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School Physics Notes: Reflection of visible light 3. Scientific model of reflection

Reflected light: 3. The scientific wave model of the reflection of light rays from a shiny surface

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INDEX of physics notes: Light reflection and uses of plane and curved mirrors

3. The scientific wave model of reflection of light rays

Visible light is a transverse wave (diagram shown above).

The fine black lines (below) represent the wavefronts of light, so think of the wavefronts as the points of maximum amplitude of the light waves (the crests).

When the waves meet the flat smooth surface they are 'bounced' off symmetrically at the same angle with respect to the normal - see the first reflection diagram.

You can readily see this with ripple tank experiments - just put a barrier in the way of the waves at 45o to their direction and the way direction is changed by 90o. In this case the crests of the waves correspond to the wavefronts.

General introduction to the types and properties of waves including ripple tank experiments

INDEX notes: Light reflection and uses of plane & curved mirrors

Keywords, phrases and learning objectives for the reflection of visible light rays

Be able to describe the scientific wave model explaining the reflection of visible light rays from a shiny surface.


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INDEX of physics notes on light reflection and mirrors

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INDEX notes: Light reflection and uses of plane & curved mirrors