Light is electromagnetic radiation within a certain portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. The word usually refers to visible light, which is the visible spectrum that is visible to the human eye and is responsible for the sense of sight. m, between the infrared (with longer wavelengths) and the ultraviolet (with shorter wavelengths). This wavelength means a frequency range of roughly 430–750 terahertz (THz).Visible light is usually defined as having wavelengths in the range of 400–700 nanometres (nm), or 4.00 × 10−7 to 7.00 × 10−7
In physics, electromagnetic radiation refers to the waves of the electromagnetic field, propagating (radiating) through space, carrying electromagnetic radiant energy. It includes radio waves, microwaves, infrared, (visible) light, ultraviolet, X-rays, and gamma rays.
The electromagnetic spectrum is the range of frequencies of electromagnetic radiation and their respective wavelengths and photon energies.
The visible spectrum is the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that is visible to the human eye. Electromagnetic radiation in this range of wavelengths is called visible light or simply light. A typical human eye will respond to wavelengths from about 380 to 740 nanometers. In terms of frequency, this corresponds to a band in the vicinity of 430–770 THz.
The main source of light on Earth is the Sun. Sunlight provides the energy that green plants use to create sugars mostly in the form of starches, which release energy into the living things that digest them. This process of photosynthesis provides virtually all the energy used by living things. Historically, another important source of light for humans has been fire, from ancient campfires to modern kerosene lamps. With the development of electric lights and power systems, electric lighting has effectively replaced firelight. Some species of animals generate their own light, a process called bioluminescence. For example, fireflies use light to locate mates, and vampire squids use it to hide themselves from prey.
The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is a nearly perfect sphere of hot plasma, with internal convective motion that generates a magnetic field via a dynamo process. It is by far the most important source of energy for life on Earth. Its diameter is about 1.39 million kilometers, or 109 times that of Earth, and its mass is about 330,000 times that of Earth. It accounts for about 99.86% of the total mass of the Solar System. Roughly three quarters of the Sun's mass consists of hydrogen (~73%); the rest is mostly helium (~25%), with much smaller quantities of heavier elements, including oxygen, carbon, neon, and iron.
Sunlight is a portion of the electromagnetic radiation given off by the Sun, in particular infrared, visible, and ultraviolet light. On Earth, sunlight is filtered through Earth's atmosphere, and is obvious as daylight when the Sun is above the horizon. When the direct solar radiation is not blocked by clouds, it is experienced as sunshine, a combination of bright light and radiant heat. When it is blocked by clouds or reflects off other objects, it is experienced as diffused light. The World Meteorological Organization uses the term "sunshine duration" to mean the cumulative time during which an area receives direct irradiance from the Sun of at least 120 watts per square meter. Other sources indicate an "Average over the entire earth" of "164 Watts per square meter over a 24 hour day".
In physics, energy is the quantitative property that must be transferred to an object in order to perform work on, or to heat, the object. Energy is a conserved quantity; the law of conservation of energy states that energy can be converted in form, but not created or destroyed. The SI unit of energy is the joule, which is the energy transferred to an object by the work of moving it a distance of 1 metre against a force of 1 newton.
The primary properties of visible light are intensity, propagation direction, frequency or wavelength spectrum, and polarization, while its speed in a vacuum, 299,792,458 metres per second, is one of the fundamental constants of nature. Visible light, as with all types of electromagnetic radiation (EMR), is experimentally found to always move at this speed in a vacuum.
In physics, intensity is the power transferred per unit area, where the area is measured on the plane perpendicular to the direction of propagation of the energy. In the SI system, it has units watts per square metre (W/m2). It is used most frequently with waves, in which case the average power transfer over one period of the wave is used. Intensity can be applied to other circumstances where energy is transferred. For example, one could calculate the intensity of the kinetic energy carried by drops of water from a garden sprinkler.
A spectrum is a condition that is not limited to a specific set of values but can vary, without steps, across a continuum. The word was first used scientifically in optics to describe the rainbow of colors in visible light after passing through a prism. As scientific understanding of light advanced, it came to apply to the entire electromagnetic spectrum.
Polarization is a property applying to transverse waves that specifies the geometrical orientation of the oscillations. In a transverse wave, the direction of the oscillation is perpendicular to the direction of motion of the wave. A simple example of a polarized transverse wave is vibrations traveling along a taut string (see image); for example, in a musical instrument like a guitar string. Depending on how the string is plucked, the vibrations can be in a vertical direction, horizontal direction, or at any angle perpendicular to the string. In contrast, in longitudinal waves, such as sound waves in a liquid or gas, the displacement of the particles in the oscillation is always in the direction of propagation, so these waves do not exhibit polarization. Transverse waves that exhibit polarization include electromagnetic waves such as light and radio waves, gravitational waves, and transverse sound waves in solids. In some types of transverse waves, the wave displacement is limited to a single direction, so these also do not exhibit polarization; for example, in surface waves in liquids, the wave displacement of the particles is always in a vertical plane.
In physics, the term light sometimes refers to electromagnetic radiation of any wavelength, whether visible or not.In this sense, gamma rays, X-rays, microwaves and radio waves are also light. Like all types of EM radiation, visible light propagates as waves. However, the energy imparted by the waves is absorbed at single locations the way particles are absorbed. The absorbed energy of the EM waves is called a photon, and represents the quanta of light. When a wave of light is transformed and absorbed as a photon, the energy of the wave instantly collapses to a single location, and this location is where the photon "arrives." This is what is called the wave function collapse. This dual wave-like and particle-like nature of light is known as the wave–particle duality. The study of light, known as optics, is an important research area in modern physics.
Physics is the natural science that studies matter and its motion and behavior through space and time and that studies the related entities of energy and force. Physics is one of the most fundamental scientific disciplines, and its main goal is to understand how the universe behaves.
A gamma ray or gamma radiation, is a penetrating electromagnetic radiation arising from the radioactive decay of atomic nuclei. It consists of the shortest wavelength electromagnetic waves and so imparts the highest photon energy. Paul Villard, a French chemist and physicist, discovered gamma radiation in 1900 while studying radiation emitted by radium. In 1903, Ernest Rutherford named this radiation gamma rays based on their relatively strong penetration of matter; he had previously discovered two less penetrating types of decay radiation, which he named alpha rays and beta rays in ascending order of penetrating power.
X-rays make up X-radiation, a form of electromagnetic radiation. Most X-rays have a wavelength ranging from 0.01 to 10 nanometers, corresponding to frequencies in the range 30 petahertz to 30 exahertz (3×1016 Hz to 3×1019 Hz) and energies in the range 100 eV to 100 keV. X-ray wavelengths are shorter than those of UV rays and typically longer than those of gamma rays. In many languages, X-radiation is referred to with terms meaning Röntgen radiation, after the German scientist Wilhelm Röntgen who discovered these on November 8, 1895, who usually is credited as its discoverer, and who named it X-radiation to signify an unknown type of radiation. Spelling of X-ray(s) in the English language includes the variants x-ray(s), xray(s), and X ray(s).
Generally, EM radiation (the designation "radiation" excludes static electric, magnetic, and near fields), or EMR, is classified by wavelength into radio waves, microwaves, infrared, the visible spectrum that we perceive as light, ultraviolet, X-rays, and gamma rays.
The near field and far field are regions of the electromagnetic field (EM) around an object, such as a transmitting antenna, or the result of radiation scattering off an object. Non-radiative 'near-field' behaviours of electromagnetic fields dominate close to the antenna or scattering object, while electromagnetic radiation 'far-field' behaviours dominate at greater distances.
Radio waves are a type of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths in the electromagnetic spectrum longer than infrared light. Radio waves have frequencies as high as 300 gigahertz (GHz) to as low as 30 hertz (Hz). At 300 GHz, the corresponding wavelength is 1 mm, and at 30 Hz is 10,000 km. Like all other electromagnetic waves, radio waves travel at the speed of light. They are generated by electric charges undergoing acceleration, such as time varying electric currents. Naturally occurring radio waves are emitted by lightning and astronomical objects.
Microwaves are a form of electromagnetic radiation with wavelengths ranging from about one meter to one millimeter; with frequencies between 300 MHz (1 m) and 300 GHz (1 mm). Different sources define different frequency ranges as microwaves; the above broad definition includes both UHF and EHF bands. A more common definition in radio engineering is the range between 1 and 100 GHz. In all cases, microwaves include the entire SHF band at minimum. Frequencies in the microwave range are often referred to by their IEEE radar band designations: S, C, X, Ku, K, or Ka band, or by similar NATO or EU designations.
The behavior of EMR depends on its wavelength. Higher frequencies have shorter wavelengths, and lower frequencies have longer wavelengths. When EMR interacts with single atoms and molecules, its behavior depends on the amount of energy per quantum it carries.
EMR in the visible light region consists of quanta (called photons) that are at the lower end of the energies that are capable of causing electronic excitation within molecules, which leads to changes in the bonding or chemistry of the molecule. At the lower end of the visible light spectrum, EMR becomes invisible to humans (infrared) because its photons no longer have enough individual energy to cause a lasting molecular change (a change in conformation) in the visual molecule retinal in the human retina, which change triggers the sensation of vision.
The photon is a type of elementary particle, the quantum of the electromagnetic field including electromagnetic radiation such as light, and the force carrier for the electromagnetic force. The photon has zero rest mass and always moves at the speed of light within a vacuum.
Retinal is also known as retinaldehyde. It was originally called retinene, and renamed after it was discovered to be vitamin A aldehyde. Retinal is one of the many forms of vitamin A. Retinal is a polyene chromophore, bound to proteins called opsins, and is the chemical basis of animal vision. Retinal allows certain microorganisms to convert light into metabolic energy.
There exist animals that are sensitive to various types of infrared, but not by means of quantum-absorption. Infrared sensing in snakes depends on a kind of natural thermal imaging, in which tiny packets of cellular water are raised in temperature by the infrared radiation. EMR in this range causes molecular vibration and heating effects, which is how these animals detect it.
Above the range of visible light, ultraviolet light becomes invisible to humans, mostly because it is absorbed by the cornea below 360 nm and the internal lens below 400 nm. Furthermore, the rods and cones located in the retina of the human eye cannot detect the very short (below 360 nm) ultraviolet wavelengths and are in fact damaged by ultraviolet. Many animals with eyes that do not require lenses (such as insects and shrimp) are able to detect ultraviolet, by quantum photon-absorption mechanisms, in much the same chemical way that humans detect visible light.
Various sources define visible light as narrowly as 420–680 nm to as broadly as 380–800 nm. Under ideal laboratory conditions, people can see infrared up to at least 1050 nm; children and young adults may perceive ultraviolet wavelengths down to about 310–313 nm.
Plant growth is also affected by the color spectrum of light, a process known as photomorphogenesis.
The speed of light in a vacuum is defined to be exactly 299,792,458 m/s (approx. 186,282 miles per second). The fixed value of the speed of light in SI units results from the fact that the metre is now defined in terms of the speed of light. All forms of electromagnetic radiation move at exactly this same speed in vacuum.
Different physicists have attempted to measure the speed of light throughout history. Galileo attempted to measure the speed of light in the seventeenth century. An early experiment to measure the speed of light was conducted by Ole Rømer, a Danish physicist, in 1676. Using a telescope, Rømer observed the motions of Jupiter and one of its moons, Io. Noting discrepancies in the apparent period of Io's orbit, he calculated that light takes about 22 minutes to traverse the diameter of Earth's orbit. m/s.However, its size was not known at that time. If Rømer had known the diameter of the Earth's orbit, he would have calculated a speed of 227,000,000
Another, more accurate, measurement of the speed of light was performed in Europe by Hippolyte Fizeau in 1849. Fizeau directed a beam of light at a mirror several kilometers away. A rotating cog wheel was placed in the path of the light beam as it traveled from the source, to the mirror and then returned to its origin. Fizeau found that at a certain rate of rotation, the beam would pass through one gap in the wheel on the way out and the next gap on the way back. Knowing the distance to the mirror, the number of teeth on the wheel, and the rate of rotation, Fizeau was able to calculate the speed of light as 313,000,000 m/s.
Léon Foucault carried out an experiment which used rotating mirrors to obtain a value of 298,000,000 m/s in 1862. Albert A. Michelson conducted experiments on the speed of light from 1877 until his death in 1931. He refined Foucault's methods in 1926 using improved rotating mirrors to measure the time it took light to make a round trip from Mount Wilson to Mount San Antonio in California. The precise measurements yielded a speed of 299,796,000 m/s.
The effective velocity of light in various transparent substances containing ordinary matter, is less than in vacuum. For example, the speed of light in water is about 3/4 of that in vacuum.
Two independent teams of physicists were said to bring light to a "complete standstill" by passing it through a Bose–Einstein condensate of the element rubidium, one team at Harvard University and the Rowland Institute for Science in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the other at the Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, also in Cambridge.However, the popular description of light being "stopped" in these experiments refers only to light being stored in the excited states of atoms, then re-emitted at an arbitrary later time, as stimulated by a second laser pulse. During the time it had "stopped" it had ceased to be light.
The study of light and the interaction of light and matter is termed optics. The observation and study of optical phenomena such as rainbows and the aurora borealis offer many clues as to the nature of light.
Refraction is the bending of light rays when passing through a surface between one transparent material and another. It is described by Snell's Law:
where θ1 is the angle between the ray and the surface normal in the first medium, θ2 is the angle between the ray and the surface normal in the second medium, and n1 and n2 are the indices of refraction, n = 1 in a vacuum and n > 1 in a transparent substance.
When a beam of light crosses the boundary between a vacuum and another medium, or between two different media, the wavelength of the light changes, but the frequency remains constant. If the beam of light is not orthogonal (or rather normal) to the boundary, the change in wavelength results in a change in the direction of the beam. This change of direction is known as refraction.
The refractive quality of lenses is frequently used to manipulate light in order to change the apparent size of images. Magnifying glasses, spectacles, contact lenses, microscopes and refracting telescopes are all examples of this manipulation.
There are many sources of light. A body at a given temperature emits a characteristic spectrum of black-body radiation. A simple thermal source is sunlight, the radiation emitted by the chromosphere of the Sun at around 6,000 kelvins (5,730 degrees Celsius; 10,340 degrees Fahrenheit) peaks in the visible region of the electromagnetic spectrum when plotted in wavelength units and roughly 44% of sunlight energy that reaches the ground is visible. Another example is incandescent light bulbs, which emit only around 10% of their energy as visible light and the remainder as infrared. A common thermal light source in history is the glowing solid particles in flames, but these also emit most of their radiation in the infrared, and only a fraction in the visible spectrum.
The peak of the blackbody spectrum is in the deep infrared, at about 10 micrometre wavelength, for relatively cool objects like human beings. As the temperature increases, the peak shifts to shorter wavelengths, producing first a red glow, then a white one, and finally a blue-white colour as the peak moves out of the visible part of the spectrum and into the ultraviolet. These colours can be seen when metal is heated to "red hot" or "white hot". Blue-white thermal emission is not often seen, except in stars (the commonly seen pure-blue colour in a gas flame or a welder's torch is in fact due to molecular emission, notably by CH radicals (emitting a wavelength band around 425 nm, and is not seen in stars or pure thermal radiation).
Atoms emit and absorb light at characteristic energies. This produces "emission lines" in the spectrum of each atom. Emission can be spontaneous, as in light-emitting diodes, gas discharge lamps (such as neon lamps and neon signs, mercury-vapor lamps, etc.), and flames (light from the hot gas itself—so, for example, sodium in a gas flame emits characteristic yellow light). Emission can also be stimulated, as in a laser or a microwave maser.
Deceleration of a free charged particle, such as an electron, can produce visible radiation: cyclotron radiation, synchrotron radiation, and bremsstrahlung radiation are all examples of this. Particles moving through a medium faster than the speed of light in that medium can produce visible Cherenkov radiation. Certain chemicals produce visible radiation by chemoluminescence. In living things, this process is called bioluminescence. For example, fireflies produce light by this means, and boats moving through water can disturb plankton which produce a glowing wake.
Certain substances produce light when they are illuminated by more energetic radiation, a process known as fluorescence. Some substances emit light slowly after excitation by more energetic radiation. This is known as phosphorescence. Phosphorescent materials can also be excited by bombarding them with subatomic particles. Cathodoluminescence is one example. This mechanism is used in cathode ray tube television sets and computer monitors.
Certain other mechanisms can produce light:
When the concept of light is intended to include very-high-energy photons (gamma rays), additional generation mechanisms include:
Light is measured with two main alternative sets of units: radiometry consists of measurements of light power at all wavelengths, while photometry measures light with wavelength weighted with respect to a standardised model of human brightness perception. Photometry is useful, for example, to quantify Illumination (lighting) intended for human use. The SI units for both systems are summarised in the following tables.
|Radiant energy||Qe||joule||J||M⋅L2⋅T−2||Energy of electromagnetic radiation.|
|Radiant energy density||we||joule per cubic metre||J/m3||M⋅L−1⋅T−2||Radiant energy per unit volume.|
|Radiant flux||Φe||watt||W = J/s||M⋅L2⋅T−3||Radiant energy emitted, reflected, transmitted or received, per unit time. This is sometimes also called "radiant power".|
|Spectral flux||Φe,ν |
|watt per hertz |
watt per metre
|Radiant flux per unit frequency or wavelength. The latter is commonly measured in W⋅nm−1.|
|Radiant intensity||Ie,Ω||watt per steradian||W/sr||M⋅L2⋅T−3||Radiant flux emitted, reflected, transmitted or received, per unit solid angle. This is a directional quantity.|
|Spectral intensity||Ie,Ω,ν |
|watt per steradian per hertz|
watt per steradian per metre
|Radiant intensity per unit frequency or wavelength. The latter is commonly measured in W⋅sr−1⋅nm−1. This is a directional quantity.|
|Radiance||Le,Ω||watt per steradian per square metre||W⋅sr−1⋅m−2||M⋅T−3||Radiant flux emitted, reflected, transmitted or received by a surface, per unit solid angle per unit projected area. This is a directional quantity. This is sometimes also confusingly called "intensity".|
|Spectral radiance||Le,Ω,ν |
|watt per steradian per square metre per hertz|
watt per steradian per square metre, per metre
|Radiance of a surface per unit frequency or wavelength. The latter is commonly measured in W⋅sr−1⋅m−2⋅nm−1. This is a directional quantity. This is sometimes also confusingly called "spectral intensity".|
| Irradiance |
|Ee||watt per square metre||W/m2||M⋅T−3||Radiant flux received by a surface per unit area. This is sometimes also confusingly called "intensity".|
| Spectral irradiance |
Spectral flux density
|watt per square metre per hertz|
watt per square metre, per metre
|Irradiance of a surface per unit frequency or wavelength. This is sometimes also confusingly called "spectral intensity". Non-SI units of spectral flux density include jansky (1 Jy = 10−26 W⋅m−2⋅Hz−1) and solar flux unit (1 sfu = 10−22 W⋅m−2⋅Hz−1 = 104 Jy).|
|Radiosity||Je||watt per square metre||W/m2||M⋅T−3||Radiant flux leaving (emitted, reflected and transmitted by) a surface per unit area. This is sometimes also confusingly called "intensity".|
|Spectral radiosity||Je,ν |
|watt per square metre per hertz|
watt per square metre, per metre
|Radiosity of a surface per unit frequency or wavelength. The latter is commonly measured in W⋅m−2⋅nm−1. This is sometimes also confusingly called "spectral intensity".|
|Radiant exitance||Me||watt per square metre||W/m2||M⋅T−3||Radiant flux emitted by a surface per unit area. This is the emitted component of radiosity. "Radiant emittance" is an old term for this quantity. This is sometimes also confusingly called "intensity".|
|Spectral exitance||Me,ν |
|watt per square metre per hertz|
watt per square metre, per metre
|Radiant exitance of a surface per unit frequency or wavelength. The latter is commonly measured in W⋅m−2⋅nm−1. "Spectral emittance" is an old term for this quantity. This is sometimes also confusingly called "spectral intensity".|
|Radiant exposure||He||joule per square metre||J/m2||M⋅T−2||Radiant energy received by a surface per unit area, or equivalently irradiance of a surface integrated over time of irradiation. This is sometimes also called "radiant fluence".|
|Spectral exposure||He,ν |
|joule per square metre per hertz|
joule per square metre, per metre
|Radiant exposure of a surface per unit frequency or wavelength. The latter is commonly measured in J⋅m−2⋅nm−1. This is sometimes also called "spectral fluence".|
|Hemispherical emissivity||ε||1||Radiant exitance of a surface, divided by that of a black body at the same temperature as that surface.|
|Spectral hemispherical emissivity||εν|
|1||Spectral exitance of a surface, divided by that of a black body at the same temperature as that surface.|
|Directional emissivity||εΩ||1||Radiance emitted by a surface, divided by that emitted by a black body at the same temperature as that surface.|
|Spectral directional emissivity||εΩ,ν|
|1||Spectral radiance emitted by a surface, divided by that of a black body at the same temperature as that surface.|
|Hemispherical absorptance||A||1||Radiant flux absorbed by a surface, divided by that received by that surface. This should not be confused with "absorbance".|
|Spectral hemispherical absorptance||Aν|
|1||Spectral flux absorbed by a surface, divided by that received by that surface. This should not be confused with "spectral absorbance".|
|Directional absorptance||AΩ||1||Radiance absorbed by a surface, divided by the radiance incident onto that surface. This should not be confused with "absorbance".|
|Spectral directional absorptance||AΩ,ν|
|1||Spectral radiance absorbed by a surface, divided by the spectral radiance incident onto that surface. This should not be confused with "spectral absorbance".|
|Hemispherical reflectance||R||1||Radiant flux reflected by a surface, divided by that received by that surface.|
|Spectral hemispherical reflectance||Rν|
|1||Spectral flux reflected by a surface, divided by that received by that surface.|
|Directional reflectance||RΩ||1||Radiance reflected by a surface, divided by that received by that surface.|
|Spectral directional reflectance||RΩ,ν|
|1||Spectral radiance reflected by a surface, divided by that received by that surface.|
|Hemispherical transmittance||T||1||Radiant flux transmitted by a surface, divided by that received by that surface.|
|Spectral hemispherical transmittance||Tν|
|1||Spectral flux transmitted by a surface, divided by that received by that surface.|
|Directional transmittance||TΩ||1||Radiance transmitted by a surface, divided by that received by that surface.|
|Spectral directional transmittance||TΩ,ν|
|1||Spectral radiance transmitted by a surface, divided by that received by that surface.|
|Hemispherical attenuation coefficient||μ||reciprocal metre||m−1||L−1||Radiant flux absorbed and scattered by a volume per unit length, divided by that received by that volume.|
|Spectral hemispherical attenuation coefficient||μν|
|reciprocal metre||m−1||L−1||Spectral radiant flux absorbed and scattered by a volume per unit length, divided by that received by that volume.|
|Directional attenuation coefficient||μΩ||reciprocal metre||m−1||L−1||Radiance absorbed and scattered by a volume per unit length, divided by that received by that volume.|
|Spectral directional attenuation coefficient||μΩ,ν|
|reciprocal metre||m−1||L−1||Spectral radiance absorbed and scattered by a volume per unit length, divided by that received by that volume.|
|See also: SI · Radiometry · Photometry · (Compare)|
|Luminous energy||Qv||lumen second||lm⋅s||T⋅J||The lumen second is sometimes called the talbot.|
|Luminous flux, luminous power||Φ v||lumen (= candela steradians)||lm (= cd⋅sr)||J||Luminous energy per unit time|
|Luminous intensity||Iv||candela (= lumen per steradian)||cd (= lm/sr)||J||Luminous flux per unit solid angle|
|Luminance||Lv||candela per square metre||cd/m2||L−2⋅J||Luminous flux per unit solid angle per unit projected source area. The candela per square metre is sometimes called the nit .|
|Illuminance||Ev||lux (= lumen per square metre)||lx (= lm/m2)||L−2⋅J||Luminous flux incident on a surface|
|Luminous exitance, luminous emittance||Mv||lux||lx||L−2⋅J||Luminous flux emitted from a surface|
|Luminous exposure||Hv||lux second||lx⋅s||L−2⋅T⋅J||Time-integrated illuminance|
|Luminous energy density||ωv||lumen second per cubic metre||lm⋅s/m3||L−3⋅T⋅J|
|Luminous efficacy||η||lumen per watt||lm/W||M−1⋅L−2⋅T3⋅J||Ratio of luminous flux to radiant flux or power consumption, depending on context|
|Luminous efficiency, luminous coefficient||V||1||Luminous efficacy normalized by the maximum possible efficacy|
|See also: SI · Photometry · Radiometry · (Compare)|
The photometry units are different from most systems of physical units in that they take into account how the human eye responds to light. The cone cells in the human eye are of three types which respond differently across the visible spectrum, and the cumulative response peaks at a wavelength of around 555 nm. Therefore, two sources of light which produce the same intensity (W/m2) of visible light do not necessarily appear equally bright. The photometry units are designed to take this into account, and therefore are a better representation of how "bright" a light appears to be than raw intensity. They relate to raw power by a quantity called luminous efficacy, and are used for purposes like determining how to best achieve sufficient illumination for various tasks in indoor and outdoor settings. The illumination measured by a photocell sensor does not necessarily correspond to what is perceived by the human eye, and without filters which may be costly, photocells and charge-coupled devices (CCD) tend to respond to some infrared, ultraviolet or both.
Light exerts physical pressure on objects in its path, a phenomenon which can be deduced by Maxwell's equations, but can be more easily explained by the particle nature of light: photons strike and transfer their momentum. Light pressure is equal to the power of the light beam divided by c , the speed of light. Due to the magnitude of c, the effect of light pressure is negligible for everyday objects. For example, a one-milliwatt laser pointer exerts a force of about 3.3 piconewtons on the object being illuminated; thus, one could lift a U.S. penny with laser pointers, but doing so would require about 30 billion 1-mW laser pointers. However, in nanometre-scale applications such as nanoelectromechanical systems (|NEMS), the effect of light pressure is more significant, and exploiting light pressure to drive NEMS mechanisms and to flip nanometre-scale physical switches in integrated circuits is an active area of research. At larger scales, light pressure can cause asteroids to spin faster, acting on their irregular shapes as on the vanes of a windmill. The possibility of making solar sails that would accelerate spaceships in space is also under investigation.
Although the motion of the Crookes radiometer was originally attributed to light pressure, this interpretation is incorrect; the characteristic Crookes rotation is the result of a partial vacuum.This should not be confused with the Nichols radiometer, in which the (slight) motion caused by torque (though not enough for full rotation against friction) is directly caused by light pressure. As a consequence of light pressure, Einstein in 1909 predicted the existence of "radiation friction" which would oppose the movement of matter. He wrote, "radiation will exert pressure on both sides of the plate. The forces of pressure exerted on the two sides are equal if the plate is at rest. However, if it is in motion, more radiation will be reflected on the surface that is ahead during the motion (front surface) than on the back surface. The backwardacting force of pressure exerted on the front surface is thus larger than the force of pressure acting on the back. Hence, as the resultant of the two forces, there remains a force that counteracts the motion of the plate and that increases with the velocity of the plate. We will call this resultant 'radiation friction' in brief."
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In the fifth century BC, Empedocles postulated that everything was composed of four elements; fire, air, earth and water. He believed that Aphrodite made the human eye out of the four elements and that she lit the fire in the eye which shone out from the eye making sight possible. If this were true, then one could see during the night just as well as during the day, so Empedocles postulated an interaction between rays from the eyes and rays from a source such as the sun.
In about 300 BC, Euclid wrote Optica, in which he studied the properties of light. Euclid postulated that light travelled in straight lines and he described the laws of reflection and studied them mathematically. He questioned that sight is the result of a beam from the eye, for he asks how one sees the stars immediately, if one closes one's eyes, then opens them at night. If the beam from the eye travels infinitely fast this is not a problem.
In 55 BC, Lucretius, a Roman who carried on the ideas of earlier Greek atomists, wrote that "The light & heat of the sun; these are composed of minute atoms which, when they are shoved off, lose no time in shooting right across the interspace of air in the direction imparted by the shove." (from On the nature of the Universe). Despite being similar to later particle theories, Lucretius's views were not generally accepted. Ptolemy (c. 2nd century) wrote about the refraction of light in his book Optics.
In ancient India, the Hindu schools of Samkhya and Vaisheshika, from around the early centuries AD developed theories on light. According to the Samkhya school, light is one of the five fundamental "subtle" elements (tanmatra) out of which emerge the gross elements. The atomicity of these elements is not specifically mentioned and it appears that they were actually taken to be continuous. [ citation needed ] The Vishnu Purana refers to sunlight as "the seven rays of the sun".[ citation needed ]On the other hand, the Vaisheshika school gives an atomic theory of the physical world on the non-atomic ground of ether, space and time. (See Indian atomism .) The basic atoms are those of earth (prthivi), water (pani), fire (agni), and air (vayu) Light rays are taken to be a stream of high velocity of tejas (fire) atoms. The particles of light can exhibit different characteristics depending on the speed and the arrangements of the tejas atoms.
The Indian Buddhists, such as Dignāga in the 5th century and Dharmakirti in the 7th century, developed a type of atomism that is a philosophy about reality being composed of atomic entities that are momentary flashes of light or energy. They viewed light as being an atomic entity equivalent to energy.[ citation needed ]
René Descartes (1596–1650) held that light was a mechanical property of the luminous body, rejecting the "forms" of Ibn al-Haytham and Witelo as well as the "species" of Bacon, Grosseteste, and Kepler. [ citation needed ] Although Descartes was incorrect about the relative speeds, he was correct in assuming that light behaved like a wave and in concluding that refraction could be explained by the speed of light in different media.In 1637 he published a theory of the refraction of light that assumed, incorrectly, that light travelled faster in a denser medium than in a less dense medium. Descartes arrived at this conclusion by analogy with the behaviour of sound waves.
Descartes is not the first to use the mechanical analogies but because he clearly asserts that light is only a mechanical property of the luminous body and the transmitting medium, Descartes' theory of light is regarded as the start of modern physical optics.
Pierre Gassendi (1592–1655), an atomist, proposed a particle theory of light which was published posthumously in the 1660s. Isaac Newton studied Gassendi's work at an early age, and preferred his view to Descartes' theory of the plenum. He stated in his Hypothesis of Light of 1675 that light was composed of corpuscles (particles of matter) which were emitted in all directions from a source. One of Newton's arguments against the wave nature of light was that waves were known to bend around obstacles, while light travelled only in straight lines. He did, however, explain the phenomenon of the diffraction of light (which had been observed by Francesco Grimaldi) by allowing that a light particle could create a localised wave in the aether.
Newton's theory could be used to predict the reflection of light, but could only explain refraction by incorrectly assuming that light accelerated upon entering a denser medium because the gravitational pull was greater. Newton published the final version of his theory in his Opticks of 1704. His reputation helped the particle theory of light to hold sway during the 18th century. The particle theory of light led Laplace to argue that a body could be so massive that light could not escape from it. In other words, it would become what is now called a black hole. Laplace withdrew his suggestion later, after a wave theory of light became firmly established as the model for light (as has been explained, neither a particle or wave theory is fully correct). A translation of Newton's essay on light appears in The large scale structure of space-time, by Stephen Hawking and George F. R. Ellis.
The fact that light could be polarized was for the first time qualitatively explained by Newton using the particle theory. Étienne-Louis Malus in 1810 created a mathematical particle theory of polarization. Jean-Baptiste Biot in 1812 showed that this theory explained all known phenomena of light polarization. At that time the polarization was considered as the proof of the particle theory.
To explain the origin of colors, Robert Hooke (1635–1703) developed a "pulse theory" and compared the spreading of light to that of waves in water in his 1665 work Micrographia ("Observation IX"). In 1672 Hooke suggested that light's vibrations could be perpendicular to the direction of propagation. Christiaan Huygens (1629–1695) worked out a mathematical wave theory of light in 1678, and published it in his Treatise on light in 1690. He proposed that light was emitted in all directions as a series of waves in a medium called the Luminiferous ether . As waves are not affected by gravity, it was assumed that they slowed down upon entering a denser medium.
The wave theory predicted that light waves could interfere with each other like sound waves (as noted around 1800 by Thomas Young). Young showed by means of a diffraction experiment that light behaved as waves. He also proposed that different colours were caused by different wavelengths of light, and explained colour vision in terms of three-coloured receptors in the eye. Another supporter of the wave theory was Leonhard Euler. He argued in Nova theoria lucis et colorum (1746) that diffraction could more easily be explained by a wave theory. In 1816 André-Marie Ampère gave Augustin-Jean Fresnel an idea that the polarization of light can be explained by the wave theory if light were a transverse wave.
Later, Fresnel independently worked out his own wave theory of light, and presented it to the Académie des Sciences in 1817. Siméon Denis Poisson added to Fresnel's mathematical work to produce a convincing argument in favour of the wave theory, helping to overturn Newton's corpuscular theory.[ dubious ] By the year 1821, Fresnel was able to show via mathematical methods that polarisation could be explained by the wave theory of light and only if light was entirely transverse, with no longitudinal vibration whatsoever.[ citation needed ]
The weakness of the wave theory was that light waves, like sound waves, would need a medium for transmission. The existence of the hypothetical substance luminiferous aether proposed by Huygens in 1678 was cast into strong doubt in the late nineteenth century by the Michelson–Morley experiment.
Newton's corpuscular theory implied that light would travel faster in a denser medium, while the wave theory of Huygens and others implied the opposite. At that time, the speed of light could not be measured accurately enough to decide which theory was correct. The first to make a sufficiently accurate measurement was Léon Foucault, in 1850.His result supported the wave theory, and the classical particle theory was finally abandoned, only to partly re-emerge in the 20th century.
In 1845, Michael Faraday discovered that the plane of polarisation of linearly polarised light is rotated when the light rays travel along the magnetic field direction in the presence of a transparent dielectric, an effect now known as Faraday rotation. [ citation needed ]This was the first evidence that light was related to electromagnetism. In 1846 he speculated that light might be some form of disturbance propagating along magnetic field lines. Faraday proposed in 1847 that light was a high-frequency electromagnetic vibration, which could propagate even in the absence of a medium such as the ether.
Faraday's work inspired James Clerk Maxwell to study electromagnetic radiation and light. Maxwell discovered that self-propagating electromagnetic waves would travel through space at a constant speed, which happened to be equal to the previously measured speed of light. From this, Maxwell concluded that light was a form of electromagnetic radiation: he first stated this result in 1862 in On Physical Lines of Force. In 1873, he published A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism , which contained a full mathematical description of the behaviour of electric and magnetic fields, still known as Maxwell's equations. Soon after, Heinrich Hertz confirmed Maxwell's theory experimentally by generating and detecting radio waves in the laboratory, and demonstrating that these waves behaved exactly like visible light, exhibiting properties such as reflection, refraction, diffraction, and interference. Maxwell's theory and Hertz's experiments led directly to the development of modern radio, radar, television, electromagnetic imaging, and wireless communications.
In the quantum theory, photons are seen as wave packets of the waves described in the classical theory of Maxwell. The quantum theory was needed to explain effects even with visual light that Maxwell's classical theory could not (such as spectral lines).
In 1900 Max Planck, attempting to explain black-body radiation suggested that although light was a wave, these waves could gain or lose energy only in finite amounts related to their frequency. Planck called these "lumps" of light energy "quanta" (from a Latin word for "how much"). In 1905, Albert Einstein used the idea of light quanta to explain the photoelectric effect, and suggested that these light quanta had a "real" existence. In 1923 Arthur Holly Compton showed that the wavelength shift seen when low intensity X-rays scattered from electrons (so called Compton scattering) could be explained by a particle-theory of X-rays, but not a wave theory. In 1926 Gilbert N. Lewis named these light quanta particles photons.
Eventually the modern theory of quantum mechanics came to picture light as (in some sense) both a particle and a wave, and (in another sense), as a phenomenon which is neither a particle nor a wave (which actually are macroscopic phenomena, such as baseballs or ocean waves). Instead, modern physics sees light as something that can be described sometimes with mathematics appropriate to one type of macroscopic metaphor (particles), and sometimes another macroscopic metaphor (water waves), but is actually something that cannot be fully imagined. As in the case for radio waves and the X-rays involved in Compton scattering, physicists have noted that electromagnetic radiation tends to behave more like a classical wave at lower frequencies, but more like a classical particle at higher frequencies, but never completely loses all qualities of one or the other. Visible light, which occupies a middle ground in frequency, can easily be shown in experiments to be describable using either a wave or particle model, or sometimes both.
In February 2018, scientists reported, for the first time, the discovery of a new form of light, which may involve polaritons, that could be useful in the development of quantum computers.
An electromagnetic field is a physical field produced by electrically charged objects. It affects the behavior of charged objects in the vicinity of the field. The electromagnetic field extends indefinitely throughout space and describes the electromagnetic interaction. It is one of the four fundamental forces of nature.
Infrared radiation (IR), sometimes called infrared light, is electromagnetic radiation (EMR) with longer wavelengths than those of visible light, and is therefore generally invisible to the human eye, although IR at wavelengths up to 1050 nanometers (nm)s from specially pulsed lasers can be seen by humans under certain conditions. IR wavelengths extend from the nominal red edge of the visible spectrum at 700 nanometers, to 1 millimeter (300 GHz). Most of the thermal radiation emitted by objects near room temperature is infrared. As with all EMR, IR carries radiant energy and behaves both like a wave and like its quantum particle, the photon.
In physics, radiation is the emission or transmission of energy in the form of waves or particles through space or through a material medium. This includes:
Spectroscopy is the study of the interaction between matter and electromagnetic radiation. Historically, spectroscopy originated through the study of visible light dispersed according to its wavelength, by a prism. Later the concept was expanded greatly to include any interaction with radiative energy as a function of its wavelength or frequency, predominantly in the electromagnetic spectrum, though matter waves and acoustic waves can also be considered forms of radiative energy; recently, with tremendous difficulty, even gravitational waves have been associated with a spectral signature in the context of LIGO and laser interferometry. Spectroscopic data are often represented by an emission spectrum, a plot of the response of interest as a function of wavelength or frequency.
Wave–particle duality is the concept in quantum mechanics that every particle or quantum entity may be partly described in terms not only of particles, but also of waves. It expresses the inability of the classical concepts "particle" or "wave" to fully describe the behaviour of quantum-scale objects. As Albert Einstein wrote:
It seems as though we must use sometimes the one theory and sometimes the other, while at times we may use either. We are faced with a new kind of difficulty. We have two contradictory pictures of reality; separately neither of them fully explains the phenomena of light, but together they do.
In physics, attenuation or, in some contexts, extinction is the gradual loss of flux intensity through a medium. For instance, dark glasses attenuate sunlight, lead attenuates X-rays, and water and air attenuate both light and sound at variable attenuation rates.
Ultraviolet astronomy is the observation of electromagnetic radiation at ultraviolet wavelengths between approximately 10 and 320 nanometres; shorter wavelengths—higher energy photons—are studied by X-ray astronomy and gamma ray astronomy. Ultraviolet light is not visible to the human eye. Most of the light at these wavelengths is absorbed by the Earth's atmosphere, so observations at these wavelengths must be performed from the upper atmosphere or from space.
The emission spectrum of a chemical element or chemical compound is the spectrum of frequencies of electromagnetic radiation emitted due to an atom or molecule making a transition from a high energy state to a lower energy state. The photon energy of the emitted photon is equal to the energy difference between the two states. There are many possible electron transitions for each atom, and each transition has a specific energy difference. This collection of different transitions, leading to different radiated wavelengths, make up an emission spectrum. Each element's emission spectrum is unique. Therefore, spectroscopy can be used to identify the elements in matter of unknown composition. Similarly, the emission spectra of molecules can be used in chemical analysis of substances.
Optics is the branch of physics which involves the behavior and properties of light, including its interactions with matter and the construction of instruments that use or detect it. Optics usually describes the behavior of visible, ultraviolet, and infrared light. Because light is an electromagnetic wave, other forms of electromagnetic radiation such as X-rays, microwaves, and radio waves exhibit similar properties.
In the field of optics, transparency is the physical property of allowing light to pass through the material without being scattered. On a macroscopic scale, the photons can be said to follow Snell's Law. Translucency is a superset of transparency: it allows light to pass through, but does not necessarily follow Snell's law; the photons can be scattered at either of the two interfaces, or internally, where there is a change in index of refraction. In other words, a translucent medium allows the transport of light while a transparent medium not only allows the transport of light but allows for image formation. Transparent materials appear clear, with the overall appearance of one color, or any combination leading up to a brilliant spectrum of every color. The opposite property of translucency is opacity.
In physics, absorption of electromagnetic radiation is the way in which the energy of a photon is taken up by matter, typically the electrons of an atom. Thus, the electromagnetic energy is transformed into internal energy of the absorber, for example thermal energy. The reduction in intensity of a light wave propagating through a medium by absorption of a part of its photons is often called attenuation. Usually, the absorption of waves does not depend on their intensity, although in certain conditions, the medium changes its transparency dependently on the intensity of waves going through, and saturable absorption occurs.
Extreme ultraviolet radiation or high-energy ultraviolet radiation is electromagnetic radiation in the part of the electromagnetic spectrum spanning wavelengths from 124 nm down to 10 nm, and therefore having photons with energies from 10 eV up to 124 eV. EUV is naturally generated by the solar corona and artificially by plasma and synchrotron light sources. Since UVC extends to 100 nm, there is some overlap in the terms.
Ultraviolet photography is a photographic process of recording images by using light from the ultraviolet (UV) spectrum only. Images taken with ultraviolet light serve a number of scientific, medical or artistic purposes. Images may reveal deterioration of art works or structures not apparent under visible light. Diagnostic medial images may be used to detect certain skin disorders or as evidence of injury. Some animals, particularly insects, use ultraviolet wavelengths for vision; ultraviolet photography can help investigate the markings of plants that attract insects, while invisible to the unaided human eye. Ultraviolet photography of archaeological sites may reveal artifacts or traffic patterns not otherwise visible.
Telescopes are optical instruments that make distant objects appear magnified by using an arrangement of lenses or curved mirrors and lenses, or various devices used to observe distant objects by their emission, absorption, or reflection of electromagnetic radiation. The first known practical telescopes were refracting telescopes invented in the Netherlands at the beginning of the 17th century, by using glass lenses. They found use in both terrestrial applications and astronomy.
Lyman continuum photons, shortened to Ly continuum photons or Lyc photon, are the photons emitted from stars at photon energies above the Lyman limit. Hydrogen is ionized by absorbing LyC. Working off of Victor Schumann's discovery of ultraviolet light, from 1906 to 1914, Theodore Lyman observed that atomic hydrogen absorbs light only at specific frequencies and the Lyman series is thus named after him. All the wavelengths in the Lyman series are in the ultraviolet band. This quantized absorption behavior occurs only up to an energy limit, known as the ionization energy. In the case of neutral atomic hydrogen, the minimum ionization energy is equal to the Lyman limit, where the photon has enough energy to completely ionize the atom, resulting in a free proton and a free electron. Above this energy, all wavelengths of light may be absorbed. This forms a continuum in the energy spectrum; the spectrum is continuous rather than composed of many discrete lines, which are seen at lower energies.
Cherenkov radiation is an electromagnetic radiation emitted when a charged particle passes through a dielectric medium at a speed greater than the phase velocity of light in that medium. The characteristic blue glow of an underwater nuclear reactor is due to Cherenkov radiation.
Non-ionizingradiation refers to any type of electromagnetic radiation that does not carry enough energy per quantum to ionize atoms or molecules—that is, to completely remove an electron from an atom or molecule. Instead of producing charged ions when passing through matter, non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation has sufficient energy only for excitation, the movement of an electron to a higher energy state. Ionizing radiation which has a higher frequency and shorter wavelength than nonionizing radiation, has many uses but can be a health hazard; exposure to it can cause burns, radiation sickness, cancer, and genetic damage. Using ionizing radiation requires elaborate radiological protection measures which in general are not required with nonionizing radiation.
Optical radiation is part of the electromagnetic spectrum. It is subdivided into ultraviolet radiation (UV), the spectrum of light visible for man (VIS) and infrared radiation (IR). It ranges between wavelengths of 100 nm to 1 mm. Electromagnetic waves in this range obey the laws of optics--they can be focused and refracted with lenses, for example.
The human eye has the ability to respond to all the wavelengths of light from 400–700 nm. This is called the visible part of the spectrum.
Light is a special class of radiant energy embracing wavelengths between 400 and 700 nm (or mμ), or 4000 to 7000 Å.
The foveal sensitivity to several near-infrared laser wavelengths was measured. It was found that the eye could respond to radiation at wavelengths at least as far as 1064 nm. A continuous 1064 nm laser source appeared red, but a 1060 nm pulsed laser source appeared green, which suggests the presence of second harmonic generation in the retina.
Limits of the eye's overall range of sensitivity extends from about 310 to 1050 nanometers
Normally the human eye responds to light rays from 390 to 760 nm. This can be extended to a range of 310 to 1,050 nm under artificial conditions.