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The water

Imagine that we stand on any ordinary seaside pier, and watch the

waves rolling in and striking against the colums of the pier. Large

blue waves pay little attension to those columns - they divide right

and left and unite after passing each column, much as a army of

soldiers would if a tree stood in their path: it is almost as though

the columns had not been there. But the short waves and ripples find

the columns of the pier a much more formidable obstacle. When the

short waves impinge on the columns, they are sent back and spread as

new ripples in all directions. The obstical provided by the iron columns

hardly affects the long waves at all, but scatters the short ripples.

We have been watching a sort of working model of the way in which

sunlight struggles through the earth's atmosphere. Between us on

earth and outer space the atmosphere interposes innumerable

obstacles in the form of molecules of air, tiny droplets of water,

and small particles of dust. These are represented by the columns

of the pier.

The waves of the sea represent the sunlight. We know that the

sunlight is a blend of lights of many colors - as we can prove for

ourselves by passing it through a prism, or even through a jug of

water, or as Nature demonstrates to us when she passes it through

the raindrops of a summer shower and produces a rainbow. We also

know that light consists of waves, and that the different colors

of light are produced by waves of different lengths, red light by

long waves and blue light by short waves. The mixture of waves

which constitutes sunlight has to struggle through the obstacles it

meets in the atmosphere, just as the mizture of waves at the

seaside has to struggle past the columns of the pier. And these

obstacles treat the light-waves much as the columns of the pier

treat the waves. The long waves which constitute red light are

hardly affected, but the short waves which constitute blue light

are scattered in all directions.

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