Electromagnetic Spectrum for the Middle School Student

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Electromagnetic Spectrum for the Middle School Student

Waves are all around us and come in various forms. Sound waves can travel through air because air is made of molecules, which carry the sound. Another type of wave is electromagnetic waves, which are different than sound waves because they don’t need molecules to travel. This means that electromagnetic waves can travel through air and solid materials as well as empty space (Groleau 2011). The electromagnetic spectrum consists of all waves of energy found in our universe. Radio waves, microwaves, infrared light, visible light, UV light, X-rays, and gamma rays, are the are the most common wavelengths on the spectrum. Wavelength is the distance between one wave crest (peak) to the next. Waves in the electromagnetic spectrum vary in size-- from very long radio waves the size of buildings, to very short gamma rays smaller than the size of the nucleus of an atom. But you may ask, are all of these waves that different from one another? The answer in fact, is no! What differentiates these types of waves is the amount of energy they carry. Photons, the smallest massless unit of energy, bundle up and travel in waves. The amount of photons that travel are measured and classified by the energy they posses. As the wavelength of the waves decrease, the amount of energy of the photons increases (Bitesize 2011).

The visible eye can detect waves lengths between .4 millimeters and .7 millimeters long (Groleau 2011). We call this visible light. Look around you-- everything you see has waves of light bouncing off of it that your eyes detect and turn to images in your brain. Waves measuring less than .4 millimeters long are considered ultraviolet (UV) waves (Bitesize 2011). These ...

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Works Cited

"BBC - GCSE Bitesize: What is a spectrum?." BBC - Homepage. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2011. .

"Electromagnetic Spectrum - Introduction." Imagine The Universe! Home Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2011. .

Groleau, Rick. "NOVA | Electromagnetic Spectrum Tour." PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Oct. 2011. .

Seely, Samuel, and Alexander Poularikas. Electromagnetics: classical and modern

theory and applications. New York: M. Dekker, 1979. Print

"Blue Shift." Universe Today — Space and astronomy news. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Oct. 2011. .

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