# Wavelength & the EM Spectrum

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This diagram shows that the electromagnetic spectrum includes waves with all possible wavelengths of radiation.

Notice that:

Remember that:

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## Description

#### Wavelength & the EM Spectrum

###### TRY SOME QUICK QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS TO GET STARTED
Gamma rays have a shorter wavelength than radio waves.
nm is shorthand for nanometre.
Millimetres, centimetres, metres and kilometres are all used to measure the wavelengths of radio waves.
The unit used to measure wavelength is the metre. Because the size of electromagnetic waves varies, different prefixes are used to aid measurement. Here are six examples: kilometre, centimetre, millimetre, micrometre, nanometre and picometre.

###### Notice that:
• Wavelengths range from low energy radio waves through visible light to high energy gamma rays.
• Waves with longer wavelengths have a lower frequency and carry less energy.
• Waves with shorter wavelengths have a higher frequency and carry more energy.
###### Remember that:
• The electromagnetic spectrum includes, in order of increasing frequency and decreasing wavelength: radio waves, microwaves, infrared radiation, visible light, ultraviolet radiation, X-rays and gamma rays.
• There are no precisely defined boundaries between the bands of electromagnetic radiation in the electromagnetic spectrum.
• Visible light is only a very small part of the electromagnetic spectrum.
• Energy (electromagnetic energy) is the radiant energy (light) transported by electromagnetic waves.
• The term light can be used in three different ways:
• Light can be used to mean the whole of the electromagnetic spectrum from radio waves, through visible light to gamma rays. A better term is radiant energy or photon energy.
• Light can be used to mean the range of wavelengths and frequencies that can be detected by the human eye. A better term is visible light which refers to the wavelengths that correspond with the colours between red and violet, the visible spectrum.
• Light can be used to mean the range of wavelengths and frequencies between infra-red and ultra-violet. This usage is useful because the outer limits of the visible spectrum change under different lighting conditions and for different individuals.
• Referring to visible light simply as light is short-hand.
• Visible light is not the same for all living things.

#### Some key terms

Energy is a property of matter.

• Everything contains energy including all forms of matter and so all objects.
• Energy is evident in all forms of movement, interactions between, and changes to the forms and properties of matter.
• At an atomic level, energy is evident in the movement of electrons around the nucleus of an atom. Energy is stored in the nucleus of atoms as a result of the forces that bind protons and neutrons together.
• Energy can be transferred between objects, and converted from one form to another, but cannot be created or destroyed.
• Everything in the universe uses energy in one form or another.
• When it comes down to it, matter is energy.
• Light has energy but no mass so does not occupy space and has no volume.
• Energy is often described as either being potential energy or kinetic energy.
• Energy is measured in joules.

Wavelength is a measurement from any point on the path of a wave to the same point on its next oscillation. The measurement is made parallel to the centre-line of the wave.

The frequency of electromagnetic radiation (light) refers to the number of wave-cycles of an electromagnetic wave that pass a given point in a given amount of time.

The visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum is called the visible spectrum.

• The visible spectrum is the range of wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum that correspond with all the different colours we see in the world.
• As light travels through the air it is invisible to our eyes.
• Human beings don’t see wavelengths of light, but they do see the spectral colours that correspond with each wavelength and colours produced when different wavelengths are combined.
• The visible spectrum includes all the spectral colours between red and violet and each is produced by a single wavelength.
• The visible spectrum is often divided into named colours, though any division of this kind is somewhat arbitrary.
• Traditional colours referred to in English include red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet.

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