Light, Sound and Waves

Polarisation pollution

Stories from Physics for 11-14 14-16 IOP RESOURCES

Many organisms use polarised light for orientation. Ecologists have expressed concerns about the impact of artificial sources of polarised light on such creatures:

  •  Newly emerged caddisfly larvae are naturally attracted to polarised light reflected from the surface of bodies of water but become drawn to the vertical glass surfaces of buildings close to rivers due to their polarised reflections.
  •  Turtles ingest plastic bags because they reflect polarised light in a similar manner to their prey.
  •  Open-air oil reservoirs have strongly polarising surfaces, which can attract insects, and consequently bird life, which can become trapped in the oil.

Ecologists have recommended that rough building materials should replace shiny surfaces, particularly in the vicinity of rivers and bodies of water, to minimise polarised light pollution


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