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Corning Museum of Glass pt. 3



I'm thinking this will be my last post about my museum trip, but this is about my favorite presentation we watched there. The last presentation we saw was one on fiber optics, which are on the cutting edge of optical, digital, and even medical technology.

What is a fiber optic cable? Fiber optic cables, or lines, are optically pure strands of glass that are the thickness of approximately a human hair. These lines are used to transmit digital information over long distances, and its main current use is carrying internet bandwidth. These are also used as a visual mechanism in minimally invasive surgery.

How does fiber optic cable relay these messages? It all has to do with an old physics concept: Snell's Law. How the message stays trapped in the fiber optic cable is all about the index of refraction. Because the index of refraction of the cable is stronger than the air around it, the light stays trapped within the cable and travels the entire length. Also, because the optical glass is one of the purest forms of glass availible, the beam loses very little of its strength as it passes through the glass. As a result, digital messages can be relayed through light passing through miles of fiber optic cable.

Fiber optics can also be used for medical procedures, as suggested earlier. Fiber optic tubes with cameras on the end can be inserted into the abdomen during a surgical procedure, or wherever the surgery sight is, and the surgen can use the image passed through the cable to conduct the surgery without completely cutting the individual open. Because of this visual ease, many surgeries only require 3 small incisions, one fiber optic incision and 2 for the surgical tools used for the procedure.

Fiber optics have provided a much simpler and effective way to transport all different types of digital messages. Fiber optical cables are being improved all the time to increase the bandwidth they can carry and to prevent communication errors, which have already been substantially decreased by the conversion to fiber optics. Next time you use the internet, remember that all of that information is being passed through tiny strands of glass! Man, how technology has changed! Until next time, Fizzix Community, until next time.


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