Fermat's principle of least time in the presence of uniformly moving boundaries and media


The refraction of a light ray by a homogeneous, isotropic and non-dispersive transparent material half-space in uniform rectilinear motion is investigated theoretically. The approach is an amalgamation of the original Fermat's principle and the fact that an isotropic optical medium at rest becomes optically anisotropic in a frame where the medium is moving at a constant velocity. Two cases of motion are considered: a) the material half-space is moving parallel to the interface; b) the material half-space is moving perpendicular to the interface. In each case, a detailed analysis of the obtained refraction formula is provided, and in the latter case, an intriguing backward refraction of light is noticed and thoroughly discussed. The results confirm the validity of Fermat's principle when the optical media and the boundaries between them are moving at relativistic speeds.Comment: 11 pages, 6 figures, RevTeX 4, comments welcome; V2: revised, Fig. 7 added; V3: several typos corrected, accepted for publication in European Journal of Physics (online at:

    Similar works

    Available Versions

    Last time updated on 01/04/2019