PhysicsQuest: Light and Color


In this PhysicsQuest you will learn about phenomena and applications of the Physics of Light.


  • Visit the links provided for each section and neatly write your answers to the questions.
  • You must use your own words. Do not copy and paste to your paper!

Section 1: The Electromagnetic Spectrum

The “electromagnetic spectrum” is the term used to describe the entire range of light radiation, from gamma rays to radio waves.  We tend to think of visible electromagnetic radiation as “light,” but the rainbow of colors that make up visible light is just a tiny part of a much broader range of light energy.

Links for this section:

  1. Make a table with 3 columns that include the following information:
    1. the names of the 7 types of radiation that make up the Electromagnetic Spectrum.  Put these in order from shortest wavelength to longest wavelength.
    2. major characteristics of each type of radiation.
    3. the wavelength and frequency range of each type of radiation.
  2. Describe how each of the seven types of radiation is used in our everyday lives or in certain industries.
  3. Draw a diagram of an electromagnetic wave showing the electric field, magnetic field, and direction of wave travel.
  4. Electromagnetic radiation is widely used in learning about objects in space.  Write down at least two of the space objects that can be observed by each of the following types of electromagnetic radiation: X-rays, Ultraviolet, Visible, Infrared, and Radio.

Section 2: Visible Light

Normally when we use the term “light,” we are referring to a type of electromagnetic wave that stimulates the retina of our eyes.  In this sense, we are referring to visible light, a small spectrum of the range of frequencies of electromagnetic radiation. This visible light region consists of a spectrum of wavelengths, which range from 700 nanometers (abbreviated nm) to approximately 400 nm.

Links for this section:

  1. The range of visible light is often described by the acronym ROYGBIV.  What does each letter stand for?
  2. Explain why some books include Indigo and some do not.  Who put the “I” in ROY G BIV?
  3. Write down the wavelength of each color.

Section 3: Physics Around Us

Links for this section.

  1. Describe the formation and properties of rainbows.
  2. How do “mirages” form?
  3. Explain the color of the sky and the color of sunsets.
  4. Explain how sunglasses work (including polarized lenses).

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