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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Unpolarized Light

Suppose I had a ray of unpolarized light, and I was sitting inside the beam and looking at the electric fields oscillating, then , if I am looking at a point how would the oscillations look like? I ...
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921 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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76 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
55 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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160 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 ...
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1answer
486 views

Are black and white colours? [duplicate]

I am an artist, and I have heard that white is a 'tint' and black is a 'shade' in the artist world. I have also heard that they are colours in the normal world/scientific world. Which is correct and ...
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73 views

How is the image in a mirror created without a lens or pinhole?

How is the image in a mirror created without a lens or pinhole? From every point in the world there are infinitely many rays going out. How come the image on a mirror is ok, when there is no pinhole ...
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189 views

'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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176 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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507 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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106 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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674 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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128 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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219 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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6k 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 ...
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2answers
78 views

Did Newton argue that particles speed up when entering a more dense medium?

Statement: Newton argued that particles speed up as they travel from air into a dense, transparent object, such as glass. From this source, I gather that he did argue that the light particles ...
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135 views

A mirror in the sky to look at past Earth

Earth reflects light from Sun into Space; are there any "mirror like" objects which reflect back to Earth this light? Has anyone been able to use this method to recover some information on how was the ...
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1answer
88 views

Would white light waves act as same as monochromatic waves in double slit experiment?

Would white light waves act as same as monochromatic waves in double slit experiment? If not, what pattern would be seen on the screen?
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2answers
404 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?
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1answer
111 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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90 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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754 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
179 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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1answer
995 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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2answers
500 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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163 views

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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239 views

Question on Radiance equation

The radiance equation is $$ L = \frac{d}{dA} \frac{2(\phi)}{dW cos(\theta)} (watt/srm^2) $$ where $\phi$ is the flux. I am thinking, should not be the cosine term on the numerator instead of the ...
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1answer
91 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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204 views

Why is the shadow of earth red?

Reading this article about the forthcoming eclipse on December 10th, I noticed mention that the moon passes through the red shadow of Earth; I'd always held the impression that a shadow is universally ...
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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 ...
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53 views

Bending light (photons) into an orbit

I was wondering and researching about light bending and reflection - I'm wondering if its possible to bend a light beam into a loop (orbit)? I know that light can be bent and reflected (even 100% ...
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1answer
57 views

Can unpolarized light be created from polarized light?

I have a question regarding this topic. According Stokes Parameters theory, unpolarized light could be described as a superposition of two independent beams of equal intensity and orthogonal ...
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1answer
102 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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2answers
124 views

The speed of light as it approaches a massive body

No matter how fast you go, you will aways perceive the speed of light as constant. Taking that as a fact, the special relativity theory was formulated. Now, for what I understand about general ...
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130 views

Why does the colour wheel wrap around?

Red colour bares 430-480THz and Violet bares 670-750THz according to Wikipedia. What frequencies are the colours between red and violet? Will they be higher than red? or lower than violet? What ...
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159 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
137 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
394 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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1answer
521 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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441 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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1answer
381 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
314 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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67 views

Negative frequency contributions for very short pulses?

I am wondering if very short optical light pulses can have a Gaussian envelope? When I describe the pulse shape with a Gaussian than the frequency distribution has also a Gaussian shape. But if the ...
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1answer
133 views

Why do we see the sun's light color different from the moon's light color?

Why do we see the color of the sun's light as red or orange, while we see the moon's light as white, although it's reflected from the sun?
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325 views

Is the frequency/wavelength of light modified when multiple light sources are combined?

Let's say I light a wall with two spotlights: One red and one green one. Where they overlap, I'll see a yellow area at the wall. My question is, whether this is caused by an modification of the ...
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161 views

What is the energy distribution of light if it has an infinite length?

What is the energy distribution of light if it has an infinite length? I have read in one of the answers here on phys.SE that light has actually an infinite length. But then what is the energy ...
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47 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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1answer
237 views

Radio vs optical telescope imaging

As I understand, the visible light from an optical telescope is focused on a sensor which correlates light exposure to an electrical voltage, which is then converted to an image. A single antenna ...
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1answer
66 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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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 ...