simple science

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Simple Science

101. Money Value of Light
Light is bought and sold almost as readily as are the products of farm and dairy; many factories, churches, and apartments pay a definite sum for electric light of a standard strength, and naturally full value is desired. An instrument for measuring the strength of a light is called a photometer, and there are many different varieties, just as there are varieties of scales which measure household articles. One light-measuring scale depends upon the law that the intensity of illumination decreases with the square of the distance of the object from the light. Suppose we wish to measure the strength of the electric light bulbs in our homes, in order to see whether we are getting the specified illumination. In front of a screen place a black rod which is illuminated by two different lights; namely, a standard candle and an incandescent bulb whose strength is to be measured. Two shadows of the rod will fall on the screen, one caused by the candle and the other caused by the incandescent light. The shadow due to the latter source is not so dark as that due to the candle. Now let the incandescent light be moved away from the screen until the two shadows are of equal darkness. If the incandescent light is four times as far away from the screen as the candle, and the shadows are equal, we know, by Section 100, that its strength is sixteen candle power. If the incandescent light is four times as far away from the screen as the candle is, its power must be sixteen times as great, and we know the company is furnishing the standard amount of light for a sixteen candle power electric bulb. If, however, the bulb must be moved nearer to the rod in order that the two shadows may be similar then the light given by the bulb is less than sixteen candle power, and less than that due the consumer.

FIG. - The two shadows are equally dark.
102. How Light Travels
We never expect to see around a corner, and if we wish to see through pinholes in three separate pieces of cardboard, we place the cardboards so that the three holes are in a straight line. When sunlight enters a dark room through a small opening, the dust particles dancing in the sun show a straight ray. If a hole is made in a card, and the card is held in front of a light, the card casts a shadow, in the center of which is a bright spot. The light, the hole, and the bright spot are all in the same straight line. These simple observations lead us to think that light travels in a straight line.

We can always tell the direction from which light comes, either by the shadow cast or by the bright spot formed when an opening occurs in the opaque object casting the shadow. If the shadow of a tree falls towards the west, we know the sun must be in the cast; if a bright spot is on the floor, we can easily locate the light whose rays stream through an opening and form the bright spot. We know that light travels in a straight line, and following the path of the beam which comes to our eyes, we are sure to locate the light.

FIG. - The candle cannot be seen unless the three pinholes are in a strait line.
103. Good and Bad Mirrors
As we walk along the street, we frequently see ourselves reflected in the shop windows, in polished metal signboards, in the metal trimmings of wagons and automobiles; but in mirrors we get the best image of ourselves. We resent the image given by a piece of tin, because the reflection is distorted and does not picture us as we really are; a rough surface does not give a fair representation; if we want a true image of ourselves, we must use a smooth surface like a mirror as a reflector. If the water in a pond is absolutely still, we get a clear, true image of the trees, but if there are ripples on the surface, the reflection is blurred and distorted. A metal roof reflects so much light that the eyes are dazzled by it, and a whitewashed fence injures the eyes because of the glare which comes from the reflected light. Neither of these could be called mirrors, however, because although they reflect light, they reflect it so irregularly that not even a suggestion of an image can be obtained.

Most of us are sufficiently familiar with mirrors to know that the image is a duplicate of ourselves with regard to size, shape, color, and expression, but that it appears to be back of the mirror, while we are actually in front of the mirror. The image appears not only behind the mirror, but it is also exactly as far back of the mirror as we are in front of it; if we approach the mirror, the image also draws nearer; if we withdraw, it likewise recedes.
104. The Path of Light
If a mirror or any other polished surface is held in the path of a sunbeam, some of the light is reflected, and by rotating the mirror the reflected sunbeam may be made to take any path. School children amuse themselves by reflecting sunbeams from a mirror into their companions' faces. If the companion moves his head in order to avoid the reflected beam, his tormentor moves or inclines the mirror and flashes the beam back to his victim's face.

If a mirror is held so that a ray of light strikes it in a perpendicular direction, the light is reflected backward along the path by which it came. If, however, the light makes an angle with the mirror, its direction is changed, and it leaves the mirror along a new path. By observation we learn that when a beam strikes the mirror and makes an angle of 30 with the perpendicular, the beam is reflected in such a way that its new path also makes an angle of 30 with the perpendicular. If the sunbeam strikes the mirror at an angle of 32 with the perpendicular, the path of the reflected ray also makes an angle of 32 with the perpendicular. The ray (AC) which falls upon the mirror is called the incident ray, and the angle which the incident ray (AC) makes with the perpendicular (BC) to the mirror, at the point where the ray strikes the mirror, is called the angle of incidence. The angle formed by the reflected ray (CD) and this same perpendicular is called the angle of reflection. Observation and experiment have taught us that light is always reflected in such a way that the angle of reflection equals the angle of incidence. Light is not the only illustration we have of the law of reflection. Every child who bounces a ball makes use of this law, but he uses it unconsciously. If an elastic ball is thrown perpendicularly against the floor, it returns to the sender; if it is thrown against the floor at an angle, it rebounds in the opposite direction, but always in such a way that the angle of reflection equals the angle of incidence.

FIG. - The ray AC is reflected as CD.
105. Why the Image seems to be behind the Mirror
If a candle is placed in front of a mirror, as in Figure 62, one of the rays of light which leaves the candle will fall upon the mirror as AB and will be reflected as BC (in such a way that the angle of reflection equals the angle of incidence). If an observer stands at C, he will think that the point A of the candle is somewhere along the line CB extended. Such a supposition would be justified from Section 102. But the candle sends out light in all directions; one ray therefore will strike the mirror as AD and will be reflected as DE, and an observer at E will think that the point A of the candle is somewhere along the line ED. In order that both observers may be correct, that is, in order that the light may seem to be in both these directions, the image of the point A must seem to be at the intersection of the two lines. In a similar manner it can be shown that every point of the image of the candle seems to be behind the mirror.

It can be shown by experiment that the distance of the image behind the mirror is equal to the distance of the object in front of the mirror.

FIG. - A bouncing ball illustrates the law of reflection.

FIG. - The image is a duplicate of the object, but appears to be behind the mirror.
106. Why Objects are Visible
If the beam of light falls upon a sheet of paper, or upon a photograph, instead of upon a smooth polished surface, no definite reflected ray will be seen, but a glare will be produced by the scattering of the beam of light. The surface of the paper or photograph is rough, and as a result, it scatters the beam in every direction. It is hard for us to realize that a smooth sheet of paper is by no means so smooth as it looks. It is rough compared with a polished mirror. The law of reflection always holds, however, no matter what the reflecting surface is, - the angle of reflection always equals the angle of incidence. In a smooth body the reflected beams are all parallel; in a rough body, the reflected beams are inclined to each other in all sorts of ways, and no two beams leave the paper in exactly the same direction.

Hot coals, red-hot stoves, gas flames, and candles shine by their own light, and are self-luminous. Objects like chairs, tables, carpets, have no light within themselves and are visible only when they receive light from a luminous source and reflect that light. We know that these objects are not self-luminous, because they are not visible at night unless a lamp or gas is burning. When light from any luminous object falls upon books, desks, or dishes, it meets rough surfaces, and hence undergoes diffuse reflection, and is scattered irregularly in all directions. No matter where the eye is, some reflected rays enter it, and the various objects are clearly seen.

FIG. - The surface of the paper, although smooth in appearance, is in reality rough, and scatters the light in every direction.
107. Bent Rays of Light
A straw in a glass of lemonade seems to be broken at the surface of the liquid, the handle of a teaspoon in a cup of water appears broken, and objects seen through a glass of water may seem distorted and changed in size. When light passes from air into water, or from any transparent substance into another of different density, its direction is changed, and it emerges along an entirely new path. We know that light rays pass through glass, because we can see through the window panes and through our spectacles; we know that light rays pass through water, because we can see through a glass of clear water; on the other hand, light rays cannot pass through wood, leather, metal, etc.

Whenever light meets a transparent substance obliquely, some of it is reflected, undergoing a change in its direction; and some of it passes onward through the medium, but the latter portion passes onward along a new path. The ray RO passes obliquely through the air to the surface of the water, but, on entering the water, it is bent or refracted and takes the new path OS. The angle AOR is called the angle of incidence. The angle POS is called the angle of refraction.

The angle of refraction is the angle formed by the refracted ray and the perpendicular to the surface at the point where the light strikes it.

When light passes from air into water or glass, the refracted ray is bent toward the perpendicular, so that the angle of refraction is smaller than the angle of incidence. When a ray of light passes from water or glass into air, the refracted ray is bent away from the perpendicular so that the angle of refraction is greater than the angle of incidence.

The bending or deviation of light in its passage from one substance to another is called refraction.

FIG. - A straw or stick in water seems broken.

FIG. - When the ray RO enters the water, its path changes to OS.
108. How Refraction Deceives us
Refraction is the source of many illusions; bent rays of light make objects appear where they really are not. A fish at A seems to be at B. The end of the stick in Figure 64 seems to be nearer the surface of the water than it really is.

The light from the sun, moon, and stars can reach us only by passing through the atmosphere, but in Section 76, we learned that the atmosphere varies in density from level to level; hence all the light which travels through the atmosphere is constantly deviated from its original path, and before the light reaches the eye it has undergone many changes in direction. Now we learned in Section 102, that the direction of the rays of light as they enter the eye determines the direction in which an object is seen; hence the sun, moon, and stars seem to be along the lines which enter the eye, although in reality they are not.

FIG. - A fish at A seems to be at B.
109. Uses of Refraction
If it were not for refraction, or the deviation of light in its passage from medium to medium, the wonders and beauties of the magic lantern and the camera would be unknown to us; sun, moon, and stars could not be made to yield up their distant secrets to us in photographs; the comfort and help of spectacles would be lacking, spectacles which have helped unfold to many the rare beauties of nature, such as a clear view of clouds and sunset, of humming bee and flying bird. Books with their wealth of entertainment and information would be sealed to a large part of mankind, if glasses did not assist weak eyes.

By refraction the magnifying glass reveals objects hidden because of their minuteness, and enlarges for our careful contemplation objects otherwise barely visible. The watchmaker, unassisted by the magnifying glass, could not detect the tiny grains of dust or sand which clog the delicate wheels of our watches. The merchant, with his lens, examines the separate threads of woolen and silk fabrics to determine the strength and value of the material. The physician, with his invaluable microscope, counts the number of infinitesimal corpuscles in the blood and bases his prescription on that count; he examines the sputum of a patient to determine whether tuberculosis wastes the system. The bacteriologist with the same instrument scrutinizes the drinking water and learns whether the dangerous typhoid germs are present. The future of medicine will depend somewhat upon the additional secrets which man is able to force from nature through the use of powerful lenses, because as lenses have, in the past, been the means of revealing disease germs, so in the future more powerful lenses may serve to bring to light germs yet unknown. How refraction accomplishes these results will be explained in the following Sections.
110. The Window Pane
We have seen that light is bent when it passes from one medium to another of different density, and that objects viewed by refracted light do not appear in their proper positions.

When a ray of light passes through a piece of plane glass, such as a window pane, it is refracted at the point B toward the perpendicular, and continues its course through the glass in the new direction BC. On emerging from the glass, the light is refracted away from the perpendicular and takes the direction CD, which is clearly parallel to its original direction. Hence, when we view objects through the window, we see them slightly displaced in position, but otherwise unchanged. The deviation or displacement caused by glass as thin as window panes is too slight to be noticed, and we are not conscious that objects are out of position.

FIG. - Objects looked at through a window pane seem to be in their natural place.

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