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Energy propagated through free space or through a material medium in the form of electromagnetic waves. Examples include radio waves, infrared radiation, visible light, ultraviolet radiation, X rays, and gamma rays. Electromagnetic radiation exhibits wavelike properties such as reflection, refraction, diffraction, and interference, but also exhibits particlelike properties in that its energy occurs in discrete packets, or quanta. Though all types of electromagnetic radiation travel at the same speed, they vary in frequency and wavelength, and interact with matter differently. A vacuum is the only perfectly transparent medium; all others absorb some frequencies of electromagnetic radiation.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on electromagnetic radiation, visit Britannica.com.