The Physics
Opus in profectus

The Nature of Light

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Light is a transverse, electromagnetic wave that can be seen by humans. The wave nature of light was first illustrated through experiments on diffraction and interference. Like all electromagnetic waves, light can travel through a vacuum. The transverse nature of light can be demonstrated through polarization.


Light is produced by one of two methods…


Just notes so far. The speed of light in a vacuum is represented by the letter c from the Latin celeritas — swiftness. Measurements of the speed of light.

Veramente non l'ho sperimentata, salvo che in lontananza piccola, cioè manco d'un miglio, dal che non ho potuto assicurarmi se veramente la comparsa del lume opposto sia instantanea; ma ben, se non instantanea, velocissima….   In fact I have tried the experiment only at a short distance, less than a mile, from which I have not been able to ascertain with certainty whether the appearance of the opposite light was instantaneous or not; but if not instantaneous it is extraordinarily rapid….
Galileo Galilei, 1638 Galileo Galilei, 1638

Ole Rømer (1644–1710) Denmark. "Démonstration touchant le mouvement de la lumière trouvé par M. Roemer de l'Académie des Sciences." Journal des Scavans. 7 December 1676. Rømer's idea was to use the transits of Jupiter's moon Io to determine the time. Not local time, which was already possible, but a "universal" time that would be the same for all observers on the Earth, Knowing the standard time would allow one to determine one's longitude on the Earth — a handy thing to know when navigating the featureless oceans.

Unfortunately, Io did not turn out to be a good clock. Rømer observed that times between eclipses got shorter as earth approached Jupiter, and longer as earth moved farther away. He hypothesized that this variation was due to the time it took for light to travel the lesser or greater distance, and estimated that the time for light to travel the diameter of the Earth's orbit, a distance of two astronomical units, was 22 minutes.

other characteristics

The amplitude of a light wave is related to its intensity.

The frequency of a light wave is related to its color.

A graph of relative intensity vs. frequency is called a spectrum (plural: spectra).
Although frequently associated with light, the term can be applied to any wave phenomena.

The wavelength of a light wave is inversely proportional to its frequency.

Phase differences between light waves can produce visible interference effects.
(There are several sections in this book on interference phenomena and light.)

Leftovers about animals.