If you are lucky enough to have some snow, this is a simple experiment you can use to learn about sunlight and energy. It fits nicely into discussions of solar energy and how energy changes from one form to another.
I got the idea for this experiment while working on the rocks we collected recently. When we got home last weekend, we unloaded the 750 pounds of quartz crystals from our Arkansas trip onto the back patio. Then I left for Philadelphia to present some electricity shows. Today, I went out to unpack some of the boxes. We had wrapped the best crystals in newspaper, and all the newspaper that was exposed to sunlight had turned yellow. Cool! A chemical color change that happens fairly quickly, and is caused by exposure to light!
I really wanted to use the Electric Tape experiment for a video, but the sparks did not show up enough on tape. Until I can afford one of the new, super low light video cameras, we will have to get by with reading the text version. After the recent news articles about producing x-rays with adhesive tape, I thought it would be fun to do an experiment that would help explain how it works.
Solar eclipses are fairly rare, so it is always a treat to be able to observe one. The main challenge is to find a way to see the eclipse, without damaging your eyes. While there are special filters that let you watch an eclipse, there is also a very safe, very simple way to observe it with materials that you probably already have.
In the Bubble Colors activity, we saw how light waves could cancel each other to produce the colors we see in a soap bubble. In that experiment, we only canceled out part of the light, removing some colors so we could see others. This time, we are going to cancel it entirely to let you see lines of darkness while you are looking at a light.
This experiment uses a computer CD or DVD. If you have ever looked closely at either a music or computer CD, you have probably noticed that they produce rainbows. If you hold the CD with the shiny side up and let light from a lamp reflect off of it, you will see a very nice rainbow of colors. If you are using a regular incandescent bulb, you will see all of the colors of the rainbow: Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet. If you use other kinds of bulbs, you may find some colors missing.
I came across the idea for this while searching for the website of Tom Noddy. Tom is the original bubble man (and in my opinion, still the best.) He planted the seed for my decision to go into business for myself. I met him while I was working at the Memphis Pink Palace Museum. He was doing a weekend of shows at the museum and got to see me doing an electricity show. He told me that I should take the show on the road. That was back in 1987. It has been a long and wonderful road so far, and hopefully it is far from over.
This experiment comes from spending too much time in hotel rooms as I travel. As I was packing for the trip home, I found a very useful technique for adjusting the television when I was not directly in front of it.