Optics & Waves

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Supersonic speed is faster than the speed of sound, which is 768 miles per hour at sea level. Some familiar objects capable of traveling that quickly are bullets, whips and jet planes.

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  • Where does light come from?

    Q: Where does light come from?

    A: Light is a form of energy produced by many chemical reactions. The sun and other stars produce huge amounts of heat and light through fusion and are the source of most visible light in the universe. Other reactions that produce light are combustion and chemoluminescence.
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  • Where do ultraviolet rays come from?

    Q: Where do ultraviolet rays come from?

    A: Most of the ultraviolet rays that hit the Earth come from the sun. However, there are man-made items that give off ultraviolet rays, such as tanning beds, mercury vapor lamps and black lights.
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  • Is sound louder in water?

    Q: Is sound louder in water?

    A: Sound is louder in water than in air. Sound travels as waves that bounce off objects. Sound waves travel five times faster in water than in air, and they travel farther.
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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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  • 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 do sound waves travel?

    Q: How do sound waves travel?

    A: How Stuff Works explains that sound travels in mechanical waves, and these waves are disturbances that cause energy to move. The energy is then transported through a medium. Disturbances occur when an object vibrates. This vibration is caused by interconnected and interactive particles.
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  • What is Snell's law of refraction?

    Q: What is Snell's law of refraction?

    A: Snell's law of refraction is the relationship between the angles of incidence and refraction with respect to the refraction indices of two different media. Snell's law of refraction can be applied to the refraction light for any two media. Snell's law predicts the angle of refraction that light follows when passing from one medium and into the next medium.
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  • What does light passing through a transparent medium do?

    Q: What does light passing through a transparent medium do?

    A: When light passes through a transparent medium such as water or glass, the electrons slow down, which causes the light to refract. As light enters the transparent medium, the wavelength colors bend at different angles to create a rainbow. .
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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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  • What did Wilhelm Roentgen invent?

    Q: What did Wilhelm Roentgen invent?

    A: Wilhelm Roentgen invented the use of cathode rays to take X-rays of the body in 1895, according to About.com. Roentgen was honored for his discovery by receiving the Nobel Prize in physics in 1901.
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  • What is the difference between loud and soft sounds?

    Q: What is the difference between loud and soft sounds?

    A: Loud sounds are sounds that are high in volume and soft sounds are those that are low in volume. Sound is a type of vibrating pressure that is transmitted in waves. The volume of a sound is directly determined by the amplitude of its sound waves, which is the height of a sound wave. The amplitude and volume of a sound increase as the height of the sound waves increases.
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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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  • How do convex mirrors work?

    Q: How do convex mirrors work?

    A: Convex mirrors work by reflecting parallel rays of light as if they all emanated from a single point somewhere behind the mirror. The distance between the actual surface of the mirror and this point depends on the level of curvature, with greater curvature resulting in lesser distance. Images in convex mirrors are distorted, with progressive compression of the image away from its center.
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  • What is pitch in physics?

    Q: What is pitch in physics?

    A: Pitch, in physics, is equivalent to the frequency of sound waves, which are any compression waves in a medium. The word "pitch" is used specifically in situations where humans are perceiving the frequency of sound and changes in that frequency. Differences and changes in perceived pitch aren't always the same as the actual differences and changes in the frequencies of the sounds perceived.
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  • Why do lights appear to flicker from a distance?

    Q: Why do lights appear to flicker from a distance?

    A: The flickering or twinkling effect of lights when observed from a distance is caused by anomalous refraction as light passes through air, schlieren, where temperatures and densities vary. The technical term for this phenomenon is called "scintillation," and it refers to the rapid changes in the position and color of a distant object.
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  • Does sound travel faster than light?

    Q: Does sound travel faster than light?

    A: Sound travels much more slowly than light. The speed of light is colloquially known as the cosmic speed limit as physical constraints prevent objects of macroscopic scale from traveling faster than light.
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  • What is the highest frequency a human can hear?

    Q: What is the highest frequency a human can hear?

    A: Humans can generally hear frequencies from 20 to 20,000 hertz. However, under ideal laboratory conditions, humans have been able to hear frequencies as low as 12 hertz. As humans get older or are exposed to loud sounds that damage their hearing, the highest frequency they can hear decreases.
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  • How does a kaleidoscope work?

    Q: How does a kaleidoscope work?

    A: A kaleidoscope works by reflecting light that bumps into a reflective surface such as a mirror. It has two or more mirrors placed at an angle to each other. The mirror assembly is surrounded by a case, with an eyehole at one end of the mirrors and a collection of objects at the other end.
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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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  • What is the frequency range of radio waves?

    Q: What is the frequency range of radio waves?

    A: Radio waves range from 300 gigahertz (GHz), or a wavelength of 1 millimeter, to 3 kilohertz (kHz), which corresponds to a wavelength of 100 kilometers. Radio waves are the lowest frequency within the electromagnetic spectrum. The wavelength is the distance from the peak of one wave to the next.
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  • What are some examples of sound energy?

    Q: What are some examples of sound energy?

    A: Examples of sound energy include sounds made by singing, whistling, musical instruments and horns. Sound is a vibration that causes a wave of pressure through air, water, wood and other mediums. It is heard when the wave reaches the ear and is perceived by the brain. Sound waves have characteristics including their frequency, amplitude, intensity, speed, direction and wavelength.
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