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av Eugene Hecht

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Describes the wonders of light and optics, exploring such developments as lasers, fiber optics, and holography.

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I had a course on Optics in my first year in University with this book. The book has lots of examples and is very “wordy”. I suspect the author hoped to make it a reference as well as a study book. The number of photos in “Optics” is unusually high for a Physics book. I wouldn’t mind if some of those were colour photos, but then again it would have made the book less affordable. Topics include:

Mathematics of Waves
Geometrical Optics

Overall, I would say that this was a good book. Ideal for people who prefer long explanations. ( )
  IvanIdris | Jan 2, 2012 |
I loathed this book when I was an undergraduate student, more so than any textbook I've ever encountered before or since. And what do you know? Reading it again, sixteen years later, I loathe it just as much. This was the book that instilled in me a hatred of everything and anything to do with optics, a hatred that persists to this day.

It is the very fact that I hate optics so much that had me reading this book again. I figured that if I were to try to learn optics again, this time more successfully, perhaps the best way to start was to return to where it all first went wrong, to go over Hecht & Zajac again to see what they say, evaluate it in the light of the the current older, more knowledgeable me, and remember the points they cover for comparison when I read a subsequent text.

Just what is it that makes this book so very bad?
+ Any textbook can have convoluted physical explanations that make no sense.
+ Likewise any textbook can include plodding mathematical explanations that get so worn down explaining basic and trivial points that by the time you reach their end you've forgotten what the goal was.
+ Any textbook author can devote no time whatsoever to such pedagogical basics as making sure the material is ordered so that everything builds on what came before, and that a thorough overview is presented before the details are covered, of just what we are about to do and why.

H&Z cover these basics with aplomb, but they manage to include two far more vicious pathologies.

The first, usually only found in quantum mechanics textbooks, is the historical pathology; they are so in love with the history of optics that they are unwilling to ever explain anything in modern (which usually means Maxwellian) terms when they could explain it in some alternative fashion involving some historical picture from 1820 or 1840 or whatever. The result is that instead of a coherent description of optics as Maxwell's equations followed by a long sequence of teasing out the consequences of the equations, we see a constant hodge-podge of different theoretical models throughout the book, each appropriate to its particular problem and little else.
Don't get me wrong; I like history as much as (probably rather more so) than the next physicist, but I want a textbook on optics to teach me the optics; I'll learn the history from my history of optics book. We don't teach mechanics or heat or EM this way, and for good reason; and the fact that we teach QM this way is a disgrace, a blot on the profession.

The second H&Z pathology is specific to their text alone, and it is that they cannot get it through their thick skulls that they are writing a general optics textbook, not a (very poor) reference manual, nor an experimentalist's handbook. The text is littered with bizarre asides about how to view the issue just discussed in some variant fashion, the point of which, to anyone who is not an expert, is completely mystifying.
It's cruel of me to say so, but I'll do it anyway: these inclusions seem very much to come across as a form of insecure boasting, a way of saying, "you think you're better than me? you think so? well what do you know about xyz's paper in 1963? do you know how to modify the theory of geometrical optics so as to give results just like standard diffraction theory? no --- I thought so."

If you can, in any way whatsoever, avoid this book.
Read anything else at all to learn about optics. Dover must have a dozen books on Optics, each a tenth of the price of this garbage, yet far more worthwhile. ( )
1 rösta name99 | Nov 13, 2006 |
One of the best introductory text on optics. This popular book laid down fundamentals of classical optics in globs that can be consumed easily. And the illustrations are very good. ( )
  chrisada | Oct 28, 2005 |
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It was a dark hour indeed.
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This is a textbook. NOT a Schaum's Outline. Do not combine them.
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Describes the wonders of light and optics, exploring such developments as lasers, fiber optics, and holography.

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