In the field of optics, a caustic is a set of rays of light that have been reflected or refracted by a curved surface and focused into another surface. The classic example of caustics or a network of caustics is the bands of light you get at the bottom of a pool when the light shines from above. The top of the waves crisscrossing the pool act like a convex lens concentrating light on a focal point. This is incidentally why they are called “caustics”, from the Greek “to burn”, as when sunlight is focused by a lens into a small area. If this focal point coincides with the bottom surface of the pool, the caustic band will be sharp, whereas if it doesn’t, the caustic band will be diffuse. On the other hand, the areas between the top of the waves have a concave shape and they act to disperse the light. This is why caustics are separated by areas that seem to be darker.
In the video below, I have slowed down the network of caustics in a pool down to 240 frames per second. You can follow the caustic bands and see how they appear, disappear, merge, and separate continuously as a result of the pattern of waves on the surface of the water in the pool.
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