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.

learn more… | top users | synonyms (3)

5
votes
1answer
145 views

Detecting a light ray without disturbing it

If I have a light ray trapped between two very reflective surfaces such that the light ray doesn't dissipate, how exactly can I know that there IS a light ray there, without disturbing it? As far as I ...
5
votes
3answers
5k views

Why does the Sun feel hotter through a window?

I have this big window in my room that the Sun shines through every morning. When I wake up I usually notice that the Sunlight coming through my window feels hot. Much hotter than it normally does ...
5
votes
6answers
12k views

Limit of human eye flicker perception?

I am designing a LED dimmer using software-controlled Pulse Width Modulation, and want to know the minimum PWM frequency that I must reach to make that LED dimming method indistinguishable from ...
5
votes
2answers
9k views

What's the difference between dim and bright light?

When comparing two light sources, for example, a light bulb at 20W and a light bulb at 100W, what is it about the incoming light that makes the latter look brighter than the former? Are there ...
5
votes
3answers
348 views

Is the event horizon of black holes visibly sharp, or blurry?

As you come in closer to a black hole, how do you see the event horizon? Is it always like a clear-cut surface? Or it only looks clear-cut from a distance, but as you come closer to the black hole, ...
5
votes
1answer
150 views

How can absorption spectra form if atoms can't remain in an excited state?

I have been tasked to write a research paper on stars. However, I know very little about physics in general. I am learning about how we can glean information about stars by analyzing the light that ...
5
votes
2answers
1k views

Why does welding produce UV light?

Looking directly at a welder is dangerous because large amounts of UV light is produced. What makes this light? Is it electrons from the current that excites metal atoms, and these atoms sends out UV ...
5
votes
2answers
261 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
261 views

What causes light to travel through a curved fountain of water?

Today I observed a tilted fountain spurting water upward (the water fell smoothly; no detectable turbulence). A colored light was shown upward into the water as it left its source. This light traveled ...
5
votes
2answers
243 views

Is a Perfect/Lossless Mirror possible?

In traditional mirrors, some of the input light is absorbed by atoms in the mirrors surface and are 'lost' as heat, degrading the quality of the reflected image. Could this loss be compensated by an ...
5
votes
1answer
1k views

What exactly heats a pool of water on a sunny day

On a sunny day an outdoor swimming pool will heat up fairly quickly. My question is, what is the exact mechanism for this and can we put numerical figures on it? Given that water is clear and ...
5
votes
2answers
19k views

Why does earth look blue from outer space?

I know it's more than 70% water. But what has it got to do with earth's colour ?
5
votes
1answer
5k views

Newton's color Disk

How does Newton's color disk work? Newton's disk - Take a circular white color disk, make 7 equal intersections and paint section with respective VIBGYOR colors, now when you spin the disk in certain ...
5
votes
1answer
430 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, ...
5
votes
1answer
82 views

Why are UV protective eyeware Orange?

Many industrial processes use uv as a curing agent. When one uses such a process, one must protect one's eyes from the radiation. Most uv protective gear I have seen is tinted orange? Does this ...
5
votes
2answers
791 views

Why does light travel in a straight line through a liquid?

So I was reading a document that stated that when traveling through a material (I'll use a liquid here, maybe water), a photon actually always traveled at 300,000 km/s, it was just that it ...
5
votes
4answers
483 views

Question about the wave nature of light

I quote from my textbook, " Consider two vertical slits S1 and S2 placed parallel to each other, and a string is passed through them. The end B is fixed and A is given jerks perpendicular to its ...
5
votes
2answers
240 views

Redshifting of light from a moving light source

We know that the expansion of space causes redshifting of light. I even read somewhere that the Doppler effect also happens in light. So imagine I switch on the headlights of my car in front of a wall....
5
votes
1answer
548 views

Why does the visible light spectrum appear to be circular [duplicate]

I'm not sure if this is an acceptable place to ask this question, as it may have more to do with the biological workings of human eyes than with the physical properties of light, but I'd rather hear a ...
5
votes
2answers
152 views

Layered CMOS structure question

I am trying to understand the workings of a CMOS image sensor. I understand that increasing wavelength results in an increased penetration depth in the silicon often used in CMOS image sensors. What ...
5
votes
2answers
533 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
897 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 ...
5
votes
1answer
606 views

3D movie glasses making white light look red and blue

While waiting for a 3D movie to start, I was playing with the glasses they give you. I understand each lens has different polarized filters, so the left and right superimposed images on the screen go ...
5
votes
1answer
4k views

Transparency of solids using bandgaps and relation to conduction and valence bands

I think I understand how a solid can appear transparent as long as the energy of the photons travelling through it are not absorbed in the material's bandgap. But how does this band gap relate to ...
5
votes
1answer
81 views

Strength of moonlight

So I read this xkcd, and thought it was kind of cool. However, I showed it to my engineer father and physics undergrad brother and neither seem to find the explanation very convincing (though they ...
5
votes
5answers
329 views

How is it possible for the wavelength of light to change in a medium?

So my physics class has just finished a long unit on optics while at the same time I've been trying to teach myself relativity. I admit my understanding is probably rudimentary, but I figured all the ...
5
votes
1answer
86 views

Why is it hard to make black clothes?

I've noticed that we have so-called 'black' clothes everywhere, I haven't seen so far any piece of clothes that would be really black, it's always some kind of lighter black. For instance, if you ...
5
votes
2answers
212 views

Would there be fringe pattern in this arrangement?

Figure shows a standard two slit arrangement with slits S1, S2. P1, P2 are the two minima points on either side of P. At P2 on the screen, there is a hole and behind P2 is a second 2- slit arrangement ...
5
votes
2answers
311 views

Is the color wheel just an optical illusion? [duplicate]

As a kid, I was taught that that blue and yellow make green, yellow and red make orange, and red and blue make purple - forming the subtractive color wheel. As an adolescent I was taught that blue and ...
5
votes
2answers
1k views

Why is glass much more transparent than water?

There is a related question (Why glass is transparent?) but I am coming at it only from Maxwell's equations. One can determine the skin depth $δ$ for poor conductors like (pure) water and glass using (...
5
votes
1answer
49 views

Converting spectra to rgb colour

I am having trouble obtaining RGB colour values from the spectra of an object. I have the specific flux $F_\nu$ as a function of $\nu$ for each pixel of the image I'd like to make, but am unsure of ...
5
votes
3answers
1k views

Squinting at light sources

I am sure it's just your eyelashes creating a filtering effects, but if you look a a bright(ish) light source such as a lightbulb while squinting, if looks like you are seeing straight light rays ...
5
votes
4answers
840 views

What will be the relative speed of a photon in a light ray to another photon of opposite direction light ray?

If two light rays start simultaneously in the space from exactly opposite ends in opposite direction that is separated by a distance of 600000 km in a way they meet at the mid point (300000 km from ...
5
votes
1answer
157 views

Predominant light frequency over the day?

I'm not well-versed in physics, so I hope you'll forgive me if this question is significantly off the mark. I'm interested in the predominant frequencies of light over the course of one day. My ...
5
votes
3answers
197 views

How would I perceive a purple ball when traveling at relativistic speeds

I have a 'thought experiment' which I'd like to ask about. I was thinking what speed I would have to drive towards a crossing to see a red light as a green light - pretty easy, using the doppler ...
5
votes
1answer
56 views

Refraction and scattered light for NLCs

For helping with judging NLC candidates (are they NLC or not) I have a set of formulas to calculate the minimum altitude (in km) of the candidate given an observed altitude (in degrees) of the ...
5
votes
6answers
298 views

Explain the notion of light/electromagnetic waves/photons to a non-physicist

A non-physicist asked me about special relativity. My explanations naturally were based on gedankenexperiments involving light. This forced the question: "What is light? It is particles, isn't? Or is ...
5
votes
3answers
535 views

Light wave crossing media and the relationship between speed, wavelength, and frequency

There are many threads on this topic (like this one) but one aspect about the equation $ v = \lambda\nu $ still confuses me. I have read that frequency does not change when light crosses into ...
4
votes
7answers
6k views

How do I see things of the bright room, being in the dark room?

Visible light emitted or reflected from the objects around us provides information about the world. If I sit in a dark room, and see the bright room outside, I am able to see all the objects of ...
4
votes
5answers
2k views

Radio antenna producing waves in the visible spectrum [closed]

If a radio could produce waves in the visible light spectrum, what would the result be? This is a thought experiment that I've pondered for a few years now. I realize there are a few/many real-world ...
4
votes
3answers
1k views

Why does Snell's law not factor in wavelength?

If dispersion is caused due to different wavelengths bending with different angles, how is Snell's law right in generalizing it as $\sin(i) / \sin(r)$? Or am I missing something?
4
votes
3answers
412 views

Is the number of rays projected by a source of light finite?

Take a source of light which gives out infinite number of rays, each ray with finite number of photons and each photon with a finite amount of energy, Then, Aren't the number of photons become ...
4
votes
3answers
10k views

Why does light always travel in a straight line?

No matter the frame light is in, it always moves in a straight line in that frame. Why is that? It doesn't seem like something to me that should necessarily be true. If some one runs forward and sends ...
4
votes
3answers
513 views

Why doesn't a ray of light have enough momentum to make us fall?

Why can't light be so powerful that it has enough momentum to make us fall?
4
votes
2answers
4k views

Do x-rays and gamma rays also contain photons like visible light does?

Do x-rays and gamma rays also contain photons like visible light does? If so, then what makes photons of visible light and other waves different? The rest mass of a photon is zero, but as it moves at ...
4
votes
2answers
2k views

Why are most accurate reflective surfaces not white?

Since white is our perception of reflection of light, why are mirrors and other metallic objects that are more grey or silvery capable more reflective than a white object? This is somewhat related: ...
4
votes
2answers
397 views

Seeing one's back on the event horizon

If we would hypothetically be exactly on the event horizon, we should see our own back, because of the circular motion of photons on the event horizon, right? But what would be the image size, or $-$ ...
4
votes
3answers
411 views

Is it possible to transfer light from edge to edge of transparent material?

I don't know much about physics but i believe that this is the place to ask my question. I'm using 3 monitor setup like this: the plastic bezels [ ] are extremely annoying. in order to make them ...
4
votes
2answers
1k 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 eye?...
4
votes
2answers
820 views

Why Does The Moon Apear White/Grayish and The Sun Yellow? [duplicate]

The Sun, as we all know, is white. Because our atmosphere scatters light the sun appears yellow to us hear on earth. So, why isn't the moon also yellow. Doesn't our atmosphere scatter its light. How ...