Related topics: light

Making it easier to differentiate mirror-image molecules

Using a new method, scientists are better able to distinguish between mirror-image substances. This is important amongst others in drug development, because the two variants can cause completely different effects in the human ...

Warming climate upends Arctic mining town

Tor Selnes owes his life to a lamp. He miraculously survived a fatal avalanche that shed light on the vulnerability of Svalbard, a region warming faster than anywhere else, to human-caused climate change.

Shaky oasis for some polar bears found, but not for species

With the polar bear species in a fight for survival because of disappearing Arctic sea ice, a new distinct group of Greenland bears seem to have stumbled on an icy oasis that might allow a small remote population to "hang ...

Vega-C set for inaugural launch

ESA's new medium-lift Vega-C rocket is nearly ready for its inaugural flight, with its four fully-stacked stages now ready for payload integration, final checks and launch from Europe's Spaceport in French Guiana.

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Polarization (also polarisation) is a property of waves that describes the orientation of their oscillations. This article primarily covers the polarization of electromagnetic waves such as light, although other types of wave also exhibit polarization.

By convention, the polarization of light is described by specifying the direction of the wave's electric field. When light travels in free space, in most cases it propagates as a transverse wave—the polarization is perpendicular to the wave's direction of travel. In this case, the electric field may be oriented in a single direction (linear polarization), or it may rotate as the wave travels (circular or elliptical polarization). In the latter cases, the oscillations can rotate rightward or leftward in the direction of travel, and which of those two rotations is present in a wave is called the wave's chirality or handedness. In general the polarization of an electromagnetic (EM) wave is a complex issue. For instance in a waveguide such as an optical fiber, or for radially polarized beams in free space, the description of the wave's polarization is more complicated, as the fields can have longitudinal as well as transverse components. Such EM waves are either TM or hybrid modes.

For longitudinal waves such as sound waves in fluids, the direction of oscillation is by definition along the direction of travel, so there is no polarization. In a solid medium, however, sound waves can be transverse. In this case, the polarization is associated with the direction of the shear stress in the plane perpendicular to the propagation direction. This is important in seismology.

Polarization is significant in areas of science and technology dealing with wave propagation, such as optics, seismology, telecommunications and radar science. The polarization of light can be measured with a polarimeter.

This text uses material from Wikipedia, licensed under CC BY-SA