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EX IMAGE:
Benson Res
By VR.grafix, 2002
 
glossary

Glossary of terms:

concave
Bending inward. A concave lens or mirror has at least one side that bulges inward. A concave lens produces diverging light rays.
See also reflect, refract, focal length, focal point
converge
To move in the same direction or towards a common point. Light converges when it passes through a convex lens. The opposite of converge is diverge
convex
Bending outward. A convex lens or mirror has at least one side that bulges outward. A convex lens produces converging light rays. A convex mirror produces diverging rays.
See also reflect, refract, focal length, focal point
diffraction
A phenomenon that occurs whenever a wave is obstructed in any way. Often diffraction fringes can be seen when a small aperature or object blocks light waves. Scientists use diffraction gratings to break up light into many wavelengths.
diffraction grating
A device used to break light into its component wavelengths. It is usually composed of a material with tiny grooves cut into it which disperses the light as it passes through or bounces off the grating (depending on the type of grating). Physicists and astronomers often use diffraction gratings to study the nature of light.
See also disperson, spectrum
disperse/dispersion
Breaking light into its various wavelengths. All transparent materials disperse light because their refractive indexes change with wavelength: red light (long wavelengths) will be refracted less than blue light (shorter wavelengths).
diverge
To move in different directions from a common point or from each other.
from Webster's New World Dictionary. The opposite of diverge is converge.
double concave
A concave lens which has both edges bulging inward.
double convex
A convex lens which has both edges bulging outward.
 
focal length
The distance from a lens or mirror to its focal point. The focal length, f, is the defining parameter of most lenses and mirrors.
See also concave, convex
focal point
The point at which parallel light rays, incident on a lens (or mirror), are focused after refracting (or reflecting). For concave lenses and mirrors, the focal point is on the same side of the lens (or mirror) as the source. For convex lenses and mirrors, the focal point is on the opposite side of the lense (or mirror) as the source. See also focal length
incident
Falling or shining upon. When light is incident on something, the light may be reflected, refracted, absorbed, or any combination of these.
See also total internal reflection
index of refraction
A number signifying how well a material can refract light. Usually specified as n by scientists, the index of refraction of a material depends on its composition and density. Water has an index of refraction of 1.333; n of air is nearly 1.0; and n of a vacuum is exactly 1.0.
infrared
A region of the electromagnetic spectrum that is of lower energy and longer wavelength than visible light. Typical wavelengths of infrared radiation range from 1.0 mm to 780 nm (780 x 10-9 m).
interaction
Any action and reaction that takes place between two objects. In physics, interactions (or forces) fall into four main categories. These categories are gravitational interactions, electromagnetic interactions (electric and magnetic forces), and the strong and weak interactions (which affect atomic nuclei and fundamental particles).
interface
The boundary between two different materials or media.
See also refraction
interference
The result of waves impinging on one another. Constructive interference occurs when the waves are nearly in phase, or when their "peaks" combine; destructive interference occurs when the waves are nearly 180 out of phase, or when the "peaks" cancel out the "troughs"of the waves.
 
 
magnify
To cause an image to appear larger or smaller than the corresponding object. When we look through a lens, we often see things magnified: convex lenses often magnify objects larger, while concave lenses always magnify objects smaller. Mirrors can also magnify objects.
 
negative charge
Something has a negative charge if it has an excess number of electrons.
normal
Perpendicular. If one line is normal to another, then they are at right angles to each other.
prism
A device used to break light into its component wavelengths. This is usually a triangular piece of glass through which light can pass and get dispersed. Isaac Newton first used a prism to see a spectrum of colors in 1672. See also index of refraction, refract
 
ray tracing
A process used in optics by which the position and orientation of an image can be established if one knows the focal length of the lens and the position of the object. This process uses strategic rays from the object passing through the lens to locate the image. For more detail - read article on Raytracing.
real image
A type of image created by converging light rays. This type of image would form on the image side of a lens, where it could be projected. The opposite of a real image is a virtual image. See also convex lens
reflect
When light bounces off an object. Usually we associate reflection with a smooth, polished surface, however the surface doesn't have to be smooth. Light reflects off your shirt, therefore others can see that you're wearing one.
refract
When light bends at an interface between two transparent materials. We find many things in our everyday experience refracting light: glass, water, air, plastic. The illusion of a broken leg dangling in the pool is due to the refraction of light. See also index of refraction
refractive index
See index of refraction
 
types of charges
There are two types of charges: positive and negative.
 
ultraviolet
A region of the electromagnetic spectrum that is of higher energy and shorter wavelength than visible light. Typical wavelengths of ultraviolet radiation range from 375 nm to 12.5 nm (12.5 x 10-9 m).
virtual image
A type of image created by diverging light rays. This type of image would form on the object side of a lens, if it formed at all. The opposite of a virtual image is a real image. See also concave lens
wavelength
The distance from the peak of a wavecrest to the peak of the subsequent wavecrest, or from one trough to the next trough. Expressed in units of distance (e.g. km, m, cm, micron, nm)

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