Light is a kind of energy. It is the form of energy that our eyes can detect, enabling us to see. It is produced by very hot things – the Sun, fire and the tiny wire inside electric light-bulbs. Certain animals also have light-producing organs.

Light from the Sun is essential to life on Earth. Some creatures live off minerals in the ocean depths but these are exceptions. Most plants use sunlight to make their food. All plant-eating animals, together with other animals that eat plant-eaters, also therefore depend on sunlight.

Light rays can only travel in straight lines. If they strike an object which does not allow light to pass through it (an opaque object), a shadow is cast on the unlit side. Light can be reflected, however. Light reflected from objects allows us to see them. Light rays strike and bounce off a flat, shiny surface like a mirror at the same angle. This enables us to see our reflection.


When we switch on an electric light, it seems that the room is filled with light instantaneously. But light rays do take time to travel from their source. They travel extremely quickly: about 300,000 kilometres (or seven-and-a-half times around the world) per second in outer space. The speed of light is, in fact, the speed limit for the Universe: nothing can travel faster. Light waves are able to travel through empty space – a vacuum – whereas sound waves cannot. Light actually moves less quickly through air, water or glass than through empty space.

Because stars are very far from Earth – at least thousands of billions of kilometres – astronomers measure their distances in light years, the amount of time it takes for light to travel to us from them.


Light rays bend, or refract, when they pass through different transparent materials. This is because light travels at different speeds through different materials. At the boundary between two materials, for example, air and water, the light changes speed slightly and is refracted from its straight path. You can see this effect when looking at the bottom of swimming pool. It looks much shallower than it really is.


A lens, a shaped piece of glass or plastic, can bend light, either spreading it out or bringing it closer together. A convex lens, one that is thicker in the middle than at the edge, brings light rays together at a single point called a focus. The eye contains a natural convex lens which focuses an image on to the retina at the back of the eye. If you hold a convex lens so that the object you are looking at lies between the lens and the focus, the object will appear larger and further from the lens than it really is. A simple magnifying glass is a convex lens, and is useful for studying minute detail as, for example, on a postage stamp or a tiny insect or flower.

A concave lens is the opposite of a convex lens: it is thicker around the edge than in the middle. This kind of lens diverges (spreads out) light rays. It is used in glasses to correct short-sightedness.

Picture Credit : Google