Optical vortices (nodal lines and phase singularities) are the generic singularities of scalar optics but are unstable in vector optics. We investigate experimentally and theoretically the unfolding of a uniformly polarized optical vortex beam on propagation through a birefringent crystal and characterize the output field in terms of polarization singularities (C lines and points of circular polarization; L surfaces and lines of linear polarization). The field is described both in the 2-dimensional transverse plane, and in three dimensions, where the third is abstract, representing an optical path length propagated through the crystal. Many phenomena of singular optics, such as topological charge conservation and singularity reconnections, occur naturally in the description
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