November 20 – Happy Birthday, William Coblentz

Posted on November 20, 2014

William Coblentz, born in Ohio on this date in 1873, didn't finish high school until he was 22 years ago.

You might assume that means that he wasn't all that bright. If so, you'd be wrong! Coblentz's family was economically disadvantaged, and he had to work and help provide rather than study and earn credits for graduation. But eventually, graduate he did – and Coblentz ended up earning BS, MS, and PhD degrees in physics from fine universities!

And he accomplished a lot in his science career, with hundreds of scientific publications, talks, and abstracts, plus ten patents.

One of the things that Coblentz is best known for was his work on infrared radiation (IR).

Do you realize that all sorts of things that people do not consider “light” – radio waves, x-rays, microwaves – are actually the same sort of phenomenon as visible light? All of these are forms of electromagnetic radiation (EMR) that travel at the same speed (yes, it's called “the speed of light”) and that share other characteristics. All these forms of radiation travel in “packets” or particles called photons. And the different forms of EMR differ only in their frequency and wavelength.

Infrared “light” is not visible to the naked eye. It has longer wavelengths (and lower frequencies) than the red visible light – hence its name infrared. This kind of radiation can be released as heat, and people using infrared scopes and sensors can see and photograph living things that shine brighter than cooler nonliving objects.

Astronomers study objects in infrared light
as well as in visible light.

Infrared can reveal things that are hidden
when you are looking only at visible light!

Check out the James Webb Space Telescope video about infrared. 

Also on this date:

Globally Organized Hug A Runner Day 

Happy Inventions Day

Great American Smokeout 

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