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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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 ...
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2answers
672 views

At what distance could you see andromeda with the naked eye?

We've all seen the telescope photographs of andromeda galaxy: I'm wondering if it were possible to travel close enough to the andromeda galaxy could you achieve a same perspective with the naked ...
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3answers
166 views

What electric field vector should I use for modeling unpolarized light?

Regardless of computational cost, light is a kind of electromagnetic wave, so it can be simulated with Maxwell's equations. If we want to simulate light with Maxwell's equations, we need to express ...
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2answers
899 views

Why doesn't my pinhole camera work?

We all know that light travels in straight a line, which can be proved by pinhole imaging as in the picture shown : But when I'm doing this little experiment with an apple, no matter how I change ...
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4answers
184 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 ...
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3answers
130 views

Will the current carrying solid conductors emit light?

If we pass current through a gas, like in the discharge tube, the electrons will accelerate in the electric field. The accelerated electrons will collide with gas molecules, and transfer some of their ...
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5answers
245 views

Can light travel slower than the maximum?

First of all, I know that light does indeed travel slower in a medium like air or water, but that's because the photons are bouncing off of the medium's particles and in different directions so the ...
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2answers
298 views

Why do hot objects prefer to emit photons over electrons ? Is there electron-positron annihilation?

Why do hot objects prefer to emit photons over electrons ? Is there electron-positron annihilation ? If so , why ? Im confused by this.
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1answer
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Purple doesn't occur in rainbow - or does it?

Usually, when asked whether the purple color exists rainbows, an answer similar to this is given: The purple color is perceived by human eyes via the activation of both red-sensitive and ...
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2answers
74 views

Will changing the color of the light source change the apparent brightness on a traffic light?

Let's say you have a traffic light with the well known red, yellow, and green tinted glasses. Setup 1: Each glass has a white light bulb behind it. Setup 2: Each glass has a colored bulb behind it ...
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2answers
67 views

Color Variation in RR Lyrae

I've been doing some research on RR Lyrae stars and haven't been really able to find an answer to this question. RR Lyrae are well known for their periodic magnitude, and also are usually found in ...
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1answer
46 views

Assuming an observer is 50 light years away, in the plane of the solar system and observing earth, what is the light flux of earth he would see?

As in, from what the planet emits and re-radiates out into space (this is going to be important if we are to image any Earth-like planet)
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3answers
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'ting' 'ting' sound from a tube-light?

Whenever I light up a tube-light it makes 'ting' 'ting' sound every-time it blinks. I am talking about this tube-light Why is it so? I think its because of sparking(inside glass tube) ...
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3answers
93 views

Do electromagnetic waves have endpoints?

When learning about electromagnetic waves at school we never talked about any endpoints as we did with standing waves, so I assumed that light has an endless length, but that doesn't make sense. So my ...
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2answers
232 views

Incorrect IR temperature reading on stainless steel?

Using a Fluke 62 Mini Infrared Thermometer today on a stainless steel pipe with coolant I noticed that it gives incorrect temperature readings. There is a temperature sensor inside the coolant ...
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2answers
88 views

Would it be possible to build a Solar Panel Etalon?

Since, on average, 1/3 of all sunlight that hits a solar panel is reflected, wouldn't it be possible to set up some kind of etalon system where the reflected light is then absorbed by another solar ...
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1answer
121 views

What the name of the evacuated glass gadget with black and white vanes that turn when a light is applied?

I remember a glass device my physics teacher had at high school which Contained some vanes mounted somehow on a vertical axis, which were all black on one side and white on the other Was in a ...
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5answers
190 views

Light refraction and causality

One way how to look at refraction by a dielectric medium like water or glass is that (phase) velocity of light decreases because it is the wavelength rather than the frequency of the light which ...
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1answer
74 views

Polarisation of light is a wave concept or applicable to photons as well?

I have a very fundamental question. We explain polarisation of light assuming wave nature of light. Is it still valid if we assume light as photons? Or in other words, polarisation is a wave concept ...
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1answer
74 views

When was it established light travels forever?

The range of electromagnetic radiation is indefinite. When was that established? Doesn't Hubble's limit have an effect?
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1answer
203 views

Didn't Newton's Corpuscular theory fail to explain reflection?

In 1637 Descartes gave the corpuscular model of light and derived Snell's law. This Corpuscular model of light was further developed by Isaac Newton in his famous book entitled OPTICKS and because of ...
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1answer
99 views

Why does a light wave invert at a boundary with greater index of refraction?

Is there a reason why a EM wave reflects invertedly when it meets a boundary point with a greater index of refraction. In the case of ropes, if remember correctly, the reason why it inverts is to ...
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2answers
287 views

Does diffraction occur before interference?

In the double slit experiment, light passes through two slits and the waves interfere and form an interference pattern. A single slit is required for diffraction. So, I was thinking about whether ...
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1answer
432 views

How far can the human eye see? Any ending point or infinite?

How far can the naked human eye see if unobstructed? (straight ahead on perfectly flat land). Is there a stopping point or is it infinite when you look in the sky? Is there any situation that the ...
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1answer
412 views

Why do most metals appear silver in color with gold being an exception from a scattering and EM viewpoint?

Related: Why are most metals gray/silver? After reading Johannes’ impressive answer to Ali Abbasinasab question of why do most metals appear silver in color with the exception of gold (and copper), ...
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2answers
285 views

How can a green laser be reflected as orange?

My friend recently bought a high-powerd pocket laser pen (from China). It is green, and reflects off most surfaces as green. On some orange surfaces, it reflects orange instead. That is to say, we ...
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2answers
437 views

Is light brightness subjective or can it be quantified?

What is the relationship between brightness perception and physical properties of light, such as light intensity?
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1answer
79 views

Looking for a resource that explains all colors and shapes of stars and galaxies

I've been looking at some of the astronomy pictures of the day from NASA. They all have content that is indicative of certain situations or events. Supernovas have the scattered lines look, new stars ...
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2answers
788 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 ...
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1answer
56 views

Why are reflected objects blurry?

While this may seems like a strange question, I'll try to explain it the best I can. Like 75% of Americans, I wear glasses and contacts to correct my worsening vision. I'm not far sighted so objects ...
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1answer
122 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 ...
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2answers
126 views

Colors of light

White light is always said to contain all the different wavelengths of light. Why, then, can we 'make' new colors simply by adding wavelengths? Is it just a matter of our perception, that, when two ...
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1answer
425 views

How to set up a very simple experiment in optics?

This might come across as a very rudimentary question. My fundamentals of Optics are weak. In the optics chapter of my physics text book I saw diagrams each depicting an object on the left and a lens ...
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1answer
363 views

simple test/measurement to quantify water opacity

I am performing some measurements on liquid surfaces and I want to quantify how these mesures depend on the liquid opacity by performing it with different concentrations of colorant. To allow ...
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3answers
942 views

High speed and low speed photons

Looking at the discovery of the neutron, and I came across this page: http://www-outreach.phy.cam.ac.uk/camphy/neutron/neutron3_1.htm The animation on the left, talks about low energy photons and ...
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1answer
295 views

What are the coloured bands in this “Pale Blue Dot” picture?

You can see Earth in the right most band in this image: What are these bands doing in space?! Can somebody please explain the coloured bands in this image?
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1answer
272 views

Lunar twilight and sixth magnitude stars

Summary: when the Moon is x degrees below the horizon, it interferes with stargazing the same as astronomical twilight would. What is x (as a function of the Moon's phase)? We define civil, ...
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2answers
42 views

How should I interpret an article about light being slowed and compressed?

I've found an article describing a method that allowed the light to be "slowed and compressed"... That sounds really strange, which made me google a lot and find this PDF document. However for me, ...
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2answers
138 views

Difference between Scattering and Fluorescence

It is often said that substances, objects have color because they selectively absorb all color of sunlight except one. The wavelength that is not absorbed reaches our eyes and we perceive it as ...
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1answer
53 views

How far can diffused undersea light travel and still be perceived by the human eye?

Example: If one SCUBA diver looks past another SCUBA diver horizontally into negative space, how far away is the most distant emission of 'blue' light waves? Consider the sight angle in question to ...
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2answers
316 views

Does thin film interference (anti-reflective coating) let more light through?

The theory of an anti-reflective coating is that the reflected light off the coating and the reflected light off the substrate is 180 degrees out of phase, causing destructive interference and ...
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2answers
128 views

Decomposing light into frequency spectrum

Light hits a charge coupled element. The wavelength of the light somehow is translated into a color picture. Where can I learn about methods (algorithms) to decompose light hitting a CCD into ...
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1answer
280 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 ...
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1answer
121 views

Angle of rays leaving a light source

I'm working on ray tracing and I'm trying to understand the impact of the angle at which a light-path intersects the surface of a light source on the amount of light that source delivers to the path ...
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1answer
213 views

Is there a simple model explaining Faraday effect?

I find magneto-optical effects fascinating, and especially the Faraday effect. But most sources only give a phenomenological description, while I want a deeper explanation of its mechanism. Is there a ...
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3answers
1k 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 ? ...
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1answer
48 views

How do you transform between theoretical Hertzsprung-Russell Diagrams and Colour-Magnitude Diagrams?

When discussing stars, theorists tend to use effective temperature $T_\text{eff}$ and luminosity $L$ (on logarithmic scales). Observers, on the other hand, usually talk about observed colours and ...
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2answers
818 views

Are Colors Emitted at Specific Temperatures?

There are quite a few nagging questions I have been having over the years, I do not require a full explanation, just some guidance in my assumptions and pointers if I am very wrong. My basic ...
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3answers
465 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 ...
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1answer
25 views

How is barometric light porduced?

A shaken sealed glass tube containing liquid mercury in a dark room will glow. This has been know since the 17th century and is called barometric light. How does the addition of potassium ...