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Colors » Science Behind Colors » Physics » The Wave Theory

# The Wave Theory

Although most of us accept the existence of colors and do not question their origin, the phenomenon of color is more complex than one may think. Color depends wholly on light, and to know more about color, we must explore the properties and characteristics of light.
Visible light is a type of electromagnetic waveform. All electromagnetic waves are transverse progressive waves that can travel through vacuum at a velocity of 3*108 ms-1. These waves have certain features common to all progressive waves, namely:
• Frequency
• Wavelength
• Velocity

Frequency is the number of complete waves that pass by a certain point in one second. A complete wave is one crest and one trough. Wavelength, measured in meters, is the distance between two successive crests or two successive troughs. The velocity, or the speed of the wave, is the product of the wavelength and the frequency.
As mentioned above, the velocity for all electromagnetic waveforms is constant. However, each wave type has a different wavelength, and consequently, a different frequency. The human eye can only perceive the electromagnetic wave form with wavelengths ranging from 0.4 to 0.7 micrometers, and this waveform is known as ‘visible light.’
Red light has the longest wavelength of 0.7 micrometers, while violet light has the shortest, 0.4 micrometers. All the colors of the spectrum of white light lie between these two colors. The wavelength of all electromagnetic waves changes in different media, so it is the frequency of the light that decides the color.
White light is the combination of all of these colors. However, when it passes through a different medium than air, the different frequencies of light travel at different speeds, and it is then possible to make out what is called the spectrum of white light, i.e. all the colors that make up white light, a phenomenon made possible by the occurrence of diffraction.

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