Optics & Waves

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Light is made up of billions of tiny particles known as photons, which travel from one place to another place in waves known as light waves. Visible light waves are the only electromagnetic waves that the human eye can see. These waves are visible as the seven colors of the rainbow known as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

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  • When does the Calvin cycle of photosynthesis begin?

    Q: When does the Calvin cycle of photosynthesis begin?

    A: The Calvin cycle of photosynthesis begins after light energy is transformed into chemical energy by the cells of plants. The adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, molecules created power the Calvin cycle. The Calvin cycle uses the energy to create carbohydrates from water and carbon dioxide.
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  • What is a hand lens?

    Q: What is a hand lens?

    A: A hand lens is used to magnify items. Hand lenses are used in scientific research, police work and everyday life. Hand lenses are magnifying glasses small enough to be held in a hand and easy to manipulate.
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  • What is the definition of resonant frequency?

    Q: What is the definition of resonant frequency?

    A: Resonance frequencies are the natural frequencies at which it is easiest to get an object to vibrate. While setting up vibrations at other frequencies is possible, they require much more energy and constant input to maintain than a resonance frequency. Most objects have several resonance frequencies, and this property must be taken into account because of their positive, as with musical instruments, or negative, as with bridges, effects.
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  • Why do people need sound?

    Q: Why do people need sound?

    A: The ability to perceive sound is critical for the survival of most species on Earth, including humans. The ability to assess the environment through hearing evolved in a variety of ways in the animal kingdom, and high-functioning animals such as humans adapted the sense of sound as a means to communicate.
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  • What are the dangers of infrared waves?

    Q: What are the dangers of infrared waves?

    A: Infrared waves are dangerous because they can cause burns, skin irritation, dehydration, low blood pressure and eye damage. A form of heat radiation, infrared waves are most dangerous at high levels.
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  • What is the difference between frequency and pitch?

    Q: What is the difference between frequency and pitch?

    A: Frequency refers to the number of vibrations that an individual particle makes in a specific period of time -- specifically, how often a wave peak goes by. Pitch, on the other hand, refers to the sensation of a frequency -- specifically, how high or low the frequency sounds.
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  • What is infrared used for?

    Q: What is infrared used for?

    A: Infrared is used for keeping things warm, reading information and checking heat. The uses for infrared technology are so diverse because infrared not only detects heat but produces heat in objects that it strikes.
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  • How does a gamma ray telescope work?

    Q: How does a gamma ray telescope work?

    A: Gamma ray telescopes use special detectors to measure gamma radiation from stars. Unlike conventional telescopes, gamma ray telescopes don’t take pictures or use optics. Instead, they create maps of gamma sources based on where astronomers point them. The data gathered provides a unique view of the universe.
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  • What is the Doppler effect?

    Q: What is the Doppler effect?

    A: The Doppler effect is an observed shift in the frequency of a wave as the source of the emission moves relative to the observer. As a sound- or light-emitting object moves closer to an observer, the pitch of the emissions rises. As the object recedes, the pitch falls.
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  • How is light dispersed through a prism?

    Q: How is light dispersed through a prism?

    A: White light bends or refracts as it enters and exits the triangular prism, with shorter wavelengths bending the greatest amounts and longer wavelengths refracting less, resulting in a light spectrum of different colors like a rainbow. Prisms are made of glass or other transparent material and cut so the angle of entry and exit maximize this effect.
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  • What makes sound waves?

    Q: What makes sound waves?

    A: Mechanical motion forms through the sound waves made by vibrating massive objects. Guitar, harp or piano strings are clear examples of the principle, but horns, percussive instruments and woodwinds also create vibrations that make sound waves. Even ordinary objects create sound waves if they vibrate.
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  • Can light bend?

    Q: Can light bend?

    A: Yes, light can bend through diffraction and refraction. Diffraction is when light bends around a corner or a small opening and fills the larger space beyond it. Refraction is the bending of light when it transitions through different mediums, such as light seen in the air and entering into water.
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  • What are the parts of a transverse wave?

    Q: What are the parts of a transverse wave?

    A: Parts of a transverse wave include the crest, trough, amplitude and wavelength. The crest is the top of the wave, and the trough is the bottom. The amplitude refers to the height of the wave from the midpoint, or rest point, of the wave. The wavelength is the length it takes for the wave to complete one cycle.
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  • What are the colors of the spectrum?

    Q: What are the colors of the spectrum?

    A: The colors of the visible spectrum are red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet. Color is a visual representation of electromagnetic radiation. Different wavelengths and frequencies are perceived as different colors.
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  • Why are rainbows curved?

    Q: Why are rainbows curved?

    A: Rainbows appear curved because sunlight shines into raindrops. The sunlight then leaves the raindrop at a different angle than when it first entered, resulting in a curved shape.
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  • How far can sound travel?

    Q: How far can sound travel?

    A: The distance that sound can travel depends on what medium the sound wave has to go through. The speed of the wave affects the distance that it can travel. Temperature and atmospheric pressure also can directly affect the amount of distance a sound wave can cover.
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  • How did Sir Isaac Newton discover optics?

    Q: How did Sir Isaac Newton discover optics?

    A: In 1666, Sir Isaac Newton discovered optics while examining a lighted refracted from a crystal prism and observing that light consisted of a full spectrum of color. In 1704, he published a book detailing his findings titled "Opticks."
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  • What does a light wave look like?

    Q: What does a light wave look like?

    A: Humans see light waves as colors. The specific color is determined by the measurement of the wavelength. On the visible light spectrum, the shortest wavelengths are violet and the longest wavelengths are red.
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  • How does an echo occur?

    Q: How does an echo occur?

    A: An echo occurs when a sound wave reflects back towards its source after hitting a hard surface. Although the surface may absorb some of the sound, the remaining sound that is not absorbed continues moving, creating additional echoes by bouncing off surrounding objects until the sound is completely absorbed or dissipates.
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  • What does the acronym LASER stand for?

    Q: What does the acronym LASER stand for?

    A: LASER is the abbreviation (or acronym) of "light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation," according to Curiosity.com. The foundation work for lasers was set in motion by Albert Einstein in 1917, according to Wikipedia.
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  • Can sound waves be reflected?

    Q: Can sound waves be reflected?

    A: Sound waves can be reflected. They most often reflect when they hit an obstacle in their path, such as a hard wall. Some sound waves will be reflected when the sound transitions from traveling through one medium to another, such as going from air to water.
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