Stars And Shadows - Public Experiments With Light


Inspired by this year's Aurora Borealis and as part of the Newcastle ScienceFest 2012, volunteers at the Star and Shadow will attempt to recreate (at least) 3 light experiments that changed our view of the world.

1. Recreating Alhazen's experiment with candles and an 'o' sized hole, we shall see if we too can disprove the 'husk' theory of light (c965, Basra). How can all those light particles get through that hole? And why the heck IS the image upside down?

2. In the doorway of the Star and Shadow, we shall use paint and mirrors to recreate Brunelleschi's demonstration of the perspective illusion (c1420, Florence).

3. With Newton's mechanical theories sweeping the Western world, we shall like Goethe pick up the prism and go 'hang about, this doesn't actually make sense!' (1790, Weimar) Join us in the attempt to make our own colour shadows - If Newton was right about colorific rays, then how could a yellow-orange light produce a shadow containing other colours?

Other experiments may arise on the day, depending on weather conditions, your ideas, and the results we discover. Use the equipment in the cinema to test diffraction, the greek colour blue, the colour of a sunset and Planck's quantum theory.

Do not expect professional razmatazz. The experiments may even fail. This is a part of experimental science and the way that new discoveries are found. Like Goethe who picked up a prism and held it to his eye, we may find ourselves calling out 'But! But! This means that what everyone believes is wrong!'

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