A series of thin layers of alternating refractive index are known to make a good optical mirror over certain bands of frequency. Such a device, often termed the Bragg reflector, is usually introduced to students in isolation from other parts of the curriculum. Here, we show that the basic physics of wave propagation through a stratified medium can be used to illustrate some more modern developments in optics and quantum physics, from transfer matrix techniques to the optical properties of cold trapped atoms and optomechanical cooling. We also show a simple example of how such systems exhibit an appreciable level of optical nonreciprocity. (C) 2014 American Association of Physics Teachers.
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