Give several examples of electromagnetic waves that are encountered in everyday life. How are they all alike? How do they differ?

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In everyday life we encounter radio, microwaves, infrared, ultraviolet, and visible light waves. We usually don't experience X-rays, and very rarely gamma rays.

Radio waves come from communication devices as well as interstellar radiation.

Microwaves typically would be found in a microwave.

Infrared waves are present in the form of heat.

Visible light is, as you might expect, visible.

Ultraviolet is produced by some artificial lighting, as well as the sun.

The atmosphere usually screens out most X-rays, although you would encounter them in a dentist's office or an airport scanner. Gamma rays are dangerous because of their high energy, so you typically wouldn't encounter them, unless you work in a nuclear reactor.

All of these waves are alike in that

  • They can be propagated without a medium (ie. they travel in a vacuum)
  • They travel at the speed of light
  • Their "particles" are photons
  • They can be bent by gravity
  • They can interact with and transmit energy to atoms

They are different in that

  • Some of them are extremely harmful, some are harmless
  • Only one type is visible to us
  • They all transmit different amounts of energy
  • They are present in very different ratios on the surface of the earth
  • They are used for different purposes

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