Family Science Club

Pointing to the Author of Science


Beatrix looking all blue, 2015

Image: Beatrix under a white flash with blue and white filters, taken by Kevin Weaver

Experimenting with Colored Light at Faith Community Church, 2015

Isaac Newton did more than give us the laws of movement that are so important to rocketry. His first major work was on light. It was Newton who first understood (at least mostly) the colored light we see in a rainbow.

We had done a lesson a year or so ago using prisms to split white light in colors and using things like a water-filled glass to bend light. We tried to spin a multi-colored disk to show how the colors combine to make white, too, but found that experiment is harder to do than some claim.

Of course, part of science is experiments that do not work as well as one hopes! It might be a bit embarrassing when young scientists point out that your demonstration is not doing as you said it would do. When that happens, do not despair. Figure out what went wrong and make an improved demonstration during a later lesson. Be sure to explain why the previous attempt failed, too.

Anyway, this time we worked mainly with some inexpensive lasers, an ultraviolet light, a camera flash and plastic of various colors.

Pippa looking kind of red from an incandescent bulb, 2015

Image: Pippa, lit by an incandescent bulb, with the camera's white balance turned off. The red tint from the bulb is very pronounced when captured by a camera. Taken by Kevin Weaver.

We could not get any pictures with the kids experimenting in darkened rooms with the ultraviolet light. That was probably the most fun activity for them. We had them guess why some things glowed and others did not, then explained to them how phosphorescence works.

Nike looking almost all blue, 2015

Image: Niko under a flash with a blue filter. Note how his orange-plastic hearing aids glowed under the blue light, so that their normal color showed through. Taken by Kevin Weaver.

You can see a bit of phosphorescence in the photo of Niko in blue (above). His hearing aids glowed even more distinctly under the ultraviolet light!

We showed how lasers act when shined through plastic tinted with the same color and of different colors. We explained how white light going through a red-tinted piece of plastics is not turned red, but rather the plastic is filtering out all colors except red. That is why a red laser goes through a red piece of plastic without getting dimmer. On the other hand, a red laser going through a blue piece of plastic still makes a red dot, but that dot is much, much dimmer.

Nike looking all red, 2015

Image: Niko under a flash with a red filter. Note how his hearing aids are not glowing this time, since no ultraviolet light got through the filter. Taken by Kevin Weaver.

We like these experiments because they show that light does not act like we expect it to. Our eyes can only see some aspects of light, and we often come up with ideas about light that are wrong. Why? Because we take our experience in other areas and use them to fill in the gaps about light, when light acts in unique ways.

Coraline looking rather dark, 2015

Image: Coraline under a flash with red and blue filters. Why so dim? Because the contrasting filters canceled out almost all of the light from the flash, and the camera could not compensate very well. Taken by Kevin Weaver.

We believe this is part of why the Bible describes God as light. God has given us His Word so that we might know about Him. At the same time, God is unique. He is different in so many ways from humans and anything in creation, that when we try to speculate about what He is like, we often make big mistakes because we assume that He must be like what we can see or put our hands on.

This is not merely a mistake that religious people make. Nonreligious people make a similar mistake when they claim that, "If God were to exist, then he must be like 'X.' Since that does not fit with what we know, he must not exist."

No, that is just like the certainty that almost all scientists had not long ago, that light must be a wave or light must be particles, because anything that propagates energy must be one or the other. There were to be no exceptions. Yet, most scientists today seem to accept that light is an exception, or at least the old wave-or-particle model is far from adequate.

There is much to learn about light. There is much to learn about God. We recommend that those with scientific aptitude and interest keep studying light. We recommend that everyone keeps studying about God.