Sam the Science Kid Experiment 8: Fail, Fail, Refraction

Continuing my blogging project for 2011 where I do a science experiment per week with my seven year old daughter.

Okay! Science experiment! Let’s see, Sam was asking about sunsets the other day, so let’s do this one about diffusion of light. Supplies:

  1. Jar of water
  2. A flashlight
  3. Milk

The idea is that the flashlight shines straight through regular water, but mix in a little milk, and the solution starts to diffuse the light, turning it from cloudly white to brownish red.

Only …it totally didn’t work. What we got was light shining through white, milky water. This is hardly exciting nor educational. I declare the experiment a failure, and Sam scribbles through the notes she had in her journal and writes “FAIL!!!” at the top. I chide her for her overuse of exclamation points. Multiple exclamation marks are a sure sign of a diseased mind, a great man once said. I think it was Jesus.

Anyway, while Sam drew frowny faces in the margins of her journal, I set up a backup experiment: Making a Rainbow! Supplies:

  1. Shallow pan of water
  2. A small mirror
  3. That flashlight again
  4. A thick piece of white paper

I angled the mirror in the dish of water and shined the flashlight at the submerged part while holding the white paper above the dish. Instantly, a brilliant, sharply defined rainbow sprang to life on the crisp white paper …is what the book said would happen. Instead, nothing happened, and in copious amounts.

Sam sighed loudly and started scribbling “FAIL AGAIN!” in her journal while I muttered halfheartedly about null results and the file drawer problem. I then flipped through the book some more until I found something that was both simple and had to be foolproof: the refraction of light.

Take glass. Fill halfway with water. Put friggin button in the friggin glass. Look, two friggin buttons. It’s friggin refraction!


Sam’s final journal entry, in full:

Experumint 8 FOR THE LAST TIME: Seeing dobl. It looks like thar are two butins. This is becas light bens wen it goes throo wotr. This is cald refraction.

I’m going to have to put a bit more thought into next week’s activity.

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