OSA's Digital Library

Journal of the Optical Society of America

Journal of the Optical Society of America

  • Vol. 66, Iss. 1 — Jan. 1, 1976
  • pp: 1–8

Descartes, Newton, and Snell’s law

W. B. Joyce and Alice Joyce  »View Author Affiliations


JOSA, Vol. 66, Issue 1, pp. 1-8 (1976)
http://dx.doi.org/10.1364/JOSA.66.000001


View Full Text Article

Acrobat PDF (1206 KB)





Browse Journals / Lookup Meetings

Browse by Journal and Year


   


Lookup Conference Papers

Close Browse Journals / Lookup Meetings

Article Tools

Share
Citations

Abstract

Descartes’ insightful derivation of Snell’s law is translated into English and seen to be largely equivalent to the mechanical-particle or corpuscular derivation often attributed to Newton (who was seven years old at Descartes’ death). Such mechanical theories of refraction are now widely held to yield unphysical results for light, and thus to constitute clear evidence that light cannot consist of classical particles, and must therefore be classical waves or else a quantum-mechanical phenomenon. We show that this evidence is illusory and derives only from confusion of momentum with velocity. An alternate operational formulation of the law of refraction, which applies to any type of reversibly propagating energy, including light and material particles, is summarized. It thus follows that the principal modern reason for rejecting a classical-particle or corpuscular description of light (speed change upon refraction) is unfounded and that such a description is actually possible and useful.

© 1976 Optical Society of America

Citation
W. B. Joyce and Alice Joyce, "Descartes, Newton, and Snell’s law," J. Opt. Soc. Am. 66, 1-8 (1976)
http://www.opticsinfobase.org/josa/abstract.cfm?URI=josa-66-1-1

You do not have subscription access to this journal. Citation lists with outbound citation links are available to subscribers only. You may subscribe either as an OSA member, or as an authorized user of your institution.

Contact your librarian or system administrator
or
Log in to access OSA Member Subscription

You do not have subscription access to this journal. Cited by links are available to subscribers only. You may subscribe either as an OSA member, or as an authorized user of your institution.

Contact your librarian or system administrator
or
Log in to access OSA Member Subscription

Next Article »

OSA is a member of CrossRef.

CrossCheck Deposited