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What Are Electromagnetic Waves?
Electromagnetic Waves, like other kind of waves,
are caused by vibrations. These waves are
produced by the vibrations of electric charges in
atoms. The energy in electromagnetic waves is
made up of electric and magnetic fields that
vibrate at right angles to each other.
 usually stated in units of nanometers (one-thousandth of a
micrometer) for the visible light portion of the spectrum.
 The wavelength is defined as the distance between two
successive peaks (or valleys) of the waveform (see Figure 1).
 The corresponding frequency of the radiated wave, which is the
number of sinusoidal cycles (oscillations or complete
wavelengths) that pass a given point per second, is proportional
to the reciprocal of the wavelength.
 The longer wavelengths correspond to lower frequency
radiation and shorter wavelengths correspond to higher
frequency radiation. Frequency is usually expressed in
quantities of hertz (Hz) or cycles per second (cps). Amplitude is
the height of the wave.
One way of measuring the energy of an
Electromagnetic wave is by measuring its frequency.
Frequency refers to the number of waves a vibration
creates during a period of time – like counting how
frequently cars pass through an intersection in a given
time. In general, the higher the frequency, or number
of waves, the greater the energy of the radiation.
Wavelength and frequency are inversely related,
meaning that the greater the length of the wave, the
lower its frequency will be. Likewise, if the frequency is
high, the wave must be shorter. Another way to think
of it is: the shorter the wave, the higher the energy.
Radio waves have the longest wavelengths in
the Electromagnetic Spectrum. These waves
can be longer than a football field or as short
as a football, having a wavelength of 1 mile
(1.5 km) or more. Since these are the longest
waves, they have lowest energy and are
associated with the lowest temperature.
Microwaves have shorter
wavelengths than radio waves
that they are easily absorbed
by water, which heat the food
we eat. Ranges from onetenth of a mm to 1 cm. They
Microwaves are good for
transmitting information from
one place to another because
penetrate haze, light rain and
snow, clouds, and smoke.
• Shorter microwaves are
used in remote sensing.
These microwaves are
used for radar like the
Doppler radar used in
Microwaves, are used for
radar, are just a few
microwave tower can
transmit information like
telephone calls and
computer data from one
city to another.
Infrared Waves have both long
wavelengths and short wavelengths,
which span from 700 nm-1 mm (from
the width of a pinpoint to the size of
small plant seeds). Infrared waves
with long wavelengths are different
from infrared waves with short
wavelengths can be detected as heat.
Your radiator or heater gives off
these long infrared waves. We call
these thermal infrared or far infrared
waves. The sun gives off infrared
waves with shorter wavelengths.
Infrared light lies between the visible
and microwave portions of the
Electromagnetic Spectrum. They are
the deep red rays you get from a heat
lamp. Shorter, near infrared waves
are not hot at all-in fact you cannot
even feel them. These are the ones
used by your TV's remote control.
Visible Light
Visible Light Waves are the
only Electromagnetic waves
we can see. We see these
waves as the colors of the
rainbow. Each color has a
different wavelength. Red
has the longest wavelength
and violet has the shortest
wavelength. These waves
combine to make white
light. Their wavelengths are
in the range from 400-700
nanometers (from size of a
molecule to a protozoan).
Ultraviolet Waves
Ultraviolet waves have wavelengths of 10-100nm (about
the size of a virus). Ultraviolet light has shorter wavelengths
than visible light. Though these waves are invisible to the
human eye, some insects, like bumblebees, can see them.
Scientists have divided the
ultraviolet part of the spectrum
into three regions: the near
ultraviolet, far ultraviolet, and the
extreme ultraviolet. The three
regions distinguished by hoe
energetic the ultraviolet radiation
is, and by the “wavelength” of the
ultraviolet light which is related to
energy. The near ultraviolet,
abbreviated NUV, is the light
closest to optical or visible light.
abbreviated EUV, is the ultraviolet
light closest to X-rays, and is the
most energetic of the three types.
The far ultraviolet, abbreviated
FUV, lies between the near and
extreme ultraviolet regions. It is
the least explored of the three
X-rays range in wavelength from
0.001-10 nm (about the size of an
atom). As the wavelengths of light
decrease, they increase in energy. Xrays have smaller wavelengths and
therefore higher energy than
ultraviolet waves. We usually talk
about X-rays in terms of their energy
rather than wavelength. This is
partially because X-rays have very
small wavelengths. It is also because
X-ray light tends to act more like a
particle than a wave. X-ray detectors
collect actual photons of X-ray light
which is very different from the radio
telescopes that have large dishes
designed to focus radio waves! X-rays
are so powerful that they pass easily
through the skin allowing doctors to
look at our bones.
• X-rays were first observed and documented in
1895 by Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen, a German
scientist who found them quite by accident
when experimenting with vacuum tubes.
• Your doctor uses them to look at your bones
and your dentist to look at your teeth.
• X-rays go through the body and are used for
medical purposes.
Gamma rays have the
shortest wavelengths –
0.001 nm (about the size of
an atomic nucleus). This is
the highest frequency and
most energetic region of the
Electromagnetic Spectrum.
Gamma rays are the result
from nuclear radiations
taking place in objects such
as pulsars, quasars and
black holes. Gamma-rays
can kill living cells, a fact
which medicine uses to its
advantage, using gammarays to kill cancerous cells.