How do shadows form?

How do shadows form?

Light from the sun travels in straight lines (apart from some wave effects called diffraction, that are unimportant in this case). As sunlight passes objects, those objects absorb or scatter the sunlight, leaving regions of space that no longer contain any electromagnetic waves. Regions of space behind the objects contain no sunlight and do not appear illuminated. We perceive those dark, unilluminated regions as shadows.

What is Brewster’s angle?

What is Brewster’s angle?

When light reflects from a horizontal surface at an angle, the reflected light tends to be polarized horizontally. At a specific angle, Brewster’s angle, the light is completely horizontally polarized because any vertically polarized light that hits the surface at this angle is allowed to enter the surface without reflection. Since reflections from horizontal surfaces are mostly horizontally polarized, glare is mostly horizontally polarized. Polarizing sunglasses deliberately block horizontally polarized light to reduce glare.

Why do you think you see water on a road ahead of you when it’s not really there…

Why do you think you see water on a road ahead of you when it’s not really there?

On a sunny day, heat from the pavement can create a layer of very hot air at the surface of the road. Since hot air is less dense than cold air, its index of refraction is slightly less than that of cold air, too. As light from the sky enters this layer of low-index air, that light is bent. Light from the sky far out in front of you is turned upward so that you see the sky “reflected” from the road’s surface (actually bent upward by the air above the road’s surface). You interpret this sky light as coming from a pool of water on the road. But as you approach the road and look down at it, you see that the road is dry and black.

How do window tints (for your car windows) work? Are they just polarized materia…

How do window tints (for your car windows) work? Are they just polarized materials?

Some of them may be polarized materials, blocking horizontally polarized light, but most are simply absorbing materials that are embedded directly in the glass during its manufacture. Chemically tinted glass just darkens the sky be absorbing some of the light passing through the glass, regardless of polarization. It’s not possible to chemically treat the glass to make it absorb only one polarization of light because that treatment would have to carefully align its molecules. In the plastic polarizing sheets, there is an alignment process (usually stretching in one direction) that lines up all the absorbing molecules.

What makes the clouds white – or having colors at sunset and why is the sky gray…

What makes the clouds white – or having colors at sunset and why is the sky gray on a cloudy day?

The water droplets in clouds are quite large; large enough to be good antennas for all colors of light. As light passes by those droplets, some of it scatters (is absorbed by the antenna/water droplets and is reemitted by the antenna/water droplets). Since there is no color preference in this scattering from large droplets, the scattered light has the same color as the light that illuminated the cloud. In the daytime, the sunlight is white so the clouds appear white. But at sunrise or sunset, the sun’s light is mostly red (the blue light has been scattered away by the atmosphere before it reached the clouds) so the clouds appear red, too. If the clouds are very thick, they may absorb enough light (or scatter enough upward into space) to appear gray rather than white. Another way to see why the clouds are white is to realized that light reflects from every surface of the water droplets. As the light works its way through the random maze of droplets, it reflects here and there and eventually finds itself traveling in millions of random directions. When you look at a cloud, you see light coming toward you from countless droplets, traveling in countless different directions. You interpret this type of light, having the sun’s spectrum of wavelengths but coming uniformly from a broad swath of space, as being white. These two views of how light travels in a cloud (absorption and reemission from droplets or reflections from droplet surfaces) turn out to be exactly equivalent to one another. They are not different physical phenomena, but rather two different ways to describe the same physical phenomena.