Q:

What are three ways light interacts with matter?

A:

Quick Answer

Light interacts with matter through absorption, transmission and reflection. When light strikes the leaf of a plant, the leaf absorbs the light energy, and through the process of photosynthesis, transforms the energy into the food glucose. The leaf reflects the green wavelengths of visible light, giving it the green color.

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Full Answer

When light passes into a suspension, it is possible for people to see reflection and transmission. Windows transmit light, brightening a room. However, if light rays strike dust particles in the air, the rays are reflected to the eyes.

The color of an item is due to the wavelengths of light it absorbs and those it reflects. Objects that do not absorb any wavelengths of light appear white. Those that absorb all wavelengths appear black. However, other colors require a combination of absorption and reflection. A red cup appears red because it absorbs all the wavelengths of the spectra other than red while reflecting red to the observer's eyes. Thus, color is only intrinsic to an item because it has a few atoms on the surface that absorb some of the light. The scientific name of these color-absorbing atoms is pigments. Any remnants of white light the pigments do not absorb reflect to the eyes.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What are reflection and refraction?

    A:

    Reflection and refraction are two of the ways light interacts with matter, with absorption being the third. Reflection occurs when incoming light is bounced off of a surface. Reflection can be either coherent, as it is with a mirror, or incoherent as when light reflects off of a white surface. Refraction entails the slowing and bending of light as it moves through a medium.

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  • Q:

    What is a particle of light called?

    A:

    A particle of light is called a photon, which is a small particle made up of electromagnetic radiation. These particles have no charge or resting mass, but travel at the speed of light. The energy of photons cannot be divided, thus they are often referred to as energy packets.

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  • Q:

    How fast is the speed of light?

    A:

    When light travels in a vacuum, its speed is 186,282 miles per second. The fastest aircraft, which is the Boeing-43 scramjet, has a speed of 7,546 miles per hour. If these two speeds are compared, the jet's speed is approximately 0.0004 percent that of light.

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  • Q:

    How do you measure light?

    A:

    The wavelength of light is measured using a spectrometer, while the intensity of light is measured using a photometer. The speed of light is measured by measuring the time light takes to traverse a known distance and dividing distance by time.

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