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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23
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What is the mechanism behind the slowdown of light/photons in a transparent medium?

So light travels slower in glass (for example) than in a vacuum. What causes light to slow down? Or: How does it slow down? If light passes through the medium, is it not essentially traveling in the ...
18
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2answers
3k views

Does a photon exert a gravitational pull?

I know a photon has zero rest mass, but it does have plenty of energy. Since energy and mass are equivalent does this mean that a photon (or more practically, a light beam) exerts a gravitational pull ...
17
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3answers
1k views

Why does light of high frequency appear violet?

When people are asked to match monchromatic violet light with an additive mix of basic colours, they (paradoxically) mix in red. In fact, the CIE 1931 color space chromaticity diagram shows this ...
4
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6answers
3k views

Do photons have acceleration?

Photons travels with the largest speed in our universe, the speed of light. Do photons have acceleration?
18
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7answers
12k views

What determines color — wavelength or frequency?

What determines the color of light -- is it the wavelength of the light or the frequency? (i.e. If you put light through a medium other than air, in order to keep its color the same, which one would ...
23
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6answers
10k views

Why glass is transparent?

Once I asked this question from my teacher and he replied "because it passes light", "and why it passes light" I asked and he said "because it is transparent". Same question again, Why glass is ...
2
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5answers
426 views

If you shoot a light beam behind the event horizon of a black hole, what happens to the light?

I have a couple of questions about light here, and sorry of they are silly.. So since anything that goes beyond the event horizon can't go out, so what if a light beam was pointed somewhere behind ...
23
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4answers
2k views

Why does the sky change color?

Why the sky is blue during the day, red during sunrise/set and black during the night?
180
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17answers
60k views

A mirror flips left and right, but not up and down

Why is it that when you look in the mirror left and right directions appear flipped, but not the up and down?
37
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6answers
3k views

If I am travelling on a car at around 60 km/h, and I shine a light, does that mean that the light is travelling faster than the speed of light?

The title says it all. If I was on a bus at 60 km/h, and I started walking on the bus at a steady pace of 5 km/h, then I'd technically be moving at 65 km/h, right? So my son posed me an interesting ...
32
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3answers
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Why is the sky not purple?

I realise the question of why this sky is blue is considered reasonably often here, one way or another. You can take that knowledge as given. What I'm wondering is, given that the spectrum of ...
17
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2answers
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Is the “How to break the speed of light” minute physics video wrong?

I am referring to this video, on YouTube, by minutephysics, which has quite a lot of views. In the video it states that if you flick your wrist while pointing a laser that reaches the moon, that the ...
12
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6answers
7k views

Why can't light escape from a classical black hole?

Photons do not have (rest) mass (that's why they can move at speed of "light"). So, my question is how the gravity of classical$^1$ black hole can stop light from escaping? -- $^1$ We ignore ...
11
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4answers
8k views

What exactly is a quantum of light?

I am currently trying to learn some basic quantum mechanics and I am a bit confused. Wikipedia defines a photon as a quantum of light, which it further explains as some kind of a wave-packet. What ...
25
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7answers
6k views

What is the difference between a white object and a mirror?

I was taught that something which reflects all the colors of light is white. The function of a mirror is the same, it also reflects all light. What's the difference? Update: But what if the white ...
13
votes
5answers
610 views

What longest time ever was achieved at holding light in a closed volume?

For what longest possible time it was possible to hold light in a closed volume with mirrored walls? I would be most interested for results with empty volume but results with solid-state volume may ...
7
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3answers
1k views

Does light change color on its way through a window? [duplicate]

Looking at the refractive index of glass, it's around $1.6$. Then the speed of light $x$ through light should be given by $$ 1.6 = \frac{3.0\times10^8}{x}, $$ so $x$ is about ...
1
vote
1answer
485 views

How can you test what color different people perceive? [closed]

If I would show someone a yellow object and ask them, "is this object yellow?" That person would say "yes". But I could never know if my perception of the color yellow is the same as that other ...
5
votes
5answers
374 views

What are colors?

If you go to any course about photography, you learn that all colors are made up of the colors red, green and blue (RGB). (If you mix red, green and blue light, you will get white light, or any other ...
1
vote
1answer
868 views

If photons are deflected by a strong gravitational field, then how come photons do not have mass? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Explain how (or if) a box full of photons would weigh more due to massless photons It has been proved and showed through experiments that light can be bent by the Sun or ...
11
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6answers
464 views

How large is the universe?

We know that the age of the universe (or, at least the time since the Big Bang) is roughly 13.75 billion years. I have heard that the size of the universe is much larger than what we can see, in other ...
3
votes
2answers
111 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 ...
2
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1answer
1k views

Where is a good place to learn (classical) optics?

I need to learn basic optics for a high school academic competition. Does anyone know any good places, preferably free and online, to learn the basics of optics, like lenses, angles of incidence, ...
50
votes
10answers
13k views

Is it possible that there is a color our human eye can't see?

Is it possible that there's a color that our eye couldn't see? Like all of us are color blind to it. If there is, is it possible to detect/identify it?
16
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3answers
64k views

Why does the moon sometimes appear giant and a orange red color near the horizon?

I've read various ideas about why the moon looks larger on the horizon. The most reasonable one in my opinion is that it is due to how our brain calculates (perceives) distance, with objects high ...
1
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3answers
4k views

Hours of light per day based on latitude/longitude formula

I'm looking for a formula that will return the number of hours per day given a specific location. I was thinking that can be calculated as a difference of sunrise and sunset, but I see that there are ...
6
votes
1answer
183 views

Why does separating plastic from a cough drop create flashes?

I was tearing open individually-wrapped cough drops in the dark, and noticed that when I pulled apart two adhesive-joined pieces of silvery plastic film, small flashes of light were produced. It was ...
5
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1answer
277 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 ...
2
votes
3answers
138 views

Why can colors be mixed? [duplicate]

We can combine colored light, creating other colors, at least in terms of visual perception. But how it the result physically "a different color" - if it is at all? Or is all this not a physical ...
2
votes
5answers
2k views

Explanation about black color, and hence color

I'm bit confused about 'black' as a color. As per my knowledge, it is not given in visible color spectra like other colors for example red, violet etc. Also I'm confused with definition of color--does ...
43
votes
6answers
6k views

Why are most metals gray/silver?

Why do most metals (iron, tin, aluminum, lead, zinc, tungsten, nickel, etc.) appear silver or gray in color? (What atomic characteristics determine the color?) What makes copper and gold have ...
40
votes
6answers
2k views

Photons from stars--how do they fill in such large angular distances?

It would seem that far-away stars are at such a distance that I should be able to take a step to the side and not have the star's photons hit my eye. How do stars release so many photons to fill in ...
8
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5answers
12k 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?
6
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1answer
2k views

Transparency of materials

Is transparency of material has something to do with inter- or intra-molecular bonding? E.g. both graphite and diamond are carbon, but graphite is opaque and diamond transparent.
11
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6answers
2k views

Why is air invisible?

I think that something is invisible if it's isolated particles are smaller than the wavelength of visible light. Is this correct? Why is air invisible? What about other gases and fumes which are ...
14
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2answers
2k views

Why does one get an illusion as moon following him?

When you run or ride bike at night if you observe the moon you feel like he moves along with you as the same speed you are going. Why?
5
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1answer
2k 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 ...
4
votes
4answers
954 views

Colors from a computer vs. colors from visible spectrum of sunlight

Observation: So, I know that all computer screens are able to project many different colors by varying how they display the RGB (Red, Green, Blue) pixels. Question What's the difference between ...
25
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12answers
31k views

Why is light called an 'electromagnetic wave' if it's neither electric nor magnetic?

How can light be called electromagnetic if it doesn't appear to be electric nor magnetic? If I go out to the sunlight, magnets aren't affected (or don't seem to be). And there is no transfer of ...
8
votes
2answers
1k views

EM wave function & photon wavefunction

According to this review Photon wave function. Iwo Bialynicki-Birula. Progress in Optics 36 V (1996), pp. 245-294. arXiv:quant-ph/0508202, a classical EM plane wavefunction is a wavefunction (in ...
3
votes
1answer
859 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), ...
6
votes
2answers
685 views

Is it possible to charge photons

For example there are anti-particles to every particle we know, Similary in some sense, is there a possibility that we can charge photons..if not what are the reasons and has there been any attempt ...
5
votes
5answers
395 views

Trapping a lightray

Given a solid whose interior is a hollow sphere with perfectly reflecting mirrors. A small hole is drilled in the sphere and a photon is sent in at some angle. Will it always eventually exit through ...
2
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1answer
126 views

When photons are emitted, do they accelerate to reach the speed of light? [duplicate]

Photons are considered mass-less particle with a specific velocity but according to the electromagnetic theory, a photon is considered to have both energy and momentum. So what happen when they are ...
13
votes
1answer
483 views

Is colour, as represented using primary colours, accurate only to humans?

Slightly biological, hopefully physical enough to be answered. Suppose a magenta hue is represented by a mix of red and blue pigment. This is all very well for a creature with red and blue ...
11
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4answers
3k views

What happens when a photon hits a mirror?

When a photon of light hits a mirror does the exact same photon of light bounce back or is it absorbed then one with the same properties emitted? If the same one is bounced back does it's velocity ...
8
votes
4answers
2k views

Why is the speed-of-light “the upper limit” rather than the speed of “particle type X”?

Basically, I can't stop wondering why light (the photon) is so special, compared to all the other particles known (and unknown) to modern day physics. Could it be that there exists an upper limit on ...
4
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6answers
4k views

Is it possible to witness a circular rainbow?

What conditions would make it possible to see a naturally occurring fully 360° circular rainbow? Would it even be possible?
2
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2answers
9k views

3d holograms - How are they created?

How do 3d holograms work exactly? I read that there is a laser in use, but how are the multiple perspectives generated and how is the light trapped? in a certain area to create the effect? ...
12
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12answers
4k views

Can there be black light? I mean is it possible to devise a machine that outputs darkness?

I understand there are various colours that light can have. But i was wondering why there is no 'black' light. What is the logical explanation for this? I mean I am expecting an answer that goes ...