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Electromagnetic spectrum: rules of thumb

Three rules that apply to electromagnetic waves in general are as follows:

  • High-frequency electromagnetic waves are more energetic and are more able to penetrate than low-frequency waves.
  • High-frequency electromagnetic waves can carry more information per unit time than low-frequency waves.
  • The shorter the wavelength of any electromagnetic wave probing a material, the smaller the detail it is possible to resolve.

Note that there are exceptions to these rules of thumb.

Transmission, reflection, and absorption

What happens when an electromagnetic wave impinges on a material? If the material is transparent to the particular frequency, then the wave can largely be transmitted. If the material is opaque to the frequency, then the wave can be totally reflected. The wave can also be absorbed by the material, indicating that there is some interaction between the wave and the material, such as the thermal agitation of molecules.

Of course it is possible to have partial transmission, reflection, and absorption. We normally associate these properties with visible light, but they do apply to all electromagnetic waves. What is not obvious is that something that is transparent to light may be opaque at other frequencies. For example, ordinary glass is transparent to visible light but largely opaque to ultraviolet radiation. Human skin is opaque to visible light—we cannot see through people—but transparent to X-rays.

Radio and tv waves

The broad category of radio waves    is defined to contain any electromagnetic wave produced by currents in wires and circuits. Its name derives from their most common use as a carrier of audio information (i.e., radio). The name is applied to electromagnetic waves of similar frequencies regardless of source. Radio waves from outer space, for example, do not come from alien radio stations. They are created by many astronomical phenomena, and their study has revealed much about nature on the largest scales.

There are many uses for radio waves, and so the category is divided into many subcategories, including microwaves and those electromagnetic waves used for AM and FM radio, cellular telephones, and TV.

The lowest commonly encountered radio frequencies are produced by high-voltage AC power transmission lines at frequencies of 50 or 60 Hz. (See [link] .) These extremely long wavelength electromagnetic waves (about 6000 km!) are one means of energy loss in long-distance power transmission.

A high-voltage traction power line is shown to the side of a roadway. The power line in the photo has two transmission poles supporting the cables.
This high-voltage traction power line running to Eutingen Railway Substation in Germany radiates electromagnetic waves with very long wavelengths. (credit: Zonk43, Wikimedia Commons)

There is an ongoing controversy regarding potential health hazards associated with exposure to these electromagnetic fields ( E size 12{E} {} -fields). Some people suspect that living near such transmission lines may cause a variety of illnesses, including cancer. But demographic data are either inconclusive or simply do not support the hazard theory. Recent reports that have looked at many European and American epidemiological studies have found no increase in risk for cancer due to exposure to E size 12{E} {} -fields.

Questions & Answers

full meaning of GPS system
Anaele Reply
how to prove that Newton's law of universal gravitation F = GmM ______ R²
Kaka Reply
sir dose it apply to the human system
Olubukola Reply
prove that the centrimental force Fc= M1V² _________ r
Kaka Reply
prove that centripetal force Fc = MV² ______ r
how lesers can transmit information
mitul Reply
griffts bridge derivative
Ganesh Reply
below me
please explain; when a glass rod is rubbed with silk, it becomes positive and the silk becomes negative- yet both attracts dust. does dust have third types of charge that is attracted to both positive and negative
Timothy Reply
what is a conductor
below me
why below you
no....I said below me ...... nothing below .....ok?
dust particles contains both positive and negative charge particles
corona charge can verify
when pressure increases the temperature remain what?
Ibrahim Reply
remains the temperature
what is frequency
Mbionyi Reply
define precision briefly
Sujitha Reply
CT scanners do not detect details smaller than about 0.5 mm. Is this limitation due to the wavelength of x rays? Explain.
hope this helps
what's critical angle
Mahmud Reply
The Critical Angle Derivation So the critical angle is defined as the angle of incidence that provides an angle of refraction of 90-degrees. Make particular note that the critical angle is an angle of incidence value. For the water-air boundary, the critical angle is 48.6-degrees.
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pls who can give the definition of relative density?
the ratio of the density of a substance to the density of a standard, usually water for a liquid or solid, and air for a gas.
What is momentum
aliyu Reply
mass ×velocity
it is the product of mass ×velocity of an object
how do I highlight a sentence]p? I select the sentence but get options like copy or web search but no highlight. tks. src
Sean Reply
then you can edit your work anyway you want
Wat is the relationship between Instataneous velocity
Oyinlusi Reply
Instantaneous velocity is defined as the rate of change of position for a time interval which is almost equal to zero

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Source:  OpenStax, College physics. OpenStax CNX. Jul 27, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11406/1.9
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