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Name: Christopher S.
Status: educator
Age: 50s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: Thursday, November 28, 2002


Question:
This question is about reflection of light. How is it that a particular substance can reflect a certain frequency of light? Is it actually absorbed then emitted, or does that wave "bounce around" then come back. I have a basic, IGCSE, understanding of absorption and emission spectra but the nature of reflection is unclear to me.


Replies:
Christopher,

I am not aware of any substance that reflects only one frequency of light. Rather, reflection is usually for a large range of frequencies.

Color is imparted to the reflected light because the reflecting surface absorbs some frequency ranges more than others. The reflected light therefore is dominated by the non-absorbed light frequencies. Thus a red piece of paper reflects some light in all ranges but most of the light in the blue through orange range is absorbed. The reflected light is therefore dominated by red light.

Greg Bradburn



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