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law of conservation of energy

energy can be neither created nor destroyed, but it can be converted from one form to another


a form of energy

light waves

electromagnetic radiation, energy traveling through space


(a) maximum vertical displacement


the distance between any two adjacent identical points of the wave


the number of wavelengths passing a fixed point in one unit of time, usually a second (Hz)

speed of light


relationship between energy of light and frequency

the higher the frequency, the higher the energy; the lower the frequency, the lower the energy

visible region



the bending of light as it passes from one medium to another

why does refraction occur

the speed of light is affected by the density of the medium; light travels slower in the denser medium. As light passes into the denser medium, it bends toward the normal. On exiting to the less dense medium, it bends away from the normal, so the incident beam and the transmitted beam are parallel.

results of the refraction of light

rainbows, mirages, and the "twinkling" of stars

refractive index

the ratio of the speed of light in air to the speed of light in some other medium


the separation of white light into its component colors

specular reflection

light reflected from a smooth surface. The observed beam appears to be reflected in one direction only giving the surface a shiny appearance

diffuse reflection

light reflected from a rough surface. Light is scattered in many directions, giving the surface a dull appearance. The angle of incidence must still equal the angle of reflection, but the rough surface creates many normals to the surface.


A colored object absorbs all wavelengths except those corresponding to the color it appears. Light of that color is reflected.

additive mixing primaries

blue, green, and red are the additive primaries for transmitted light.

subtractive mixing

results from the removal of certain wavelengths of reflected light by absorption.

subtractive mixing process

start with white light, use blue, red, and green filters to remove particular wavelengths.

subtractive mixing primaries

cyan, magenta, and yellow


wavelength classification; distinguishes one color from another (red, blue, yellow)


the extent to which white (or black or gray) is mixed with a pure hue; sometimes called purity


darkness or lightness of the color


white, gray, black (no hue)

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