Exploring the Science of Light
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The experiments and activities on this site will prompt many questions and further exploration from your students. These articles provide simple to understand, in-depth information about physics and the scientific properties of optics.






Optical Phenomena

Reflection, Refraction & Scattering


Color and Light - Here we ask how color is sensed by the viewer. To answer the question we need to specify how color is described and how color information is received by the eye. The starting point of an understanding of color is a description of light.

Color Me Human - An article discussing the ways human beings see color.

Color, Thin Films, and Interference - The colors of nature are all around us and are produced by different aspects of the interaction of light with matter. The most common is light interacting with colored pigments.

Colors from the Black and White - A short description of Fechner colors.

Fluorescence and the Color of Day Glo Paints

It's a Colorful Life - Unique materials for presenting color concepts.

Rainbows - White light is composed of all wavelengths of visible light. This means that the waves that make up sunlight and incandescent light are a mixture of all the colors of the spectrum.

Some Reflections on Color - A short article on perceived colors.

Sources of Light - The visible spectrum of light is just a small part of the electromagnetic spectrum which extends from radio waves to gamma rays.

The Composition of Color - The sensation of color depends primarily on the composition of light which is a mixture of white light and colored light (which in itself can be a mixture of wavelengths as in the case of purple).

The Life and Times of Roy G. Biv - An interesting and amusing article on color and more specifically Roy G. Biv.


Books for Optics Experiments - A short recommendation and review of five useful books of experiments demonstrating optics.

Edible Holograms

Encouraging Kids in Science - Getting young people, in general, and girls, in particular, interested in science is a subject of national debate and intense interest. This article provides comments on encouraging children in science.

Heads up Displays - A heads-up display is one example of an optical device that does pretty interesting things in rather clever ways, yet is based on principles a kid can understand.

Math Isn't Just Numbers Anymore

Olympic Optics

Power of Ten - People find it cumbersome to speak of units of measurement like "one ten thousandth of a billionth" of an inch, or even "ten to the minus thirteenth" (10-13) inches; so they devise different names.

Revisiting Columbus - Article on how simple optical observations, or the lack thereof, may have had a major impact on the course of world history.

The Christmas Corona - An article that describes a colorful night-sky display that is seen at its best by human eyes, and produces a less-adequate photograph.


Holograms - You've probably got a hologram in your pocket or purse right now. Just look at a credit card.


Lasers - DVD players. Eye surgery. Science fiction movies. These are some of the ways in which lasers are used but there are many others, as well.


Lenses and Geometrical Optics - We use lenses and mirrors everyday but sometimes don't really understand how and why they do what they do.


Modulating Light

Only the Shadow Knows - This article looks at some very simple experiments to help youngsters understand the propagation of light.

Scintillate, Scintillate Little Star...

Optical Phenomena

Optical Illusions - The eye and the brain together give us an extremely detailed picture of the world, compensating smoothly for some of their own limitations. However, a few simple experiments can reveal some of the eye's limits.


Haidinger's Brush

Polarized Light - Light of a single color can be described as a wave with a specified wavelength or as a photon with a specified energy.

Reflection, Refraction & Scattering

Sugar Water Mirage

The Reflection of Light - What is it about objects that let us see them? Why do we see the road, or a pen, or a best friend? If an object does not emit its own light (which accounts for most objects in the world), it must reflect light in order to be seen.

The Refraction of Light - Ever notice how your leg looks bent as you dangle it in the water from the edge of a pool?

What Color is the Night Sky

What Makes the Colors in Candle Flames? - A short article on how candles produce light and what the colors they create, tell us.

Why is the sky blue - This article includes a few children’s responses to three questions: 1. "Why do you think the sky is blue?" 2. "If you stand on the moon and look up, the sky looks mostly black; if you do this on the Earth, it looks blue. Why do you think it's different?" and 3. "Have you ever noticed anything involving light that seems interesting or that you wish you understood better?"

Why Rainbows Aren't Pink - Color perception is a prime candidate for an optics lesson because children are keenly aware of colors and often already curious about them. This article discusses various ways to engage children through the use of color.

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