Fine Structure

Tolkien's Elvish Optics Lesson

I'm a fan of the sort of physics that Rhett deconstructs at Dot Physics. It usually consists of some extraordinary feat claimed by a nutjob or shown on TV and ends with Rhett showing that this feat is / is not possible within the limits of mathematical physics. This brings us to Chad at Uncertain Principles (neither a nutjob nor on TV, sadly) who doesn't do these types of posts very often but when he does they're very interesting and quirky.

Today he's discussing a limiting factor in optics, based on a passage from Tolkien's The Two Towers where Legolas spots some riders on horseback at 5 leagues (approximately 25 000 meters). There's a point that Legolas' eye (based on a normal pupil size) simply cannot resolve any more detail at a distance, regardless of how sensitive his retina might be. I'll let you head over to discover the results yourself. ]