Nature of Light: Light and Color

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Science Objects are two hour on-line interactive inquiry-based content modules that help teachers better understand the science content they teach. This Science Object is the third of four Science Objects in the Nature of Light SciPack. It provides conceptual and real world understanding of how the wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation affect the way they interact with different materials. We perceive differences of wavelength within the visible part of the spectrum as differences in color. Shorter wavelengths of light (blue) are scattered more by air molecules than longer wavelengths of light (red). When the atmosphere scatters sunlight—which is a mixture of all wavelengths—short-wavelength light (which gives us the sensation of blue) is scattered much more by air molecules than long-wavelength (red) light is. The atmosphere, therefore, appears blue and the sun seen through it by un-scattered light appears reddened. Also, materials that allow one range of wavelengths to pass through them may completely absorb others. For example, some gases in the atmosphere, including carbon dioxide and water vapor, are transparent to much of the incoming sunlight but absorb the infrared radiation from the warmed surface of Earth.

  • Elementary
  • Middle

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Reviews (8)
  • on Thu Sep 08, 2016 3:54 PM

I found this article to be very fascinating, just as I find learning about light very interesting. I think it is convenient that the article focused on the human eye when looking at color. I also found this article dealt with the topic of scattering light really well and made it interesting.

Brian S
Brian S

  • on Sat Feb 21, 2015 10:52 AM

Children always ask.This resource will help you explain the answer.

Robin Willig  (Rye Brook, NY)
Robin Willig (Rye Brook, NY)

  • on Tue Sep 02, 2014 7:34 AM

I really enjoy Science Objects. In 1-3 hours, the Nature of Light: Light and Color Science Object will help me re-learn, refresh, or learn for the first time some critical science concepts I will have to know to obtain my Science Educator credentials. I appreciate that I can complete them at my own pace, and that, if used as park of a SciPack, I have access to a content expert to go to for help. The NSTA Learning Center Science Objects are very beneficial!

Naomi Beverly  (Marietta, GA)
Naomi Beverly (Marietta, GA)

  • on Sun Jan 27, 2013 9:03 PM

I had forgotten how straightforward and easy to use the Science Objects are. I like the immediate feedback on the questions and the explanations. Also, you can jump around and do the activities out of order if you wish. Like to use these in my science classes.

James Johnson  (Custer City, PA)
James Johnson (Custer City, PA)

  • on Tue Jan 31, 2012 3:47 PM

Light and Color provides an intricate look at the visual spectrum. This Science Object does an excellent job of taking a 'somewhat' complex topic and breaking it down into terms that even the most apprehensive of learners could comprehend. Excellent Job.

Lorrie Armfield  (Laurel, MD)
Lorrie Armfield (Laurel, MD)

  • on Fri Dec 30, 2011 1:03 AM

I loved this Science Object! I couldn't write enough good things about it. This material was presented...perfectly. I was very pleased and very happy I took the time to spend on it!

Brandy Stewart
Brandy Stewart

  • on Sun Jun 19, 2011 8:08 PM

This Science Object is the third in a series of four lessons about the Nature of Light. This lesson focuses on the colors we perceive by human eyes and why we see them as such. It also talks about the difference between mixing colors of lights as opposed to mixing colors of "paint". I recommend this Object for Middle School and High School teachers.

Sue Garcia
Sue Garcia

  • on Tue May 05, 2015 3:48 PM

I enjoyed this because light waves and what we see because of them has always been very interesting to me. I find it interesting to learn about rainbows and how all of them are the same. The diagrams were explanatory and helpful to look at to explain different things.


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