The Optics of Life: A Biologist's Guide to Light in Nature

Sönke Johnsen

Optics—the field of physics focusing on the study of light—is central to many areas of biology including vision, ecology, botany, animal behavior, neurobiology, and molecular biology. In his book, the Duke biologist introduces the fundamentals of optics to both biologists and non-physicists, giving them the tools they need to successfully incorporate optical measurements and principles into their research.

Starting with the basics, Johnsen describes the properties of light and the units and geometry of measurement before exploring how light is created and propagates and how it interacts with matter, covering topics such as absorption, scattering, fluorescence, and polarization. The book features a host of examples drawn from nature and everyday life, and several appendixes that offer further practical guidance for researchers. This concise book uses a minimum of equations and jargon, explaining the basic physics of light in a succinct and lively manner.