Monday, January 28, 2013

Polarized Light

What exactly is polarized light? You may have heard of it before, or read the name. It sounds cool, so what is it? That is what I will explain in this post.

Light is like a wave, or bumpy curve, in many respects. This wave is a sine wave (see my Sine and Cosine post). The wave can oscillate (wobble) in an up-down motion, or a left-right motion; sometimes it does a mixture of both, and wobbles in a circular pattern.

Look at the wall, or the floor. There are quadrillions of light waves bouncing off them. Some of the light waves oscillate in an up-down motion, others oscillate in a left-right motion, and others oscillate in a diagonal motion. The different types of waves are all jumbled together. Is it possible to have a bunch of light waves that all wobble the same way? Yes! Light like that even has a name: polarized light.

You can buy filters that will polarize light; the filters are called polarizers, or polarized filters. Some sunglasses are made with polarized lenses; those are called polarized sunglasses.

There are many uses for polarizers and polarized light. I will discuss some of these uses in later posts.

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