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Society Investigating Mathematical
November 1997 Feature Presentation
Department of Mathematics
Wave Propagation and the Formation of Caustics
Antonio Sa Barreto
West Lafayette, IN 47907,
In this lecture we will discuss one example of a mathematical problem which
arises in the theory of geometric optics.
When light passes through, or is reflected by, a smooth surface, the image
formed is in general a surface with singularities, that is, kinks or corners.
These singularities are called caustics.
There is a classical
example of a cusp formed in a tea cup, which we hope we can demonstrate.
We will state the general mathematical question, but we will concentrate our
discussion on this particular example.
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