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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  • What is a spectrograph?

    Q: What is a spectrograph?

    A: A spectrograph splits or disperses light into its spectrum so it can be recorded and analysed. This can be done by using a prism or a diffraction grating.
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  • Is it possible to become invisible?

    Q: Is it possible to become invisible?

    A: Though there is some research and experimentation on the subject, there is not, as of 2014, a viable way to become completely invisible. Objects and people are visible because light reflects off them and hits the viewer's eye.
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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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  • 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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  • 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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  • How does light make colors fade?

    Q: How does light make colors fade?

    A: Light makes colors fade because ultraviolet radiation is capable of breaking down the molecules of pigments and dyes. The long molecules that make up these colors are often unstable, and the energy that ultraviolet radiation strikes these molecules with is capable of breaking the weaker molecular bonds in the structure. This degrades the colors over time, and as more molecules break down, colors begin to fade.
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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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  • Who invented the Doppler Effect?

    Q: Who invented the Doppler Effect?

    A: The Doppler Effect was proposed by Austrian physicist Christian Doppler in 1842. The theory was tested in 1845 by Dutch meteorologist C.H.D. Buys Ballot. Ballot's findings were supported by Scottish scientist John Scott Russell in 1848.
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  • What is the difference between reflection and refraction?

    Q: What is the difference between reflection and refraction?

    A: The difference between reflection and refraction is that in reflection waves bounce off of a surface while in refraction those waves do not bounce back but pass through the surface, which bends them and changes the speed of the waves. The image of a face is reflected back from a pool of water, but the light on the bottom of the pool of water is refracted because it is uneven and hazy due to the way the water bends the light waves.
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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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  • 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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  • 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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  • What is a light ray?

    Q: What is a light ray?

    A: A light ray is a basic element in geometrical optics. It is a hypothetical construct that, from any point in space, indicates the propagation of light. The concept that light travels in straight lines led to the development of the light ray concept.
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  • What is the distance between wave crests?

    Q: What is the distance between wave crests?

    A: The distance between wave crests is called wavelength. It is a characteristic shared by waves of all kinds, including ocean waves and sound waves. Wavelength is measured from the highest point, or summit, of one wave's crest to the summit of the next wave's crest.
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  • What does the loudness of a sound depend on?

    Q: What does the loudness of a sound depend on?

    A: Loudness is a subjective measure of sound because it is dependent upon the qualities of the sound receptor. Although loudness is related to decibel levels, sound pressure, frequency, bandwidth and duration, the actual perception of the sound is the proper variable for determining loudness.
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  • What are examples of transparent objects?

    Q: What are examples of transparent objects?

    A: Some examples of transparent objects include glass, cellophane, diamond and amber. Transparency is caused when light passes through a material without being scattered. It has application in many fields and is used both for function and aesthetical purposes.
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  • Why are sunsets red?

    Q: Why are sunsets red?

    A: According to the Old Dominion University, sunsets get their red color because light is refracted by particles that are in the atmosphere and the red spectrum is the one that is visible. The sky can also have shades of orange, yellow and purple when the sun begins to set.
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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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  • Why are the uplink and downlink frequencies different in satellite communications?

    Q: Why are the uplink and downlink frequencies different in satellite communications?

    A: Satellite uplink and downlink frequencies vary from one transmission source to another, but all must be different from one another in order to avoid interference during transmission. This is due to the waveforms created during signal transmission, as identical frequency transmissions disrupt the distance and clarity of the signal.
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  • How does a bell make sound?

    Q: How does a bell make sound?

    A: As the clapper of the bell strikes its sides, it causes them to vibrate, setting up a disturbance in the equilibrium of the air surrounding the bell. This disturbance travels through the air in a wave form that humans know as sound.
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  • What is the speed of light in miles per second?

    Q: What is the speed of light in miles per second?

    A: The speed of light is 186,282 miles per second. An object travelling at the speed of light would make approximately 7.5 rounds around the Earth in one second.
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