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Question 638

Is it possible to make a black bulb that absorbs light rather than emitting it? — KD, Pflugerville, TX
Not unless you will consider a black hole to be a black bulb. For a "bulb" to absorb light that isn't heading toward the bulb, that bulb will have to attract the light toward it. Since light has no electric charge, the only force that the bulb can exert on light is gravitational force. While a black hole's gravity is strong enough to attract and ensnare light, it wouldn't make a very practical bulb. However, it is possible in certain circumstances to add light to previously existing light and, in doing so, create a dark shadow that wasn't present before. This process is called interference, where two light waves cancel one another in a particular region of space and prevent any light from reaching a certain spot. But this cancellation is difficult to achieve, except with lasers, and doesn't occur everywhere in space—the light doesn't vanish, it just gets redistributed. Overall, the idea of a black bulb is just not realistic.

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