Introduction to Light Light and electromagnetic radiation
Introduction to Light
⇐ Use this menu to view and help create subtitles for this video in many different languages. You'll probably want to hide YouTube's captions if using these subtitles.
- What I want to do in this video is give ourselves
- a basic introduction to the phenomenon of light.
- And light is, atleast to me, it is mysterious
- because on one level it really defines our reality
- it may be the most defining caracteristic of our reality
- everything we see, how we percieve reality is based
- on light bouncing off of objects, or bending around objects or difffracting around objects.
- and then being sensed by our eyes and then
- sending signals into our brain that create models of the world we see around us
- so it really is almost a defining
- characteristic of our reality, but at the same time,
- when you really go down to experiment and observe with light,
- its starts to have a bunch of mysterious
- properties and to a large degree it is not fully understood yet.
- And probably the most amazing thing about light
- ...well, actually there is tons of thing amazing about light....
- but one of the mysterious things is
- when you really get down to it, and this is actually not just true of light,
- this is actually true of almost anything once you
- get onto a small enough quantum mechanical level,
- but light behaves as both a wave AND a particle.
- And this is, probably not that intuitive to you, because its
- not that intuitive to me!
- In my life I'm used to certain things
- behaving as a waves, like sound waves,
- or the waves of an ocean.
- And I'm used to certain things behaving like particles.
- Like... Basket balls, or... I don't know...
- Or... My coffee cup. I'm not used to things
- behaving as both!
- And it really depends on what experiment
- you run and how you observe the light.
- So, when you observe it as a particle,
- And this comes out of Einstein's work with the photo-electric effect.
- And I won't go into the details here, maybe in a future video
- when we start thinking about quantum mechanics.
- You can view light as a train of particles moving at the speed of light.
- Which I'll talk about in a second...
- We call these particles PHOTONS.
- If you view light in other ways
- and you see it even when you see light beam
- refracted by a prism here, it looks like it is a wave.
- And it has the properties of a wave.
- It has a frequency and it has a wavelength.
- And like other waves, the velocity, of that wave, is the frequency times its wave length [v = f * lambda]
- Now, even within, even if you ignore this particle aspect of light
- If you just look at the wave aspect of the light it's still fascinating because
- most waves require a medium to travel through.
- So for example: If I think about how
- sound travels through air.
- So let me draw a bunch of air particles.
- Air particles right here
- I'll draw a sound wave traveling through the air particles.
- What happens in a sound wave is:
- You compress some of the air particles
- and those compress the ones next to them.
- And so you have points in the air that have higher, I guess you could say, higher pressure
- and points that have lower pressure,
- and you can plot that.
- So we have high pressure over here. High pressure, low pressure, high pressure, low pressure...
- And as these things bump into each other and this wave essentially travels
- to the right, and if you were to plot that
- you would see this wave form traveling to the right.
- But this is all predicated, or this is all based on this energy
- traveling through a medium and I'm used to visualizing waves in that way but light NEEDS NO MEDIUM!
- Light needs no medium
- Light will actually travel fastest through nothing, through a vacuum.
- And it will travel at an unimaginably fast speed: 3*10^8 m/s.
- Just to give you a sense of this:
- This is 300 million meters per second. Or another way
- of thinking about it is: It would take light less than a
- seventh of a second to travel around the earth, or
- it would travel around the earth more then seven times in a second.
- So unimaglably fast. And not only is this just a super fast rate,
- or a super fast speed but once again
- it tells us that light is something fundamental to our universe,
- because it's not just an unimaginable fast speed, it is THE FASTEST speed,
- not just known to physics, but POSSIBLE in physics.
- So once again something very unintuitive to us in our everyday realm.
- We always imagine that: "OK, if something is going at some speed,
- maybe if there is a ant riding on top of that something
- moving in the same direction it would be going even faster.
- But nothing can go faster that the SPEED OF LIGHT.
- It's absolutely impossible based on our current understanding of physics.
- So its not just a fast speed it is THE FASTEST SPEED. It is the fastest speed possible
- And this right here is an approximation,
- it's actually 2.99 something, something times 10 to the 8th meters per second...
- But 3 times 10 to the 8th is a pretty good approximation.
- Now within the visible light spectrum and I'll talk about
- whats beyond the visible light spectruum in a second.
- You are probablly familiar with
- colors and maybe you imagine it as a colors of rainbow,
- and rainbow really happen because the light from the sun,
- the white light, is being refracted by these little water particles.
- and you can see that in a clearer way when you see
- light being refracted by a prism right over here.
- and the different wavelengths of light, so white light
- contains all of the visible wavelengths.
- But the different wavelengths get refracted differently by a prism.
- So in this case the higher frequenty wavelengths,
- the violet and the blue, get refracted more, its get bent,
- it's direction gets bent more than the low frequency wavelengths,
- than the reds and the oranges right over here
- And if you want to look at the wavelength of light,
- visible light, its between 400 nanometeres and 700 nanometers.
- And the higher the frequency, the higher the energy of that light.
- And that actually goes into, when you start talking
- about the quantuum mechanics of it.
- That the higher frequency means that each of these photons have higher energy.
- They have a better ability to give kinetic energy to knock off electrons,
- or whatever else they need to do.
- So higher frequency, let me write that down:
- [HIGHER FREQUNCY means HIGHER ENERGY]
- Now, I keep referring to this idea of the visible light.
- And you might say: "What is beyond visible light?"
- And what you'll find is that light is just a part
- of a much broader phenomenom that is just a part
- that we happen to observe.
- And if we want to broaden the discussion a little bit.
- Visible light is just, really, part of the electromagnetic spectrum
- So light is really just electromagentic radiation.
- [Electromagnetic radiation]
- And everything that I told you about light just now,
- it has a wave property and it has particle properties,
- This is not just specific to visible light.
- This is true of all of electromagnetic radiation.
- So at very low frequencies, or very long wavelengths,
- we're talking about things like radio waves,
- the things that allow radio to reach your car,
- the things that allow your cell phone to
- comunicate with cell towers.
- Microwaves, the thing that start vibrating water molecules
- in your food so that they heat up.
- Infrared, wich is what our body realeses and thats
- way you can detect people through walls with infrared cameras.
- Visible light... Ultraviolet light, the UV light coming
- from the sun that'll give you sunburn.
- X-rays! The radiation that allows us to see through
- the soft material and just visualize the bones.
- Gamma rays! The super high energy that comes from quasars
- and other certain types of physical phenomenons.
- These are all the examples of the exact same thing!
- We just happen to perceive certain frequencies of this as visible light!
- And you might say: "Hey, Sal, how come
- we only perceive certain frequancies of this?
- How come we only see these frequencies?"
- And I'll put these...
- Literally we can see those frequencies with our unaided eye.
- And the reason, or at least my best guess of the reason of that is:
- That's the frequency where the sun dumps out a lot of electromagnetic radiation.
- So its illumating the earth, and if
- as a species you wanted to observe things
- based on reflected energy, a reflected electromagnetic energy,
- it is most usefull to be able to perceive the things
- where there is the most electromagnetic radiation.
- So it is possible that in other realities or other plantes
- There are species that perceive more in the ultraviolet range,
- or infrared range.
- Or even on earth there are some
- that perform better at either end of the range.
- But we see really well in the part of the spectrum
- where the sun just happens to dump a lot of radiation on us.
- Now I'll leave you there, I think that's a pretty good overview of light.
- And if any of this stuff seems kind of unintuitive or
- daunting or really on some level confusing
- this wave-particle duality, this idea of
- of transfer of energy through nothing
- and it seems unintuitive: Don't worry!
- It seems unintuitive even for the best of physicists.
- So you're already at the leading edge of physics thinking!
Be specific, and indicate a time in the video:
At 5:31, how is the moon large enough to block the sun? Isn't the sun way larger?
Have something that's not a question about this content?
This discussion area is not meant for answering homework questions.
Share a tip
When naming a variable, it is okay to use most letters, but some are reserved, like 'e', which represents the value 2.7831...
Have something that's not a tip or feedback about this content?
This discussion area is not meant for answering homework questions.
Discuss the site
For general discussions about Khan Academy, visit our Reddit discussion page.
Flag inappropriate posts
Here are posts to avoid making. If you do encounter them, flag them for attention from our Guardians.
- disrespectful or offensive
- an advertisement
- low quality
- not about the video topic
- soliciting votes or seeking badges
- a homework question
- a duplicate answer
- repeatedly making the same post
- a tip or feedback in Questions
- a question in Tips & Feedback
- an answer that should be its own question
about the site