If you held a ball in your hand, closed your eyes, and threw it as hard as you could, there are four different things that might happen:
1) The ball will bounce off of something
2) The ball will hit something and get stuck there
3) The ball will go right through something and keep going, only a little slower now
4) The ball will pass through the thing but change the way it is going.
Light works the same way. When a light wave hits something, it will do one of four things:
1) The light will bounce off the thing, like a ball bouncing off of a wall
2) The thing will take in the light, like a sponge takes in water
3) Some of the light will pass through the thing, if it's clear, like a car driving down an empty road
4) The things will change the light's direction.
I'm going to need some new sunglasses.
To transmit light means to pass it on from one place to another. Now let's get up close and see what's really happening to light waves when they hit something
Have you ever had to block your eyes from a bright light coming off of a car or clean window? This is called reflection. For light to reflect means it bounces off something. The sun's light waves come to Earth and then reflect off of pretty much everything. Clean metal, glass, and water reflect light so well they make a light that's almost as bright as the sun itself. Other things reflect light, too, but not quite as well. It's a good thing, too! Or else you would have to spend your whole life blocking your eyes.
Let's reflect on this for a minute.
Most things take in some of the light that hits them. That's why on sunny days, things outside get warmer. These things are absorbing some of the sun's energy; to absorb means to take in. When a dry sponge takes in water, it is absorbing the water. Some colors take in more light than others. The color black absorbs almost all light that hits it. The color white reflects, or bounces back, most of the light that hits it. That's why you have to squint at clean white cars when the sun is out.
Quick fashion tip: Wear white t-shirts on hot days! The light waves will bounce right off of you!
The last thing an object can do to light is change its direction. Have you ever dropped a coin in a pool of water, but when you went to grab it, you missed? That's because the water is bending the light coming off of the coin. When light refracts, it changes direction because it has traveled through something else. At first, the light bouncing off the coin moves through water, but before it can get to your eye, it has to go through air too. When light goes from water to air, it changes direction. Next time you drop something in a pool, see if you can trick the light and aim a couple inches to the side when you try to grab it!
When you think about it, light is pretty cool. It can bounce! You can even use it to play tricks and do magic. Next time you get the change, take a closer look at light and the amazing way it works!