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Optics Rapid Review for AP Physics B

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Feb 12, 2011

For a more thorough review, refer to these concepts:

Rapid Review

  • Snell's law describes how the direction of a light beam changes as it goes from a material with one index of refraction to a material with a different index of refraction.
  • When light is directed at or beyond the critical angle, it cannot pass from a material with a high index of refraction to one with a low index of refraction; instead, it undergoes total internal reflection.
  • When solving a problem involving a plane mirror, remember (1) the image is upright (it is a virtual image); (2) the magnification equals 1; and (3) the image distance equals the object distance.
  • When solving a problem involving a spherical mirror, remember (1) incident rays parallel to the principal axis reflect through the focal point; (2) incident rays going through the focal point reflect parallel to the principal axis; (3) points on the same side of the mirror as the object are a positive distance from the mirror, and points on the other side are a negative distance from the mirror; and (4) the lensmaker's equation (also called the mirror equation in this case) holds.
  • When solving problems involving a convex lens, remember (1) incident rays parallel to the principal axis refract through the far focal point; (2) incident rays going through the near focal point refract parallel to the principal axis; and (3) the lensmaker's equation holds, and f is positive.
  • When solving problems involving a concave lens, remember (1) incident rays parallel to the principal axis refract as if they came from the near focal point; (2) incident rays going toward the far focal point refract parallel to the principal axis; and (3) the lensmaker's equation holds with a negative f.
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