As we enter the 21st century, perhaps no area of science touches our lives and the lives of our students more directly than optics. We speak on the telephone without realizing that our voices have been converted into digitally-encoded flashes of light that travel over miles of thin optical fibers. Information, whether it be music, images or text, stored digitally on CDs and DVDs is recorded and retrieved optically. At concerts and sporting events, giant screens consisting of thousands of light emitting diodes provide ultra-bright, high-resolution images of figures too small to be seen on the stage or field. State of the art infrared cameras send eerie nighttime images of battles thousands of miles away to our living rooms almost instantaneously.
Our understanding of outer space as well as much of the micro-world has been gained through optical exploration. The production of the color images that appear on television, computer, and movie screens relies heavily on optical and perceptual principles. And perhaps most importantly, over 80% of the information we receive from our environment is obtained through the most marvelous optical instrument of all, the eye. The study of light and color has always been the highlight of the year for my students. Optical effects are immediate, captivating, and as we have seen, incredibly relevant to our students' daily lives. Allowing students to explore with light, and our perception of it, produces a level of engagement that has to be seen to be believed!
This collection of laboratory experiences will take your students on a journey through the world of light, color and perception. The learning cycle approach will be employed to allow your students direct experience with optical phenomena and visual perceptual mechanisms. By way of hands-on experiments, your students will learn how light may be beamed, blocked, bounced, bent and even "stored." They will find out how soot can be transformed into silver and why the myriad colors on your television screen are really just in your head. Through some visual foolery, they will experience the perceptual paradoxes that occur when the brain is unable to make sense of sensation. And in the end, find that they have learned a new way of "seeing the light."