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Allen Habibovic

10/29/15
Review of Literature
Did you know that light can travel around the earth seven times in under one second?
That is an unfathomable speed that not everyone can comprehend it at first. You really do have to
appreciate really how fast the speed of light is. The speed of light is a very well-known constant
in modern day physics; it is represented by the symbol c. In a vacuum, empty space where there
is absolutely nothing, the speed of light travels at 299,792,458 m/s. At that rate, light can travel
enormous distances in a short amount of time. For example, the earth is around 93 million miles
away from the sun, it takes light 8 minutes and 20 seconds to travel that distance and reach our
planet. Nothing can go as fast as or faster than the speed of light. This is an understood and well
established law of physics. It can be thought of the universal speed limit. Anything with mass is
unable to reach this speed due to the amount of energy required to keep accelerating the object.
Light has no mass and is not considered to be matter. One important thing to note is that the
speed of light varies greatly depending where it is traveling. For example the speed of light when
it goes through water gets slowed down to 225,000,000 m/s, which is still incredibly fast. Every
material effects how fast light travels in it.
In general light is just a specific part of the electromagnetic radiation spectrum.
Electromagnetic radiation is just energy that travels and transfers energy from one place to

another. The electromagnetic radiation spectrum consists of a broad range of different radiation.
It is ordered by increasing frequency and decreasing wavelengths which represents an inverse
relationship between those two properties of light. As frequency increases, the wavelength has to
decrease. At the left hand side of the spectrum you have radio waves, which have wavelengths
the size of skyscrapers. Radio waves have large wavelengths and therefore have a low frequency
and it is not as energetic. After radio waves you microwave radiation which has a wavelength the
size of an average human. This type of radiation is used in microwaves so it can energize the
water molecules in the food to heat it up. After microwaves, you have infrared radiation. Infrared
radiation is a bit less energetic than the light we humans see. You can see infrared radiation
through infrared motion detectors. Then we have the visible light spectrum. This is the light
humans perceive and make of the world we live in. Our lives would have been very different if
we had perceived things in a different range for example if we saw the world through x-ray
radiation. Visible light itself can be broken down to a more specific range of wavelengths.
Visible lights wavelengths span from 400nm to 700nm. Starting at the longer side of this range
you have colors descending from red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. Red has the
longest wavelength so that means it is the least energetic while violet is shorter and more
energetic. After the visible light portion we have ultraviolet radiation. The sun emits UV
radiation which can be harmful to human skin and can cause skin cancer. X-Rays come after UV

radiation. X-Rays allow us to penetrate through soft human tissue, so medical doctors are able to
inspect a patients bones. At the end of the EM spectrum we have the most energetic type of
radiation known as gamma rays. Gamma rays are very strong and can penetrate through the
entire human body and destroy human cells and other important material. There are many forms
of light but together they are just a form of energy.
Light can be described in two different ways. This first way is viewing light as a particle.
Photons are the particles that make up light. Light can be seen as a train of particles moving in a
straight path. The first person to propose this theory was Pierre Gassendi in 1600s. Later in the
1660s Isaac Newton a well-known physicist would use the work of Pierre to rework some of his
original studies.
The second way to view light is the wave theory of light. In the 1600s Robert Hooke
developed a pulse theory which he used the spreading of light to compare with waves in water.
The wave theory states that light travels in electromagnetic waves similar to how water waves
travel or how sound travels in the air. The wave theory predicted that light waves could interfere
with each other like sound waves. In the 1800s another physicist named Thomas Young made
his own experiment to demonstrate how light travels as waves. His experiment is known as the
double slit experiment which demonstrates how light waves can interfere with one another and
diffract in the same ways water would. In his original experiment, Thomas had a barrier with two

small openings in it, where he would let light go through and record the hit marks at the end.
Today in modern physics, light is understood to behave differently. It acts both as a particle and
a wave at the same time. This is very different since normal everyday objects behave as either a
particle or a wave.
There are many effects on light when light travels. Typically light travels in a straight line
but can be affected by multiple things. In space, light will travel in a straight line until it path
gets affected by objects that bend the fabric of space, for example objects like stars, planets.
Another effect on light is refraction. Refraction is basically the bending of a light wave. When a
wave of light travels into a different medium (substance) where its speed changes depending on
the medium, light will bend. Diffraction is another type of effect of light. It is the slight bending
of light when light passes around the edge of an object. The dispersion of light can be best
demonstrated with a glass prism. When light is shined through the glass prism, the glass prism
breaks the white light into its component colors of the rainbow. The different colors of light are
bent more depending on their frequencies where darker color light, violet for example, bends
more than red.
The index of refraction denoted by the symbol n in optics, is a number with no units
that describes how light travels through a particular medium. A medium could be anything, a
few mediums: water, air, vacuum, plastic, etc. The index of refraction also determines how
bent is the light when it first enters the medium. The refractive index also varies with the
wavelength of light which is known as dispersion. The refractive index for light in a vacuum

is always going to be 1. The closer the refractive index gets to the number 1, the closer the
speed gets to the actual value of the speed of light, or c. The refractive index can be
calculated and also the angle of refraction using a special equation, for a particular
wavelength. Some well-known index of refractions calculated at 589nm are: air at 1.000293,
helium at 1.000035, hydrogen at 1.00012, carbon dioxide at 1.00045, water at 1.333, ethanol
at 1.36, olive oil at 1.47. Different mediums will of course vary with their index of refraction.

Bibliography
Is The Speed of Light Everywhere the Same? (Is The Speed of Light Everywhere the Same?)
http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/Relativity/SpeedOfLight/speed_of_light.html

How is the speed of light measured? (How is the speed of light measured?)
http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/physics/Relativity/SpeedOfLight/measure_c.html

Index of Refraction
http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/tables/indrf.html