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Emily Tripp Characteristics of Light Honors Physics First Period Light is described as a wave, but also as a stream of particles.

It is an electromagnetic wave that can travel through different types of mediums and that also transfers energy. Since light is an electromagnetic wave, it is part of the electromagnetic spectrum. There are different types of waves in the electromagnetic spectrum, including light, that all have different wavelengths, frequencies, and amounts of energy. Light travels at a certain speed that does not change. However, the brightness of a light source does change depending on how far and object is from the light source. There are many different characteristics of light that will be explained in this paper. To begin, electromagnetic waves are one of the ways that energy is transferred. Unlike mechanical waves, electromagnetic waves do not require a medium to travel. Therefore, light, along with all other types of electromagnetic radiation, can travel through a vacuum. The electromagnetic spectrum is made up of seven different components. These include: radio waves, microwaves, infrared waves, visible light, ultraviolet waves, X rays, and gamma rays. The types of waves are listed in order from least dangerous to most dangerous; radio waves are practically harmless, but extensive exposure to gamma rays may cause serious problems, including radiation poisoning. Radio waves also have the longest wavelength, but lowest frequency and lowest amount of energy. As the electromagnetic spectrum continues, wavelengths decrease and frequency, along with amount of energy, increase. At the most dangerous part of the electromagnetic spectrum, gamma rays have the shortest wavelength, highest frequency, and the greatest amount of energy.

As I have already stated, the components of the electromagnetic spectrum all have different wavelengths and frequencies. Wavelength is the length from one point on a wave to the same point on the following wave. It can be measured from crest to crest, trough to trough, or from any other point on a wave to the same exact point on the next wave. Frequency of a wave is the number of wave cycles that occur in a given amount of time, and one complete cycle of motion is the period of a wave. Period and frequency are opposites; frequency is calculated by dividing one by the period, and period is calculated by dividing one by the frequency. Moving on, another of the characteristics of light is its speed. The speed of light is finite; it does not change. The speed of light is rounded as 3.0 x 108 meters per second, and it is exactly 299, 792, 458 meters per second. A beam of light could travel around the earth 7.5 times in one second. The distance that light can travel in one year is known as a light year, and scientist often use this when speaking in terms of distances in outer space. Finally, brightness of a light source is affected by distance. The inverse square law states that when distance from a source doubles, the brightness decreases by a factor of four. This is evident in everyday life, because if the sun was as bright on Earth as it is on its surface, no life could exist on Earth. Also, the light from a star to Earth is another example of how brightness is affected by distance. Stars in the sky at night seem bright, but if humans got too close to stars they would be blinded. The closer a person is to a light bulb, the brighter it is. These are all examples of how brightness if affected by distance. Luminosity is the amount of light that a source produces, and luminous flux is the rate that light is emitted from a source. The brightness of light is definitely affected by distance, and we see examples of this everyday. In conclusion, the electromagnetic spectrum, frequency and wavelength of different waves, the speed of light, and how brightness is affected by distance all deal with light. Light is a

transverse and also an electromagnetic wave that does not need a medium to travel. It is part of the electromagnetic spectrum, and wavelengths and frequencies are different for the seven different components of the spectrum. The speed of light is known as 3.0 x 108, and this speed never changes. Brightness of a light source decreases as distance increases. The characteristics of light are all very important to understanding the concept of light.

Bibliography Hewitt, P. G., & Chiaverina, C. (2009). Light. Conceptual physics: the high school physics program (pp. 532-546). Boston, Mass.: Pearson/Prentice Hall. Mattson, B., & Gibb, M. (n.d.). Electromagnetic Spectrum - Introduction. Imagine The Universe! Home Page. Retrieved November 04, 2013, from http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/science/know_l1/emspectrum.html National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Science Mission Directorate. (2010). Anatomy of an Electromagnetic Wave. Retrieved November 04, 2013, from Mission:Science website: http://missionscience.nasa.gov/ems/02_anatomy.html Serway, R. A., & Faughn, J. S. (2009). Physics. Austin: Holt.