Source Genericity of Caustics by Reflexion in R
Abstract
Let M (a mirror) be a compact ovaloid in R^{n+1}, and let s (a light source) be a point in the ambient space. Rays of light emanating from s are reflected at M, giving rise to a caustic C_s, the envelope of the family of reflected rays. The corresponding wavefront W_s (the orthotomic) is the locus of reflexions of s in the affine tangent planes to M, and is smooth if and only if s lies inside M, which is henceforward assumed to be the case. When W_s is generic, i.e. the family of distancesquared functions on W_s is transverse to the canonical stratification of the jetspace, a theorem of Looijenga tells us that the caustic C_s can be described (locally) by a finite number of models. A fundamental question is that of source genericity: can we force W_s to be generic by small deformations of s? For n = 1, when the mirror is a plane oval, the authors have shown that this is the case provided one excludes certain very special types of mirror. In the present paper we consider the local aspect of source genericity for n = 2; more explicitly, we consider transversality to strata of corank 2, and strata of corank 1 of codimension <=slant 4, i.e. A_1, A_2, A_3, A_4. The key idea behind all the work is that studying the contact of a sphere with W_s is essentially the same as studying the contact of a quadric of revolution (namely the antiorthotomic of the sphere with respect to the source) with the mirror M. In this way the problem on W_s (which varies with s) is reduced to a problem on M which is technically easier to handle. The positive results obtained are as follows. Theorem. (i) Suppose that the set of umbilics on M has Lebesgue measure zero in M. Then, for almost all positions of the source s inside M the family of distancesquared functions on the orthotomic W_s is transverse to all strata of corank 2. (ii) Assume that M is analytic. Suppose that the set of nontransverse A_{>=slant 4} points on M is subanalytic of codimension >=slant 1 in M, and that there are only finitely many umbilics, none of which are 'bad' (in a technical sense). Then, for almost all positions of the source s inside M the family of distancesquared functions on the orthotomic W_s is transverse to the strata A_k with k <=slant 4. More interesting perhaps is the fact that we can obtain (nontrivial) counterexamples to source genericity. Thus mirrors with 'bad' umbilics provide counterexamples, as do surfaces of revolution.
 Publication:

Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series A
 Pub Date:
 May 1982
 DOI:
 10.1098/rspa.1982.0060
 Bibcode:
 1982RSPSA.381...83B