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Name: Bob D.
Status: educator
Age: 50s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: Sunday, September 15, 2002


Question:
Both a smooth white surface and a polished metallic one can reflect light with high efficiency, one diffusely and the other specularly. One is an insulator and the other a conductor but why does this result in the metal being able to reflect an image of the source of light? Further, why does the metal not absorb the light completely, with all those free electrons capable of jumping to a wide range of energies? Is there any significance to the time between absorption and subsequent re-emission of a photon that makes the difference between reflection from smooth metals and insulators?


Replies:
This question is a good one, but far too broad to answer properly in a forum such as NEWTON BBS.

It is asking for an explanation of optics and the behavior of light. That's a question with books and volumes devoted to it. I would direct the inquirer to Richard Feynman's LECTURES ON PHYSICS, Vol. 1, Chapters 26-36.

Vince Calder



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