Questions tagged [visible-light]

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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427
votes
6answers
51k views

How does light bend around my finger tip?

When I close one eye and put the tip of my finger near my open eye, it seems as if the light from the background image bends around my finger slightly, warping the image near the edges of my blurry ...
336
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29answers
120k views

Why are mirror images flipped horizontally but not vertically?

Why is it that when you look in the mirror left and right directions appear flipped, but not the up and down?
164
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7answers
13k views

Why do we actually see the sun?

I haven't yet gotten a good answer to this: If you have two rays of light of the same wavelength and polarization (just to make it simple for now, but it easily generalizes to any range and all ...
164
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9answers
21k views

Could Legolas actually see that far?

The video “How Far Can Legolas See?” by MinutePhysics recently went viral. The video states that although Legolas would in principle be able to count $105$ horsemen $24\text{ km}$ away, he shouldn't ...
160
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6answers
24k views

Why do shadows from the sun join each other when near enough?

I was laying on my bed, reading a book when the sun shone through the windows on my left. I happened to look at the wall on my right and noticed this very strange effect. The shadow of my elbow, when ...
120
votes
6answers
21k views

Why does the humidifier make a stove's flame orange?

Just like this guy's, the color of my stove's flames were affected by the humidifier as well. Why does this happen? Is it a good thing or a bad thing ?
106
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6answers
48k 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 ...
105
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6answers
92k views

Why is glass transparent?

Once I asked this question from my teacher and he replied "Because it passes light.". "And why does it pass light?" I asked and he said, "Because it is transparent.". The same question again, Why ...
91
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1answer
5k views

Why does my wooden door disperse light into a rainbow color spectrum?

On a clear morning, light comes through this window (viewed from the inside) It then hits the door on the opposite side (so viewing from the outside the door straight on the other side) There is ...
90
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2answers
7k views

Why is a laserpointer able to “erase” a glow-in-the-dark sticker?

a while ago I tried to charge a glow-in-the-dark sticker using a simple red laser pointer. It was a large sticker, of the type used to mark emergency exits and fire extinguishers here in Germany. I ...
89
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4answers
14k views

Why does a yellow object turn white under a yellow light? Shouldn't it turn yellow instead?

Recently I was eating a yellow rice for lunch in a restaurant with only yellow lights. But the rice looked white! I was intrigued by this because I always thought it should look yellow since the ...
86
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7answers
20k views

Why do metals only glow red, yellow and white and not through the full range of the spectrum?

Why don't metals glow from red to yellow to green to blue etc.? Why only red, then yellow and then white? Shouldn't all wavelengths be emitted one by one as the temperature of the metal increases? ...
86
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5answers
13k views

Why is light bent but not accelerated?

Light is bent near a mass (for example when passing close to the sun as demonstrated in the famous sun eclipse of 1919). I interpret this as an effect of gravity on the light. However, it seems (to ...
85
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4answers
10k views

Why does a full moon seem uniformly bright from earth, shouldn't it be dimmer at the “border”?

I know the moon is not uniformly grey, it has details, craters, it's not just a colored uniform circle from earth, however, when in a full moon, the intensity of the light received from different ...
84
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2answers
21k 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 non-...
81
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6answers
6k views

Why does a rubber band become a lighter color when stretched?

I was stretching a pink colored rubber band, and I noticed that the longer I stretch it, the lighter the pink becomes. I haven't found answers to this question anywhere else. Is there a reason for ...
76
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13answers
28k views

If visible light has more energy than microwaves, why isn't visible light dangerous?

Light waves are a type of electromagnetic wave and they fall between 400-700 nm long. Microwaves are less energetic but seem to be more dangerous than visible light. Is visible light dangerous at all ...
76
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3answers
10k views

Why does my beveled mirror make triplicate “ghosts”?

Here is a picture of my power adapter. You can see in has one green LED lit when charging. Now here is a picture of my mirror with beveled edges. When I view the power adapter in the mirror, I see ...
76
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5answers
8k views

Why can we distinguish different pitches in a chord but not different hues of light?

In music, when two or more pitches are played together at the same time, they form a chord. If each pitch has a corresponding wave frequency (a pure, or fundamental, tone), the pitches played together ...
76
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1answer
7k views

Why does soaking a fabric make it more transparent?

It's a well-known fact that when one soaks a thin piece of fabric, it will often become more transparent than it was before. What is the reason behind this? I can't put glass behind the fabric and ...
75
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4answers
8k views

What is this shadow being cast upon?

The picture below is from on top of Mt. Shasta at sunrise. The sun was directly behind me when I took the picture and it appears to be casting a shadow on.... the sky itself? Can anyone explain ...
71
votes
1answer
45k views

Why does a window become a mirror at night?

In day, when you look in the room through the window out, you can clearly see what happens outside. At night when it's dark outside but there's light inside you can look in the window but it becomes a ...
70
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10answers
152k 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 ...
69
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3answers
52k views

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 ...
67
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6answers
12k views

Why isn't my calculation that we should be able to see the sun well beyond the observable universe valid?

I recently read an interesting article that states that a human being can perceive a flash of as few as 5 or so photons, and the human eye itself can perceive even a single photon. The brain will ...
67
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3answers
14k views

Why do beams of light (from torches or other directed sources) not extend to infinity?

When I'm in a dark environment, and I turn on a torch, I can see the beam of light from the torch. To the best of my understanding, the main reason why I can see the beam of light is that the light ...
67
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5answers
25k views

Why is water clear?

Water appears transparent to visible light, yet most other objects are opaque. Why is that? Is there an explanation why water appears transparent? Is water transparent at all wavelengths, or are ...
65
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12answers
30k 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?
64
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4answers
27k views

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 "...
63
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4answers
7k views

Why does the sun have to be nearly fully covered to notice any darkening in an eclipse?

I was looking at eclipse footage and I noticed that it doesn't get any noticeably darker until the very end when it suddenly all the light is gone. As the moon blocks out the Sun, I would expect that ...
63
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4answers
12k views

What's the physics behind XKCD #2027 (time between lightning flash and radio wave burst)?

XKCD usually has solid (and often contemporary) science behind it. Lightning Difference, #2027 one says: Q: What’s that trick for telling how many miles away lightning is? A: Just count the seconds ...
62
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4answers
20k views

Why does moonlight have a lower color temperature?

Moonlight has a color temperature of 4100K, while sunlight has a higher color temperature of more than 5000K. But objects illuminated by moonlight don't look yellower to the eye. They look bluer. ...
60
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3answers
14k views

How is 6W equivalent to 40W, as claimed by adverts for LED light bulbs?

Every advert I come across for LED bulbs advertise them as the equivalent of a higher W incandescent bulbs. This makes no sense to me, if the room requires 40W to lighten it up then it'll always ...
60
votes
6answers
10k views

How does light combine to make new colours?

In computer science, we reference colours using the RGB system and TVs have pixels which consist of groups of red, green and blue lines which turn on and off to create colours. But how does this work?...
60
votes
6answers
36k views

Why is the sky never green? It can be blue or orange, and green is in between!

I, like everybody I suppose, have read the explanations why the colour of the sky is blue: ... the two most common types of matter present in the atmosphere are gaseous nitrogen and oxygen. These ...
60
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3answers
4k views

In substances where light is slowed down, is its momentum lessened and if so, how does it speed up again when emerging from that substance? [duplicate]

I think in some media, light can be significantly slowed down; but even if only slightly, where would the momentum go when the light slows down and where does it get the extra momentum when it leaves ...
57
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11answers
86k 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 ...
56
votes
5answers
23k views

If I can see someone's eyes, can they see mine?

Besides the obvious cases where I'm behind a "one-way" mirror or have goggles/glasses on: is there one where I can see someone's eyes, and they can't see mine?
55
votes
1answer
4k views

What causes the Sun to appear to be in front of a building in this picture?

I took this photograph a few days ago, during sunrise, using my smartphone camera and digital zoom: It seems that the sun is in front of the building. How is this explained?
54
votes
3answers
9k views

Why doesn't light affect a compass?

In our daily life a lot of photons of visible light, infrared and radio etc move around us. We know that light is an electromagnetic radiation. So why doesn't that electromagnetic radiation affect a ...
54
votes
7answers
11k views

How many atoms does it take for us to perceive colour?

Atoms individually have no colors, but when there is a large collection of atoms we see objects colorful, which leads to a question: at least how many atoms are required for us to see the color?
53
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4answers
11k views

Red shifted to what?

I searched and found a lot of questions and answers about red shift here but none with the answer to mine. (sorry if it is there somewhere and I did not find it.) Everyone is saying the light from ...
53
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7answers
121k views

Why doesn't the frequency of light change during refraction?

When light passes from one medium to another its velocity and wavelength change. Why doesn't frequency change in this phenomenon?
52
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7answers
7k 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 ...
48
votes
3answers
19k views

Why do electric sparks appear blue/purple?

Electric sparks tend to appear blue or purple or white in color. Why?
48
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6answers
25k views

Where do photons go when they are absorbed?

The answer I usually get (and I'm paraphrasing here) is that they disappear and are instead absorbed as heat energy. But I find it hard to believe that the photon simply "disappears." Common sense ...
48
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3answers
11k views

Can I use an antenna as a light source?

Can I use a normal metal antenna to emit visible light?
48
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4answers
22k 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 ...
47
votes
8answers
8k views

Does a “capacitor” for light exist, which could filter out flickering?

If I have a light that is flickering at a frequency low enough to be perceived by the human eye, is there any type of material that exists that will smooth out the appearance of flickering? Similar to ...
46
votes
6answers
7k 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 ...

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