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Color and wavelengths

The different wavelengths are detected by the human eye and then interpreted by the brain as colors, ranging from red at the longest wavelengths of about 700 nm. (lowest frequencies) to violet at the shortest wavelengths of about 400 nm. (highest frequencies). The intervening frequencies are seen as orange, yellow, green, cyan, blue, and, conventionally, indigo.

The wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum immediately outside the range that the human eye is able to perceive are called ultraviolet (UV) at the short wavelength (high frequency) end and infrared (IR) at the long wavelength (low frequency) end. Some animals, such as bees, can see UV radiation while others, such as pit viper snakes, can see infrared light.

UV radiation is not normally directly perceived by humans except in a very delayed fashion, as overexposure of the skin to UV light can cause sunburn, or skin cancer, and underexposure can cause vitamin D deficiency. However, because UV is a higher frequency radiation than visible light, it very easily can cause materials to fluoresce visible light.

Cameras that can detect IR and convert it to light are called, depending on their application, night-vision cameras or infrared cameras. These are different from image intensifier cameras, which only amplify available visible light.

When intense radiation (of any frequency) is absorbed in the skin, it causes heating which can be felt. Since hot objects are strong sources of infrared radiation, IR radiation is commonly associated with this sensation. Any intense radiation that can be absorbed in the skin will have the same effect, however.



All text of this article available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License (see Copyrights for details).

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