Questions related to the perception and measurement of light (primarily in the visible range), its mathematical description, the reproduction of colors by different means, color combinations, etc. Please use the tag [electromagnetic-radiation] if you want to refer to the general form of light.

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Refraction of light and frequency dependence

Why do higher frequency waves refract more, both ocean waves and light waves? Also why is energy stored in the frequency as opposed to the wavelength.
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2answers
149 views

Penetration of light in the atmosphere

While I was considering an answer to this question, I wondered how much light that enters the atmosphere reaches the ground without colliding with air molecules—if any. I've taken a good bit of ...
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5answers
5k views

Why doesn't light kill me?

I was attending my philosophy class and in the middle of student presentations, I found myself mentally wondering off and thinking about light. After a few minutes of trying to piece together how the ...
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1answer
223 views

Optical depth in astrophysics

How can be the exponential decay of the intensity $I$ via the optical depth $\tau$ be derived? $$I(\tau)=I(0)e^{-\tau} $$
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1answer
110 views

Relationship between photon polarization and photon angular momentum

What direction is the angular momentum of right hand polarized light points to? Is it vertical to its propagating direction? I want to recognize this in quantum theory.
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1answer
89 views

How large of a solar sail would be needed to travel to mars in under a year?

I'm attempting to approach this using the identity $$F/A = I/c$$ I can solve for Area easily enough $$A = F(c/I)$$ and I know the distance $d$ is $$d=1/2(at^2)$$ But I'm having difficulty trying to ...
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1answer
153 views

Relation of color and frequency for the visible spectrum

In this question the OP is looking for a way to see light that is outside of the visible spectrum without using electronic sensors. This got me wondering about the visible spectrum itself. Typically ...
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2answers
654 views

Is there a way to see light frequencies invisible to the human eye without the use of electronic sensors?

I wonder if it's possible to be able to see light frequencies that cannot be normally seen by human eye, without using sensors designed specifically for detecting a certain spectrum range, but rather ...
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2answers
195 views

Is light's path a wave?

In a lot of textbooks I see a schematic of light drawn as a squiggly line. I have even heard that some things are too small to be seen because they are smaller than the wavelength of light (and ...
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1answer
112 views

Light-Particle Wave Duality

There is a lot of reading to do on this to fully understand it, but without doing that reading is there a short explanation as to why and how light behaves as a wave and a particle?
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1answer
519 views

Why does Lorentz factor not hold for relativistic mass when we apply it to photons? [duplicate]

We know that the photon itself is massless particle $m_0=0$. But we also know, that the mass of the objects does increase with their energy. And we know that under certain circumstances (gravity, ...
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2answers
10k views

Does more reflective aluminum foil make a room cooler compared to less reflective foil?

Aluminum foil is said to be not absorbing light at all. It reflects light. So, does it mean that a more shiny aluminum foil will reflect more light and thus make the room more cooler as compared to ...
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3answers
1k views

Paraxial rays and marginal rays question

Paraxial rays are found to focus far away the lens whereas marginal rays focus near to the lens, why? I didn't find satisfactory answer in my academic book..
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1answer
7k views

Could the shadow move with faster-than-light speed? [duplicate]

If I make a huge laser with a figure for shadow in front of the laser, and I shine it on to the moon, will I see the light from the laser AND the shadow moving the same speed? (I read somewhere the ...
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2answers
292 views

Keep the light beam in a closed room, is it possible? [duplicate]

I mean if I am in a room totally closed to light. If I switch on a torch for a second then switch it off. So will the inside of room be always bright?
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2answers
161 views

How does one subtract two light beams?

From what I understand, it seems like you can only "add" beams together. You can use a beam combiner, basically using a beam splitter in reverse, to combine two beams. In homodyne detection, you use a ...
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2answers
82 views

Selectively visible laser beam with a controllable means

How can parts of a laser beam be made visible while others left invisible using something electronically controllable (for example, another laser beam crossing it, or a magnetic field, or heat, etc).
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1answer
231 views

Color of a Metal's Threshold Wavelength?

How do I find the color of the threshold wavelength if the metal has a threshold wavelength of $\mathrm{6.5\times 10^{-7}m}$? I know that converts down to $\mathrm{650\ nm}$, but can I still use the ...
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3answers
626 views

Light Ray Reflection from concave mirror

Suppose a ray of light hits a concave mirror and is parallel to the principal axis but far away from it such that it doesn't follow paraxial ray approximation. Will it pass through focus or between ...
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2answers
3k views

Light bulbs, Wattage meaning? [closed]

Light bulbs, Wattage meaning? Two incandescent bulbs (120 V, 25 Watt) and (120 V, 500 Watt) connected to the same batteries. Which one shines brighter? And why?
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2answers
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Relativistic Doppler effect derivation

This is about a step in a derivation of the expression for the relativistic Doppler effect. Consider a source receding from an observer at a velocity $v$ along the line joining the two. Light is ...
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1answer
529 views

Young's double slit experiment viva question

My professor asked me (in my viva exam), "If, in the Fraunhofer single slit diffraction experiment, if we have 2 slits instead of one (at very short distances), What would happen?" I answered with ...
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1answer
43 views

Can the choice of reflection angle for light can be derived from a minimality condition?

When the light hits on a surface, it reflects with the "same" angle as the one that hits the surface. I was wondering if this choice of angle can be explained by a minimality condition?
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2answers
376 views

Attenuation mass-thickness for sunset light

We are able to look directly at the sun near sunset and sunrise, which clearly demonstrates the fact that our atmosphere attenuates visible light. Let's imagine it follows the typical attenuation ...
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1answer
163 views

Can you “fold” EM or light waves? (i.e) long wave that is reflected by mirror in fragments - like in the game “Snake”

So, I was reading about the Casimir effect. Two mirrors facing each other attract to each other in a vacuum. The reason is due to pressure exerted on those mirrors from the multitude of EM waves (like ...
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2answers
116 views

Speed and transparency of light

I have been puzzled with a fact that as an object moves faster, it ceases its property of opacity. I mean to say that as an object moves faster we can see right through it (more clearly than in a ...
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1answer
144 views

How do we know that light is massless? [duplicate]

Almost everybody knows that light is massless. But where this come from and how it can be proven (experimentally or theoretically)? I actually found this article which explains and calculates the mass ...
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3answers
3k views

If photons can be absorbed by electrons, wouldn't that mean light has a charge? [duplicate]

I am a biochemistry and molecular biology major. If photons can be absorbed by electrons, wouldn't that mean light has a charge? Electrons only attract positive charges. Isn't it?
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2answers
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why does a mirror show what is in front of it?

the only answer I can think of is that light is reflected from the objects in front of the mirror (visible color) and then reflects again off of the mirror to our eye, but im not quite satified with ...
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2answers
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Can a dot of light travel faster than the speed of light? [duplicate]

Say I have a laser. If I spin the laser so that the beam sweeps in an arc along a very distant object, could that dot travel faster than the speed of light? In Diagram form:
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3answers
2k views

Seeing colors: photons vs waves

As an atmospheric physics major I am familiar with electromagnetic radiation in the atmosphere and what dictates what wavelength objects will emit at. When observing radiation in the atmosphere it is ...
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6answers
323 views

Is black hole bright at center?

As we know that light photon cannot escape the gravity of black hole so I was thinking that if that is the surface of the black hole would be bright as all the photons would be there only. Am I right ...
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2answers
418 views

Why don't you see multiple images of an object?

Consider the ray model of light. Let's say an object such as a pencil is illuminated, and consider one point on that pencil. Since there could be many rays of light bouncing off the same point on the ...
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1answer
640 views

Does a quadrupole transition mean emission of one photon with spin 2?

If it's true and spin-2 photons do exist, could you please point to some literature that discusses spin-2 photons? If not, then how exactly does a selection rule for quadrupole transition make sense ...
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3answers
501 views

Special Relativity - speed of light question

Just a basic question: I know that if you are traveling at $x$ speed the time will pass for you slower than to an observer that is relatively stopped. That's all just because a photon released at the ...
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2answers
424 views

Are there “gaps” in light, or will it hit everywhere?

Not sure how to word my question. Picture a light source in vacuum, so nothing disturbs the light (or similar conditions), 2d. If I move very, very far away, will it happen that some of the light ...
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1answer
186 views

william herschel discovering infrared problem

when william herschel conducted the experiment of separating white light with a prism and measuring the different colors, he put a thermometer past the red color as a control finding it to pick up the ...
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1answer
255 views

Which fraction of light is refracted from a source of light under a lake?

I was trying to solve this problem: "A punctiform source of light is standing inside a lake, at a height h of the surface. f is the fraction of the total of energy emitted that escapes directly from ...
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1answer
5k views

Magnifying Glass-How does it work? [duplicate]

How does a magnifying glass work? I know it creates a virtual image of the observed object but how is it possible that humans can see the virtual image?
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2answers
93 views

Hurdles in creating (close to) infinite images [duplicate]

Let's put an object (hypothetical superman) inside a "well sealed" box containing only mirrors. Is it possible to create number of images that will be close to infinity, assuming that resolution of ...
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5answers
22k views

Why frequency doesn't change during refraction?

When light goes through one medium to another it's velocity and wavelength changes. Why frequency doesn't change in this phenomenon?
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2answers
3k views

How photons represent colors that you see?

Right now, my understanding is that, a mixture of photons of many different frequencies is perceived as white by your eye. While no photons at all, is perceived as black. And photons with the blue ...
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2answers
273 views

What mechanisms allow conductors to be transparent?

An electric field in a conductor causes charges to redistribute so as to cancel out the original field, bringing the field to zero. This is, I think, a common argument for why conductors are generally ...
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5answers
4k views

Eye sensitivity & Danger signal [duplicate]

Why are danger signal in red, when the eye is most sensitive to yellow-green? You can check luminosity function for more details...
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1answer
207 views

Is a holographic recorder able to capture a large full color picture? [closed]

Is it practical to attempt to build a 3D hologram generator that is full color and big enough to recreate a watermelon full size? If so, is real-time control feasible?
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0answers
166 views

Are EM waves scattered the most when the wavelength and the obstacle have a similar size?

I heard that when the wavelength and obstacle are similar in size, the scattering is the greatest. Is this true?
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2answers
946 views

The color purple in a rainbow

In a rainbow the colors order is red then orange (made from red and yellow, thus making sense that it appears in between them) the yellow followed by green after which comes blue (again green formed ...
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3answers
281 views

If light is linearly polarized, does it have some spatial extent?

If light (a photon) is linearly polarized, say vertically, does it have some vertical spatial extent (perhaps in amplitude)?
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5answers
746 views

Will freely rotatable polarizers align?

Will two freely rotatable linear polarizers (placed in sequence and at some angular offset less than, say, 45 degrees) eventually align if you shine (plenty of) unpolarized light at the first one? If ...
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3answers
115 views

Trapping EM radiation [duplicate]

Is there a material which can allow light (or any other EM radiation) to pass through from one side as if it is transparent but its other side reflects light like a mirror?