Magazine article Curriculum Review

Scope out the Science of Light with Compact Discs

Magazine article Curriculum Review

Scope out the Science of Light with Compact Discs

Article excerpt

Show students how to split light with a spectroscope made from a cardboard tube and a used compact disc with this illuminating experiment from Mary Kay Carson's Exploring the Solar System: A History with 22 Activities (Chicago Review Press, ages 9 and up), available through Independent Publishers Group at 800-888-4741.

CD Spectroscope

A spectroscope splits visible light into bands of color, called spectral lines, that are distinct for different kids of light and chemical elements. Early spectroscopes used prisms to split light. Modern spectroscopes split light using a plate or a mirror that is engraved with tiny parallel grooves or lines, called a diffraction grating. Fortunately, the pitted surface of a used compact disc does the same thing, so you can build a simple spectroscope.

You'll need: 9" x 13" (23 cm x 33 cm) piece of poster board or other heavy paper; ruler; 4" (10 cm) diameter dark plastic lid, such as a coffee-can lid; packing tape; unwanted, used compact disc; utility knife, craft knife or one-edged razor blade; strong lamp.

1. Cut a notch out of the middle of one of the long sides of the piece of poster board. The notch should be 1.25 inches (cm) high and .25 inch (6 mm) long.

2. Roll the piece of poster board into a fat tube. The can lid will go on top of this tube, so check that the tube is the right width before taping it closed. You can check by setting the unnotched end of the rolled up tube into the upturned can lid. Tape the tube closed.

3. Set the tube notched side up. …

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