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Last Updated: Nov 6, 2017 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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  • Diffraction: Topic Page
    Bending of waves around the edge of an obstacle. When light strikes an opaque body, for instance, a shadow forms on the side of the body that is shielded from the light source. Ordinarily light travels in straight lines through a uniform, transparent medium, but those light waves that just pass the edges of the opaque body are bent, or deflected. MORE
  • Light: Topic Page

    Visible electromagnetic radiation. Of the entire electromagnetic spectrum, the human eye is sensitive to only a tiny part, the part that is called light. The wavelengths of visible light range from about 350 or 400 nm to about 750 or 800 nm. MORE
  • Optics: Topic Page
    The study of light and of instruments using light. The subject has a long history. Mirrors were used by the ancient Egyptians c.2000 BC, and Greek philosophers developed simple theories of light (the law of reflection being stated by Euclid in 300 BC). MORE
  • Reflection: Topic Page
    Return of a wave from a surface that it strikes into the medium through which it has traveled. The general principles governing the reflection of light and sound are similar, for both normally travel in straight lines and both are wave phenomena. MORE
  • Refraction: Topic Page
    In physics, deflection of a wave on passing obliquely from one transparent medium into a second medium in which its speed is different, as the passage of a light ray from air into glass. Other forms of electromagnetic radiation, in addition to light waves, can be refracted, as can sound waves. MORE
  • Spectrum: Topic Page
    Arrangement or display of light or other form of radiation separated according to wavelength, frequency, energy, or some other property. Beams of charged particles can be separated into a spectrum according to mass in a mass spectrometer. MORE


  • Bubble chamber: Topic Page
    Device for detecting charged particles and other radiation by means of tracks of bubbles left in a chamber filled with liquid hydrogen or other liquefied gas. It was invented in 1952 by Donald Glaser. MORE
  • Charge: Topic Page
    Property of matter that gives rise to all electrical phenomena (see electricity). The basic unit of charge, usually denoted by e, is that on the proton or the electron; that on the proton is designated as positive (+e) and that on the electron is designated as negative (-e). MORE
  • Conduction: Topic Page

    Transfer of heat or electricity through a substance, resulting from a difference in temperature between different parts of the substance, in the case of heat, or from a difference in electric potential, in the case of electricity. MORE
  • Electric current: Topic Page
    Flow of electrically charged particles through a conducting circuit due to the presence of a potential difference. The current at any point in a circuit is the amount of charge flowing per second; its SI unit is the ampere (coulomb per second). MORE
  • Electricity: Topic Page
    All phenomena caused by electric charge. There are two types of electricity: static and current. Electric charge is caused by an excess or deficit of electrons in a substance, and an electric current is the movement of charge through a material. MORE
  • Superconductivity: Topic Page
    Abnormally high electrical conductivity of certain substances. The phenomenon was discovered in 1911 by Kamerlingh Onnes, who found that the resistance of mercury dropped suddenly to zero at a temperature of about 4.2 degrees Kelvin. MORE

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  • Electromagnetism: Topic Page
    Phenomena involving both electric and magnetic fields, and the study of such phenomena. The first indication of a link between electricity and magnetism was shown by Hans Christian ├śrsted, who demonstrated that an electrical current caused the deflection of a compass needle (1819). MORE
  • Hysteresis: Topic Page
    Phenomenon in which the response of a physical system to an external influence depends not only on the present magnitude of that influence but also on the previous history of the system. MORE
  • Magnetism: Topic Page
    Any object that exhibits magnetic properties is called a magnet. Every magnet has two points, or poles, where most of its strength is concentrated; these are designated as a north-seeking pole, or north pole, and a south-seeking pole, or south pole, because a suspended magnet tends to orient itself along a north-south line. MORE