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The Optics of LifeA Biologist's Guide to Light in Nature$
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Sönke Johnsen

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691139906

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691139906.001.0001

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(p.75) Chapter Four Absorption
The Optics of Life

Sönke Johnsen

Princeton University Press

This chapter focuses on absorption. Absorption has been called the “death of photons.” While the energy of a photon is never truly lost, most people find the conversion of photons into heat and chemical reactions less appealing than their original emission. However, without absorption, the earth would be a far less colorful place, with no paintings, flowers, leopard spots, or stained-glass windows. There would still be some colors due to interference and scattering, but people would be blind to them because human vision is based on absorption. More importantly, if nothing on earth absorbed light, the planet would be lifeless and cold. Understanding absorption helps one understand all the interactions of light with matter.

Keywords:   absorption, photons, color, human vision, light, matter

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