "Evaluation." In addition 10 points can be obtained for "Performance in the lab" and for "Quality of the Report." This sums up to 100 points per report.

Academic integrity

Academic Integrity is mandatory.

Basic principle: Do not pretend that the work or ideas of others are your own.
1) You may discuss the experiments with others.
2) You have to credit documents or people if you have used their ideas.
3) You may not copy equations, derivations, or text from other laboratory reports.

Send comments to G. H. Hoffstaetter

Last Update: 08-04-2010