Light Has a Brain | NYU SPS Physics Talk
Light has a fascinating property: it always travels the path that takes the least time between any two points. This is the motivating property behind optical phenomena such as reflection and refraction. The unreasonable economic efficiency of light is captured by a single proposition: the principle of least action (PLA) in optics. Unlike reflection and refraction, which emerge from optimizing a one-dimensional function, the PLA emerges from optimizing an infinite-dimensional functional. The PLA can be difficult for students to comprehend, as the formulation of the Lagrangian is often left unexplained. To this end, this paper presents various simulations to demonstrate the action principle, including a numerical solution to a generalization of the brachistochrone problem to an arbitrary refractive profile.
Refath Bari is a Physics BS student at CCNY. His numerical solution of the generalized Brachistochrone problem was published in the peer-reviewed journal The Physics Teacher. Refath is an exoplanet researcher under Dr. Amit Levi, Senior Lecturer at the Braude College of Engineering and former Harvard CfA research scientist. Their work on Nitrogen in Water Worlds will be presented at Vilnius University in November 2023. Previously, he was an AI Researcher at the Meriles Lab at CCNY under Prof. Carlos Meriles. He has recently independently solved a variation of the moving mirrors problem. His solution is currently under peer review at The Astronomical Journal.