Fall 2020 - PHYS 455 D100

Modern Optics (3)

Class Number: 1031

Delivery Method: Remote


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo, We, Fr 10:30 AM – 11:20 AM

  • Instructor:

    John Bechhoefer
    Office Hours: W 11:30 AM – 12:20 PM, or by appointment
  • Prerequisites:

    PHYS 321 with a minimum grade of C-. Corequisite: PHYS 385.



Optical physics, including geometrical and physical optics, waves in anisotropic media, coherence, image formation and Fourier optics, guided wave optics and selected advanced topics such as lasers, nonlinear optics, photonics and quantum optics. Quantitative.


The primary purpose of tutorials will be for you to practice problem solving, which can include in-class problems and discussion of assigned problems.

Topic Sequence
• Historical introduction and review of basic wave phenomena
• Geometrical optics
• Fourier analysis
• Electromagnetic waves
• Polarization and anisotropic media
• Diffraction
• Interferometry
• Introduction to lasers and laser beams
• Coherence
• Imaging and (super)-resolution

Course Objectives

Optics is a vast field, and it will be impossible for you to master it all in a one-semester course. Some of the primary objectives of this course are as follows:
• Given an optical instrument, experiment, or phenomenon, you should be able to identify the optical principles that are relevant to its understanding, and articulate them in mathematical language.
• Given an application, you should be able to design an optical system to address it.
• You should be able to describe how light interacts with matter, and discuss the consequences of this interaction.
• You should be able to discuss the consequences of optical polarization and coherence, and predict how these properties of light affect the behavior of simple optical systems. You should be able to predict interference and diffraction patterns.
• You should possess working knowledge of Fourier analysis and its associated mathematical machinery; that is, you should be able to calculate Fourier integrals, convolutions, and correlation functions, and know how to use these tools for predicting optical phenomena.
• You should be able to use mathematics, including analytical, approximate, and numerical methods, to reason about optical phenomena. Also, your physical understanding of optics should help you reason about mathematics.

Mode of teaching:
Lecture: synchronous
Tutorial: synchronous
Midterm(s): oral; date: TBA
Final exam: oral; date: TBA (Final exam period is Dec 9-20)


  • Assignments 30%
  • Midterms (2x20%) (oral (X2) dates TBD) 40%
  • Final Exam (oral, date TBA) 30%


• Due Fridays at the start of class.
• Partial credit (−20% deduction) for work handed in by Monday class. The rules apply to individual problems (those handed in at the usual time get full credit).

Course Website
The course website is at http://canvas.sfu.ca
Once you have logged on to the Canvas site with your usual SFU computing ID and password, you should see a link to this course. Please contact me if you do not.



A. Lipson, S. G. Lipson, and H. Lipson
Optical Physics 4th edition
An electronic version is also available electronically through the library. As access is limited to eight simultaneous users,
please log out when you are finished.

*Students can purchase textbooks from online retailers if e-book not available at SFU Bookstore.

Other resources:
At a similar level:
E. Hecht, Optics
F. L. Pedrotti, L. M. Pedrotti, L. .S Pedrotti, Introduction to Optics.
(Very) advanced:
M. Born and E. Wolf: Principles of Optics.

• Reliable high-speed internet access
• Computer with webcam and microphone
• Tablet with stylus input and/or smartphone with camera
• Canvas with Blackboard Collaborate Ultra, via SFU licence
• Zoom app, via SFU licence

Department Undergraduate Notes:

Students who cannot write their exam during the course's scheduled exam time must request accommodation from their instructor in writing, clearly stating the reason for this request, before the end of the first week of classes.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in fall 2020 will be conducted primarily through remote methods. There will be in-person course components in a few exceptional cases where this is fundamental to the educational goals of the course. Such course components will be clearly identified at registration, as will course components that will be “live” (synchronous) vs. at your own pace (asynchronous). Enrollment acknowledges that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes. To ensure you can access all course materials, we recommend you have access to a computer with a microphone and camera, and the internet. In some cases your instructor may use Zoom or other means requiring a camera and microphone to invigilate exams. If proctoring software will be used, this will be confirmed in the first week of class.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need class or exam accommodations, including in the current context of remote learning, are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112).