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What is the Electromagnetic Spectrum? - Invisible Labs with Craig Beals

As a science teacher, I obviously love science, but what I really like about science is when it explains things that we can't always see. And one of those things is light! Now, of course, we can't see without light. But, there's so much more to light that most of us don't really understand.

Light, like we think of it, is just one small part of something much bigger called the, 'Electromagnetic Spectrum.' And, the wavelength changes from very short wavelengths on one end, to very long wavelengths on the other, and what we see is just right in the middle. So right on this very short end is something called, 'Gamma Rays', but as we move our way to a little bit longer wavelength, those are 'X-Rays.'

Craig Beals electromagnetic spectrum of light

When you have to go in, and they shoot x-rays in through your skin it interacts with your bone and it takes a picture. So that's light, even though our eyes can't see it. We get to a little bit longer wavelength and we get up to something called 'UV,' or 'Ultraviolet.'

If you've ever been in a tanning booth or you've ever been outside and gotten a sunburn, you're familiar with ultraviolet light. And It's the exact same stuff as the light we see around us, just a little bit different wavelength.

Then we get into that 'Visible,' the visible little tiny chunk of what we can see. All the colors of the rainbow are inside visible light. So when you look out and you see a rainbow you're just seeing the sun's rays passing through droplets of water. Think of each one of those droplets of water like a prism falling out of the sky. Sun's rays are hitting the droplet (prism) and it's bending that light into the colors of the rainbow.

Craig Beals explains the rainbow as light passes through raindrops like a prism

We get to a little bit longer wavelength, we get to something called 'Infrared,' and that's one of my favorites, but I'm gonna come back to that one.

And we get a little bit longer than that, we get all he way up to America's favorite cooking utensil, the microwave. The microwave cooks your food using electromagnetic radiation. It uses micro-waves, and microwaves are almost the exact same thing as the light we see with our eyes, it's just a little bit longer wavelength.

At the end of the long wavelengths are 'Radio' waves. When you go, and you tune your radio into your favorite station, you're really listening to a light signal, because radio waves are just like visible light, but a really long wavelength, and it's passing through the air, and we can tune-in to just one small portion of that frequency and you can listen to your favorite radio station. And here's the thing I like to talk about with radio waves, when you tune-in to your favorite station, it doesn't mean that all the other stations went away, they're still there. It's just like our eyes, our eyes are tuned-in to one small piece of the spectrum, but it doesn't mean the other ones aren't there. They exist and they're all around us, all the time.

Craig Beals shows fire in visible and infrared using a flir camera

And now, we've got new technology that allows our eyes to see infrared, a world that we couldn't even experience not that long ago. There's a whole world out there that we can only experience with this new FLIR infrared technology. I mean, imagine going out into your world, and exploring thermal energy, exploring the electromagnetic spectrum in a way you never imagined.

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Invisible Labs is brought to you by FLIR Systems


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