<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >

The wave-like characteristics of light

The changing electric and magnetic fields in light are similar to the waves that can be set up in a quiet pool of water. In both cases, the disturbance travels rapidly outward from the point of origin and can use its energy to disturb other things farther away. (For example, in water, the expanding ripples moving away from our frog could disturb the peace of a dragonfly resting on a leaf in the same pool.) In the case of electromagnetic waves, the radiation generated by a transmitting antenna full of charged particles and moving electrons at your local radio station can, sometime later, disturb a group of electrons in your car radio antenna and bring you the news and weather while you are driving to class or work in the morning.

The waves generated by charged particles differ from water waves in some profound ways, however. Water waves require water to travel in. The sound waves we hear, to give another example, are pressure disturbances that require air to travel though. But electromagnetic waves do not require water or air: the fields generate each other and so can move through a vacuum (such as outer space). This was such a disturbing idea to nineteenth-century scientists that they actually made up a substance to fill all of space—one for which there was not a single shred of evidence—just so light waves could have something to travel through: they called it the aether . Today, we know that there is no aether and that electromagnetic waves have no trouble at all moving through empty space (as all the starlight visible on a clear night must surely be doing).

The other difference is that all electromagnetic waves move at the same speed in empty space (the speed of light—approximately 300,000 kilometers per second, or 300,000,000 meters per second, which can also be written as 3 × 10 8 m/s), which turns out to be the fastest possible speed in the universe. No matter where electromagnetic waves are generated from and no matter what other properties they have, when they are moving (and not interacting with matter), they move at the speed of light. Yet you know from everyday experience that there are different kinds of light. For example, we perceive that light waves differ from one another in a property we call color. Let’s see how we can denote the differences among the whole broad family of electromagnetic waves.

The nice thing about a wave is that it is a repeating phenomenon. Whether it is the up-and-down motion of a water wave or the changing electric and magnetic fields in a wave of light, the pattern of disturbance repeats in a cyclical way. Thus, any wave motion can be characterized by a series of crests and troughs ( [link] ). Moving from one crest through a trough to the next crest completes one cycle. The horizontal length covered by one cycle is called the wavelength    . Ocean waves provide an analogy: the wavelength is the distance that separates successive wave crests.

Characterizing waves.

This figure shows a simple wave. Both the crest (or highest point of the wave) and the trough (or lowest part of the wave) are labeled. Also labeled is the wavelength, i.e. the distance between successive peaks.
Electromagnetic radiation has wave-like characteristics. The wavelength (λ) is the distance between crests, the frequency ( f ) is the number of cycles per second, and the speed ( c ) is the distance the wave covers during a specified period of time (e.g., kilometers per second).

Questions & Answers

In planet mars there the life exits or not and is there water there
Eshwarsa Reply
see till now nothing can be found as u know that the curiosity rover has struck in mars
Maya
what is your opinion about the theory of Vedas about modern physics..
Manish Reply
i think in some ways vedas are also correct but not everytime
Maya
I agree
sakshi
hmm even I agree
Samuel
Is there any patened theory about time relativitg in growth and development?
donot Reply
some astronomer's says that there is no alien exist but why search for extra terrestrial intelligence center is established
Eshwarsa Reply
No One Knows That For Absolute Fact, The Universe Is Too Huge To Have Any Type Of Idea About What Exist In The Far Reaches Of Our Universe.....
Adam
Check Out The Drake Equation.....
Adam
their should be aliens as like ours there would be another planet
Maya
which could have existed life on it
Maya
adam i want to ask a question
Maya
can kepler 1st law be applied on all the planets of the universe
Maya
hello, anyone home?
Denise
sjskskfhjkkktewqqw and try?
Lanika Reply
what is this ?
Samuel
hi I am Samuel from India mumbai
Samuel
nice to meet you
Samuel
thats my question, what is this?
penzias and wilson's a discovery of the cosmic microwave background is a nice example of scientific serendipity-something that is found by chance but turns out to have a positive outcome
Jacqueline Reply
how should I make my carrier in astronomy
Ayush Reply
I think that Newton's third law is not appropriate if any also thinks like this please reply me
Ayush
Can you explain your reasoning
Huh
why u think so
joseph
yes Ayush u are right
Yoganshu
I think when we apply force to a object it start moving but , a/c to Newton's third law every action has equal and opposite reaction,so object should also exert equal force on us and it should not move due to balanced force
Ayush
if I am not right then reply me
Ayush
no
Zack
because of friction that opposes that force and help us to move ahead
Manish
but this is not satisfied as third law say another thing
Ayush
you are telling why object moves
Ayush
you have to think a/c to third law
Ayush
its because of its mass
Maya
because it is applying equal and opposite force but also our mass is also less in comparison to the object
Maya
which is why we cant move the object but it can make move us
Maya
manish is too correct in his place because we need to apply force which would overcome the frictional force
Maya
My dear friends, can u plz tell me that among u guys who are in the field of cosmology
Madhav Reply
😢I am not there in cosmology
Samuel
Just A Science Fan.....
Adam
Adam even I am 😥😅😅😂😂
Samuel
I am also not in cosmology but I am just a fan or we can say science and part of NASA is my dream
Yoganshu
yoganshu Arya same here
Samuel
you are from which country
Yoganshu
hi yoganshu
Samuel
India
Samuel
which state
Samuel
I am also from India
Yoganshu
from delhi
Yoganshu
and u...?
Yoganshu
I am from Maharashtra
Samuel
from which state?
Yoganshu
You are a ASTRONOMER ...
Yoganshu
or a scientist..
Yoganshu
or just a member
Yoganshu
What is time...? not about Newton= time is constant..... that all scientists openions n point of view I m knowing. . what can be the Perfect Definition of Time
Madhav Reply
time is what clock reads
Ayush
Who is the best astronomer of India at present time
Gian Reply
Jayant Narlikar, Proponent Of Steady State Cosmology.....
Adam
What is the real colour of sun rays
Gian Reply
white.. so white it becomes violet.. so violet it become ultraviolet
Tom
white and red and yellow
Bianca
Vibgyor
Samuel
the real colour of sunlight is White
Madhav
the Sun's has a variety of waves all throughout the elextromagnetic spectrum.
Jacie
we only see it as a few bc of how some of them get redshifted (? can that term be applied for something so local?) by some particles in our upper atmosphere
Jacie
Vibgyor will be when, the white light will pass through the clouds ( prism ) then Refraction phenomenon leads us to 7 colours splitting from a single colour "White " light
Madhav
so the sun rays r of White colour
Madhav
Taurus in astronomy and horoscope?
Yasser Reply
how to put E=MC2
Gospel Reply
What Do You Mean By How To Put?
Adam
What Do You Mean By How To Put?
Adam
What Do You Mean By "How To Put E=MC2?
Adam
yep
Gospel
Hi guys
Samuel
i mean how NASA came to know the mass and diameters of Stars.how?
Gospel
how did they do using E=MC2
Gospel
thats my questioning
Gospel
that's easy formula's derivation
Madhav
why all planets revolving orbits are nearly in equal inclination?
Kartik Reply
***medium.com/starts-with-a-bang/ask-ethan-82-why-are-the-planets-all-in-the-same-plane-4470245c8743
rishabh
dependent on the mass
Madhav
no
Janak
I think because of the Suns gravity pull ,😕😕
Samuel
Samuel,. it's but obvious
Madhav
what hubbel's law. and examples on it.?
Kavyanjali Reply
Hubbel's Law is a Expanding Universe. The distant galaxies we see in all directions are moving away from the Earth, as evidenced by their red shifts. Hubble's law describes this expansion.
Роза
okk. sir/madam, i studied that all 3 laws.
Kavyanjali
i m solving examples on "p" square directly proportional to "a"cube
Kavyanjali
Practice Key Terms 5

Get the best Astronomy course in your pocket!





Source:  OpenStax, Astronomy. OpenStax CNX. Apr 12, 2017 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11992/1.13
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Astronomy' conversation and receive update notifications?

Ask