Insulator, Metals, and Reflectance
Name: Bob D.
Date: Sunday, September 15, 2002
Both a smooth white surface and a polished metallic one
can reflect light with high efficiency, one diffusely and the other
specularly. One is an insulator and the other a conductor but why does
this result in the metal being able to reflect an image of the source of
light? Further, why does the metal not absorb the light completely, with
all those free electrons capable of jumping to a wide range of
energies? Is there any significance to the time between absorption and
subsequent re-emission of a photon that makes the difference between
reflection from smooth metals and insulators?
This question is a good one, but far too broad to answer properly in a
forum such as NEWTON BBS.
It is asking for an explanation of optics and the behavior of light. That's
a question with books and volumes devoted to it. I would direct the inquirer
to Richard Feynman's LECTURES ON PHYSICS, Vol. 1, Chapters 26-36.
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