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Professor Authors Optics for Dummies to Bring Attention to Optics

October 3, 2011

While some professors might cringe at the thought of writing a book called Optics for Dummies, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology's Galen Duree saw it as an opportunity to promote optics by making it easy to understand.

     Optics for Dummies
 

Spreading The News About Optics: Award-winning Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Physics and Optical Engineering Professor Galen Duree has authored Optics for Dummies in hopes of attracting more interest in optics and making the science of optics more easily understood.

"I didn't write it to burnish my academic credentials. I wanted it to be an outreach for optics," explained the Duree, physics and optical engineering professor and director of Rose-Hulman's Center for Applied Optics Studies.

The book is part of Wiley Publishing's popular For Dummies series of reference books.  Since its inception with DOS for Dummies in 1991, the instructional series has grown to include more than 250 million books in print.  The series' goal has always been to cut through the technical jargon to present challenging topics in an easy-to-understand, conversational style.

That's where Duree's technical expertise, award-winning teaching skills and curiosity became a natural fit for the For Dummies series.

"I was thinking that we really needed something for kids to explain that optics is more than just eyeglasses and telescopes," he says.  Meanwhile, Wiley Publishing had come to the same conclusion.  They approached Duree and asked if he'd be interested in authoring a book examining optics.

Writing Optics for Dummies meant Duree had to consciously tailor the text to conform to the type of conversational style for which the For Dummies series is known. The down-to-earth physicist found the process challenging in unexpected ways.  "I never realized that I wrote like an academic until I submitted the first manuscript," he chuckles. 

The book covers everything from the mathematical basics behind optics to its use in military, medical and even entertainment applications.  "There are a lot of descriptions of how they make 3D movies, but nobody understands them unless they have a PhD in optics," said Duree, recipient of Rose-Hulman's Outstanding Teacher Award in 2004.  He is director of the college's Ultrashort Pulse Laser Laboratory, a collaborative effort with research at the Naval Surface Warfare Center at Crane, Ind.

By making the study of optics approachable, and relating it to technology students are interested in, Duree hopes to pique the curiosity of people who might not otherwise consider the science behind 3D movies, missile defense or magnetic resonance imaging. 

Duree hopes that Optics for Dummies will present the subject in a way that will enable more people to understand the science, and inspire a new generation of students to pursue a career in optics.