Webtop: web-based interactive 3d optics and Waves simulations
Foley, John T.
Herring, S. Davis
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WebTOP is a three-dimensional, interactive computer graphics system developed at Mississippi State University to help students learn about optics and waves. It has been used to help teach undergraduate introductory physics and upper-level optics classes. Currently, it comprises sixteen modules spanning eight different subject areas. The subject areas are waves, geometrical optics, reflection and refraction, polarization, interference, diffraction, lasers, and scattering. WebTOP simulations have the following characteristics. First, they are three dimensional, i.e., they have navigation controls that allow the user to rotate the scene, pan it, or zoom into it, in order to view it from any desired orientation. Secondly, they are interactive. The user can change the parameters either by typing in the desired values into the appropriate text entry box, or by using his/her mouse cursor to move the appropriate widget in the scene. Thirdly, the simulations are animated, for those phenomena for which animation is appropriate. Furthermore, the simulations include VCR-type controls that allow the user to record his/her interaction with the simulation for later retrieval, viewing, and editing. Finally, these modules run inside a web browser. They can be run from our website, http://webtop.msstate.edu, or they can be downloaded from this website and run on the user’s local machine. This paper provides an overview of WebTOP and a description of each of the modules.