PHY 112: Light, Color and Vision -- Spring 2012

An introduction to the modern understanding of light, color, and vision, primarily for non-science majors and especially beneficial to students majoring in visual arts or theatre. Topics include the nature of light; the human eye and vision; illusions, color perception, and color theory; optical instruments; the camera and photography; optical phenomena in the atmosphere (mirages, rainbows, halos); and light in modern physics (relativity, lasers). Not for major credit.



PHY 112 is a three credit course. There two in-class midterms, and a final.

  1. Class Meetings: TT 12:50pm to 2:10pm in Earth & Space Sciences 079. The lecture plan and reading assignments can be found on the course schedule. The lecture notes will not be made available.

  2. Homework: Homework assignments will be assigned most weeks and should be completed by the next Tuesday. It will be available from the web page. The homeworks will give you an indication of what sort of questions to expect on the midterms. I encourage students to collaborate on their homework, but you should do your own work.

  3. Midterms: Midterms will take place in the usual class room. The first midterm is Thursday, February 23. The second midterm is Thursday, March 29.

  4. Final: 2:15 pm to 4:45 pm on Thursday, May 10, 2012

  5. Grading: Homework: 20%, Midterms 40% and Final 40%.


Seeing the Light, Falk, Brill, and Stork, Wiley (1986)

The course text book I have been using is getting difficult to get and is very expensive (more than $100). It's also quite out of date. Unfortunately, I haven't found a new book covering exactly the same material, but "Physics in the Arts" by Gilbert and Haeberli is close. While it doesn't cover every topic, you can use it as a replacement for "Seeing the Light".

Contact Information

Prof. Clark McGrew




Physics D-134



The exams will cover any material discussed in lecture or the book sections indicated in the course schedule. Each exam will be cumulative in the sense that you will be responsible for information covered in previous exams. However, the second midterm will focus primarily on information covered after the first midterm, and the final exam will have some emphasis on material covered after the second midterm, although the whole course will be covered.

The exams will emphasis basic principles over memorization, but will be closed book.

You should bring a pen/pencil and a hand-held calculator capable of doing basic arithmetic to the exam. Replacement calculators will not be provided, and you may not share a calculator during an exam. If your calculator does not work or you forgot to bring one you will have to complete the exam with out using a calculator.

Notebooks computers or hand-held devices with more than 2MB of memory, devices with infrared ports or any other communication options (beepers, cell phones, buzzers, etc.) are not allowed. If you have a question about a particular calculator, ask.

I expect no communication between students on the exams. Any evidence of cheating will be reported to the academic hearing officer and will also result in a stiff grade penalty. Leaving the exam room is by permission only. The text of the exam may not leave the room before the exam is over. (After the exam is over you are encouraged to take home the text and review it.)

The graded exams will be returned to you following the exam date. The solutions to the exam problems will be discussed during the same session. You may want to make notes on your exam during the discussion. You should use a writing instrument that is markedly different from the pen/pencil used during the exam. It must be emphasized, any marks made on the exam after it has been returned must be made in a clearly different pen/pencil. If an exam is returned for regrading with modifications that are not clearly indicated it could be counted as cheating and dealt with appropriately

Absences, make-ups

If you know in advance that you cannot take a midterm (scheduled medical procedure, etc.), let me know at least two weeks before the exam. A make-up exam will be arranged for you one week before the regular exam time, covering the same material as the regular exam. No make-up exams will be offered for unexpected absences, however, you will not be penalized for an excused absence.


I make mistakes, and want you to help me to correct them. If you feel comfortable simply bringing it to my attention, that is the best way to fix a problem. If for some reason you are uncomfortable, you can anonymously raise the complaint with the undergraduate coordinator in the main physics office (Diane Diaferia, 2-8100).

Web Page Addresses Check out this page from time to time for course announcements, grades etc.

Required Statements

Americans with Disabilities Act:

If you have a physical, psychological, medical, or learning disability that may affect your course work, please contact Disability Support Services at (631) 632-6748 or They will determine with you what accommodations are necessary and appropriate. All information and documentation is confidential. Students who require assistance during emergency evacuation are encouraged to discuss their needs with their professors and Disability Support Services. For procedures and information go to the following website:

Academic Integrity:

Each student must pursue his or her academic goals honestly and be personally accountable for all submitted work. Representing another person’s work as your own is always wrong. Faculty are required to report any suspected instances of academic dishonesty to the Academic Judiciary. Faculty in the Health Sciences Center (School of Health Technology and Management, Nursing, Social Welfare, Dental Medicine) and School of Medicine are required to follow their school-specific procedures. For more comprehensive information on academic integrity, including categories of academic dishonesty, please refer to the academic judiciary website at

Critical Incident Management:

Stony Brook University expects students to respect the rights, privileges, and property of other people. Faculty are required to report to the Office of Judicial Affairs any disruptive behavior that interrupts their ability to teach, compromises the safety of the learning environment, or inhibits students’ ability to learn. Faculty in the HSC Schools and the School of Medicine are required to follow their school-specific procedures.

Clark McGrew (