How Everything Works
How Everything Works How Everything Works

Question 774

Why do we see colors when light strikes atoms? — GN, Marine City, MI
When white light strikes a molecule, that molecule may absorb some of the light. Light interacts with molecules as particles called "photons" and whether a particular photon is absorbed depends on the structure of the molecule and the color of the photon. Each molecule has the ability to absorb only certain colors of light. For example, a particular molecule may absorb only red photons. As a result, your eye will see only green and blue light photons coming from that molecule when it's exposed to white light and you will perceive that molecule as having a blue-green color known as cyan. In general, the colors that you see coming from molecules that are illuminated by white light are the colors of light that the molecules don't absorb.

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