We will begin the presentation with a brief history of the genesis and evolution of the use of polarization as a tool for navigation by humans, insects, and many marine organisms. Was it the Vikings (circa 700) or Batholinus in 1669 who first discovered Iceland Spar which played a dominant role in the discovery of polarization due to its birefringent properties? We will then dispel many of the myths and describe the actual role played by many of the “Giants” of optics such as Newton (Opticks-1704), Huygens (Traité de la Lumiere, 1690), Young, Brewster (best known for his invention of the kaleidoscope), Arago, Biot, and Fresnel. We will next present all the basic definitions and terminologies needed to discuss the mathematical description of polarization. We will introduce the four component Stokes vector (formally it’s not a vector) and the 4×4 matrix which transforms it; namely, the Mueller matrix. The enormous importance of the Mueller matrix is that it gives all the information one can obtain from light that is elastically scattered from either a single particle or a system of particles. Examples will be shown on how polarization reveals many new and exciting details of objects that can’t be seen by just looking at the radiance (first component of the Stokes vector and what the human eye perceives) from the object. Applications will be presented showing the efficacy of polarization techniques in detecting camouflaged objects in the ocean as well as its usefulness in probing cloud and aerosol optical properties in the atmosphere. The latest exciting findings on the use of both linear and circular polarization by cephalopods (includes octopuses and squids) and stomatopods (in particular the mantis shrimp) in their quest for survival will also be presented.

© 2009 Optical Society of America

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