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Greenhouse effect (reflection vs transmission)

  1. Sep 29, 2009 #1

    In the study of the greenhouse effect, I know for a fact that short wavelength radiation pass through a glass container and heat up its contents. When its contents get hot, they will re-emit longer wavelength (and hence lower energies) radiation, which will then be unable to pass through the glass anymore,but is reflected back into the glass container, where it will stay.

    How does the wavelength determine whether light is reflected from or transmitted through a glass block?

    Does the answer have anything to do with the quantum energies of an atom?

  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 29, 2009 #2


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    Essentially, yes. It is the quantum mechanics of the electron clouds in the material which determines which photons are scattered and/or absorbed. Whether this is on the atomic, molecular, crystallographic or other level, depends on the radiation in question and the kind of material.

    It comes down to knowing whether there is an interaction between photons of said energy (wavelength) and the electron cloud.
  4. Sep 29, 2009 #3
    Thought you might find the following of interest although not directly related to your question. This is from a lecture by Roger Penrose commemorating Stephen Hawkings 60th birthday, Cambridge England, 2003, (The title does not sound like it relates to your post, yet he had an interesting paragraph that DOES!) "The problem of spacetime singularities:implications for quantum gravity"

  5. Sep 29, 2009 #4
    Thanks a lot for the replies! :!!)
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