We present a method for computing ray-based approximations to optical fields that not only offers unprecedented accuracy but is also accompanied by accessible error estimates. The basic elements of propagation through smooth media, refraction and reflection at interfaces, and diffraction by obstacles give the foundations for the new framework, and the first of these is treated here. The key in each case is that the wave field and any relevant derivatives are expressed consistently as a superposition of delocalized ray contributions. In this way, the mysteries surrounding the sometimes perplexing tenaciousness of ray-based estimates are clearly resolved. Further, an essential degree of freedom in this approach offers an attractive resolution of part of the apparent conflict of particle/wave duality.
© 2001 Optical Society of America
(000.3860) General : Mathematical methods in physics
(080.2710) Geometric optics : Inhomogeneous optical media
(080.2720) Geometric optics : Mathematical methods (general)
(350.7420) Other areas of optics : Waves
G. W. Forbes and M. A. Alonso, "Using rays better. I. Theory for smoothly varying media," J. Opt. Soc. Am. A 18, 1132-1145 (2001)