Science Fair Fare: Easy Genius Science Projects with Light: Great Experiments and Ideas by Robert Gardner
In this book you will learn about light by doing experiments. Experimenting provides an understanding you cannot gain simply by reading. You will see that ordinary white light can be broken up into colors. You will find ways to mix those colored lights to form colors that will surprise you. You will learn that light can sometimes fool you. Things you think you see are not really there; they are mirages or illusions. You will discover how mirrors, lenses, and even pinholes form images, how light can be bent, reflected, polarized, absorbed and more.
The beauty of experimenting with light is that you can literally see the results.
Notable science writer John Gardner's new Easy Genius Science Projects with Light: Great Experiments and Ideas (Enslow, 2008) provides the student scientist with a graduated group of activities which increasingly dig into the properties of light in a series of easy-to-stage experiments. Light is an excellent subject for projects, requiring inexpensive materials (sources of light being easily obtainable) and delivering virtually instant results which are easily observable.
Good author that he is, Gardner begins with an simple summary of the scientific method, followed by advice for individualizing those activities suitable for use in science fair projects (marked with a special symbol throughout the book) and providing extensive safety rules for the young physicist.
The chapters build upon the subject with progressive degrees of knowledge and complexity, but none require high technology (lamps, flashlights, and sunlight are the usual light source) or danger beyond that of a pair of scissors or tabletop candle. Chapter titles are "Light Sources and Light Paths," "Lenses, Curved Mirrors, and Real Images," "Light and Color," "Light, Particles, and Waves," and "Illusions and Mirrors." Within this framework, there are activities for primary graders through high school students, depending upon the ingenuity of the practitioner in adapting the basic science to individual hypotheses.
Each experiment begins with a an index-card-styled text box featuring materials and equipment ("Things You Will Need"). Construction of the activity is set forth in numbered steps with clear color illustrations and diagrams of the set-up of the experiment, and those suitable for adaptation for science projects are clearly marked with an icon featuring a red trophy. Text boxes offering "Ideas for a Science Fair Project" and "Just for Fun" suggestions are liberally sprinkled through the chapters. Diagram and figure boxes are also offered to illustrate more difficult concepts. Those activities which require an assistant, especially an adult, are clearly indicated.
Gardner's appendix includes a sizable list of science supply companies and online sources, a very useful glossary,* a bibliography ("Further Reading") which includes web sites, and a full index.
For easy projects which teach complex concepts, books in Gardner's new Easy Genius Science Projects series are a great addition to the science book shelf. Slender, well-designed, and attractive, they offer solid knowledge for the student scientist. Other titles in this series deal with the human body, chemistry, electricity and magnetism, temperature and heat, and weather. This set, authored by the dean of science experiment books, belongs in school and public libraries and makes a good additon to the home library of science-struck kids as well.
(*The glossary lists the primary colors as red, green and blue, the additive primary (RGB) colors used in combining light, as opposed to the artist's subtractive primaries, red, blue, and yellow, used in mixing dyes or paints. Some young students may need additional explanation of this definition, as offered here. )