Everything we see is a result of light waves bouncing off objects and into our eyes. Light waves come in a variety of different sizes. And those that we can see with our eyes are just a small fraction of the big spectrum of light waves.
The light waves that that help us understand the world around us and to see colours and stuff like that are called Visible Light Waves, and they are kind of in the middle of the spectrum. Now even though we cannot see them with our eyes, there are some handy kinds of light waves higher up the spectrum that help us communicate in some very clever ways.
Now I bet you love using the internet, maybe downloading funny videos and listening to music. All that information is passed around thanks to a very special kind of light wave.
Our computer data is turned into bursts of light, and light travels VERY fast!
Pulses of light travel through fibre optic cables, which are thin glass rods that guide light. Because light travels so fast, it can go around the world in less than a second. Our information can be passed around in the blink of an eye! When the light waves reach computers at the other end of the cable, those pulses of light are changed back into information the computer can read. And it’s not just for games and funny videos, television channels are also carried around in this way. There’s another cool way light waves help us.
Whenever your mum or dad uses a card to pay for their shopping, light waves are helping them pay! Those fibre optic cables are also carrying information around that helps people shop and pay their bills. Computers in chip and pin machines turn information about what is being bought into pulses of light , which travel between the shop and your parents’ bank, paying for the shopping. Millions of transactions like these are made every day, and it’s all thanks to the clever way that light can be used to carry information around.
So you can see how light waves shape our world, helping us use the internet and to buy the things we need!
So You Want to Know About… Waves? is supported by The Institute of Physics