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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10
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4answers
1k views

Why doesn't more light bounce off of things in the manner of sound?

If I'm sitting in the den with my door slightly cracked, I can hear my wife washing dishes in the kitchen down the hall. But why can't I also 'see' images of her washing dishes if, say, I looked up on ...
9
votes
2answers
2k views

Squinting at street lights

Simple question, I've always wanted to know the answer to this. Why do you see a pair of lines radiating out from street lights when your squint at them? I can't think of a better way of describing ...
15
votes
3answers
954 views

What are these rays that appear in photograph of sun?

In many images of light emitting objects we see such rays. Why do they appear ? What is the math behind their number and direction?
14
votes
9answers
6k views

Is darkness really light?

According to this wikipedia article "Consequently, most objects that absorb visible light reemit it as heat. So, although an object may appear dark, it is likely bright at a frequency that humans ...
3
votes
2answers
2k views

How do you measure wavelength/frequency of light

I'm sure this is a trivial question for someone who knows something about electromagnetic radiation, but: how do experimenters measure the wavelength/frequency of light? For example, how do we know ...
2
votes
1answer
1k views

Confused about fire?

Im confused about fire. The way I see it : Heat creates (kinetic) energy in mass and this creates stronger vibrations of atoms. When those vibrations are strong enough the electrons interact ...
7
votes
3answers
284 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)?
7
votes
2answers
2k views

What determines the apparent radius of the rainbow?

Let's say I know how to compute the apparent radius of a rainbow from the viewpoint of the observer: take a photo of the scene, measure the distance to a known reference object, and its dimensions. ...
6
votes
1answer
7k views

Why is light produced when an underwater bubble is collapsed with a sound wave?

Why is light produced when an underwater bubble is collapsed with a sound wave? I have come across this fact on a page (similar to this) but can't understand "Why". I'm just curious about this ...
4
votes
1answer
754 views

Was the choice of red/green colors for traffic lights a happy coincidence?

All of us have learned since secondary school that the reason we use red in the traffic lights for "Stop" is because it travels the furthest without dispersion. According to wikipedia which cites ...
4
votes
3answers
11k views

Why can't light pass through walls but sound can?

When I sit in a room I can hear voices coming from the adjacent room but the light in adjacent room does not enter my room i.e. sound waves travels through the wall but light waves can't. Why?
4
votes
2answers
289 views

Sensitivity of eye

In which color human eye is most sensitive?
3
votes
2answers
14k views

Is black a color or absence of color? [closed]

Is black a color or absence of color? When there is no light, everything is black, so how can we say that black is a color?
3
votes
1answer
166 views

The range of light

It occurs to me that the empirical evidence shows that there is a point out in space where light stops coming from. Putting aside the expansion of the universe for a second, and focusing strictly on ...
2
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3answers
614 views

If I turn the light off in a room why does the light instantly disappear? [duplicate]

So today I was asked a question which I found very simple yet I honestly couldn't explain (embarrassingly). One of my mum's friends who knows I'm a scientist asked me "If I turn the light off in a ...
2
votes
1answer
318 views

Is every electromagnetic radiation considered “light”?

Somebody mentioned on Freenode chatroom for physics that All Electromagnetic Radiation are delivered in form of Photons not just light. Is it true? Does that mean if we get a THF electrical ...
2
votes
3answers
493 views

How does the solar sailing concept work?

Wikipedia describes solar sailing as a form of spacecraft propulsion using a combination of light and high speed ejected gasses from a star to push large ultra-thin mirrors to high speeds. I ...
1
vote
10answers
729 views

How far can light go?

When a ray of light is projected, (say) from the surface of Earth to outside in space. The condition is that, there is no obstruction to it till infinity (it travels only in vaccum). My question is ...
1
vote
3answers
3k views

Light traveling through a medium

Does the frequency of light change when it travels across an interface between two media? What happens to the light wavelength and the light velocity at the interface? I've gotten different answers ...
1
vote
1answer
785 views

Photometer: measured Irradiance L converted to photon rate

I am conducting an experiment in which the power meter reading of $410\,nm$ narrow bandpass stimulus is noted to be 30 $\frac{\mu W}{cm^2}$ at a distance of 1 inch away from the light source. I wish ...
11
votes
5answers
3k views

What happens to light and mass in the center of a black hole?

I know that black holes are "black" because nothing can escape it due to the massive gravity, but I am wondering if there are any theories as to what happens to the light or mass that enters a black ...
7
votes
2answers
2k views

How does stuff glow in the dark?

Many things have glow in the dark properties (glow sticks, paint, toys ..), and I am wondering what is the physics behind them. How do these materials store light energy and emit it later when dark? ...
6
votes
2answers
264 views

Single-mode fibers and ray-theory of light

I have read ray-theory cannot be applied to single-mode fibers. Why? I know rays are kind of an approximation to describe the real behavior of light, and electromagnetic theory and photonics are ...
5
votes
3answers
2k views

Is there something special in the visible part of electromagnetic spectrum?

I always wondered how much information we get from color. Things we see have different colors; edible products change color when began to spoil so we have a notion what color a fresh product should ...
4
votes
1answer
637 views

Why does the Sun turn red near sunset?

At daytime the Sun's light is yellowish if not near white. Why when the Sun starts to go down that it's light turn more red. I don't think the earth's rotation is so rapid to cause a red shift. Why ...
4
votes
1answer
2k views

Gravitational Redshift around a Schwarzschild Black Hole

Let's say that I'm hovering in a rocket at constant spatial coordinates outside a Schwarzschild black hole. I drop a bulb into the black hole, and it emits some light at a distance of $r_e$ from the ...
3
votes
2answers
199 views

Is it possible to have a perfectly black material?

After reading this NASA article about the "blackest material", the following stuck out to me. The tiny gaps between the tubes absorb 99.5 percent of the light that hits them Is it possible to ...
3
votes
2answers
974 views

Why doesn't the magnetic field polarize when polarizing light?

If the magnetic field doesn't polarize does it follow the electric field path of propagation? or does it vanish?
3
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1answer
196 views

What determines the form of the intensity curves in Laser-Induced Fluorescence (LIF) measurements?

What determines the form of the intensity spectra of different particle species in Laser-Induced Fluorescence (LIF) measurements? See e.g. I figure that bigger particles have more ways to get ...
3
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3answers
2k views

formula for transparency of very thin film of metal

Is there formula that gives transparency of very thin film of given metal (tens of nanometers) to the visible light/light of given wavelength ? Which properties of metals are needed for the formula ? ...
3
votes
4answers
4k views

Is it only red, green and blue that can make up any color through additive mixture?

I'm reading about color vision and have some trouble understanding the motivation for why the trichromatic theory was suggested in the first place. The book I'm reading ("Psychgology: The science of ...
3
votes
4answers
217 views

Rainbow around Sun

From the perspective of a person, a rainbow is formed when the Sun is behind the person, and there is a critical angle made by the rainbow. However, on several occasions, usually at noon when the Sun ...
3
votes
2answers
1k views

Propagation of light in transparent media: absorption and reemission or scattering?

In the two Phys.SE questions What is the mechanism behind the slowdown of light/photons in a transparent medium? and Why glass is transparent? transparent media were discussed. But I'd like to clarify ...
3
votes
3answers
690 views

Does the wavelength always decrease in a medium?

I was studying a GRE Physics Test problem where optical light with a wavelength of 500 nm travels through a gas with refractive index $n$. If we look at the equations for wave motion and index ...
2
votes
1answer
51 views

Polarization of light upon reflection

I was wondering (since I've looked pretty hard and haven't been able to find anything)- are there any models that explain the polarization of light upon reflection? Everywhere I've looked I've seen ...
2
votes
2answers
510 views

Can we observe diffraction even if the slit size is tending to zero?

According to Huygens principle, if we consider any point of the primary wave fronts, each point is the source of secondary disturbance. If the point size we consider tends to zero, the number of ...
2
votes
2answers
186 views

Gravitational Effect Versus the Speed of Light [duplicate]

If, for some reason, the sun were to suddenly disappear altogether, I would like to know the following: would we "feel" it first (i.e. being thrown into outer space due to no longer having anything ...
2
votes
2answers
241 views

Light in Different Reference Frames

I think I'm just confused, but for some reason I thought that light moving straight in one frame would have to move in the same direction in another frame. I know there are photons-but because I have ...
2
votes
1answer
1k views

When a color LCD/LED display is off it is black, when on it is colored. What color to light is an LCD/LED display

When a modern display using pixels is turned on its colors are different than the black that the screen is actually made up of. When put in light, such as sunlight, does the screen react to the color ...
2
votes
1answer
1k views

Effects of high frequency lighting on human vision?

I have a couple of different LED flashlights. One of them has three different "modes" of brightness, and the way it controls it is via pulse width modulation (PWM). Here is a picture that illustrates ...
1
vote
3answers
159 views

About the speed of light and gravity

I read (I think ) that part of relativity theory is that a strong gravitational field distorts the uniform passage of time. If this is true and a lightwave 'travelling' to Earth passes a star near ...
1
vote
2answers
144 views

A black torch to darken everything

Can we ever have a black colored (the color of the light and not the body's color) torch that darken (or dis-illuminates) everything? While compared to a normal torch it would function in an opposite ...
1
vote
1answer
2k views

What causes refraction of visible light? [duplicate]

Refraction is the bending of a wave when it enters a medium where its speed is different. The refraction of light when it passes from a fast medium to a slow medium bends the light ray toward the ...
1
vote
2answers
336 views

Does light have an unending journey?

When we shine a torch in a room its light travels to the back of the room. What happens to the light of a star ? I dont suppose we can say it continues to travel to the back of the universe as the ...
1
vote
2answers
1k views

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.
0
votes
1answer
64 views

Why do night sky appear red when it is cloudy?

Since childhood, I have seen that whenever at night, the sky is cloudy, the sky becomes red. But, clouds are grayish, so it is expected that the sky becomes more darker. But no, it is not! Why does ...
0
votes
1answer
79 views

Determining the path of a light ray

Let's consider a ray in the plane $xy$. Let the refractive index be defined in any point of the plane with the function $n(x,y)$. In time $t=0$ the ray is located in coordinates $(x_0, y_0)$ and its ...
56
votes
2answers
11k views

Why don't fluorescent lights produce shadows?

I have watched light sources such as incandescent lamps and other lamp sources; they have always made shadows. But a fluorescent lamp doesn't make any shadow. What is the reason behind the ...
40
votes
6answers
5k views

Is there a physical reason for colors to be located in a very narrow band of the EM spectrum?

The portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that is visible to humans are wavelengths between 380 and 750 nanometers. I am aware that animals have different capacities than humans, but the EM ...
30
votes
3answers
4k views

Can I use an antenna as a light source?

Can I use a normal metal antenna to emit visible light?