Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravaganza! – Day 18
by David Ng
IMAGES IN CHRISTMAS BALLS: A.K.A. CRAZY OPTICS CALCULATIONS
By Eef van Beveren, Frieder Kleefeld, George Rupp | pdf
ABSTRACT: We describe light-reflection properties of spherically curved mirrors, like balls in the Christmas tree. In particular, we study the position of the image which is formed somewhere beyond the surface of a spherical mirror, when an eye observes the image of a pointlike light source. The considered problem, originally posed by Abu Ali Hasan Ibn al-Haitham — alias Alhazen — more than a millennium ago, turned out to have the now well known analytic solution of a biquadratic equation, being still of great relevance, e.g. for the aberration-free construction of telescopes. We do not attempt to perform an exhaustive survey of the rich historical and engineering literature on the subject, but develop a simple pedagogical approach to the issue, which we believe to be of continuing interest in view of its maltreating in many high-school textbooks.
(see more of Popperfont’s Sciencegeek Advent Calendar Extravanganza here)