Using Color to Understand Light Transmission

Historically, physicists and engineers have always portrayed wave transmission using line diagrams in which the amplitude is shown as a function of time and distance. This sort of drawing tells us what is happening to the wave amplitude. However, waves are characterized by their phase as well as their amplitude, and these drawings tell us nothing about the phase evolution. The advent of modern computers with color monitors and inexpensive color printers allows us to solve this problem in a visually appealing way by using a periodic color map to portray phase information. We can also portray information about the local frequency, the phase derivative respect to time, using an aperiodic color map. We apply this approach to study light propagation in optical fibers.

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