Sunglasses 101: What are Polarized Sunglasses?

April 16, 2016 by Nativeslope - 2 Comments

You know that you want them, you know that they are awesome, and you know that they might cost more, but what, exactly, are polarized sunglasses?  Are they really worth the hype and extra cash?

On a basic level, a polarized lens has a chemical film that reduces glare by filtering intense light that is reflected off of a flat surface.  Sure.  Ok.  So, what does that mean?

It all starts with the sun and light.  We need them; we love them; they’re great.  Light waves emitted by the sun vibrate in many different directions.  When light waves align on a single plane, they are polarized, and they are significantly intensified, producing distracting glare.  This happens when the light waves reflect off of a flat surface like a road, a windshield, or a body of water. The light waves align to match the surface angle of whatever they hit, so a horizontal surface like a lake will produce horizontally polarized light, causing intense glare that makes it impossible to see below the surface of the water.

Polarized lenses are coated with a harmless chemical film that contains molecules that align to filter out the horizontally polarized light so that you can see through the distracting glare.

So, are they really worth it?  Boaters and anglers certainly think so, as polarized lenses enable them to see below the surface of the water.  Some manufacturers like Costa Del Mar and Native Eyewear strive to develop and deliver some of the most innovative and effective polarized lenses on the market, appealing particularly to water sports enthusiasts.  Polarized lenses are also helpful when driving and cycling in conditions that will likely produce horizontally polarized light and glare.  In some cases, however, they are not necessary.  Consider the type of glare you may encounter to determine whether or not you need polarized sunglasses.

 

I’m not a scientist, and I’m pretty sure I would have failed physics, if I’d ever bothered to take it.  So, here are my sources:
“Polarization.” Light Waves and Color – Lesson 1 – How Do We Know Light Is a Wave? The Physics Classroom, 2016. Web. 16 Apr. 2016. 
Tyson, Jeff. “How Sunglasses Work.” Science: Everyday Inventions. HowStuffWorks, 14 July 2000. Web. 15 Apr. 2016.

 

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