Friday, December 6, 2013

Everyday Optics for Kids: Caustics (You See Them All of the Time!)

I love it when our kids notice everyday things around us, ask questions, and it turns out the answers are REALLY complicated!  We search for answers and we all learn a little, even if we still mostly don't "get" the why's and how's 100%.  That's what "wonder" is all about...exploration leaving room for a little mystery........

In this case, the mystery came in the form of this pattern of light we noticed during bath time.  There is a really complex, beautiful pattern formed on the edge of the bath tub!  The ambient light is focused through a sort of lens (the convex shape of the Johnson's Baby Shampoo).  The result:  caustics.

You've probably seen them as patterns of light in shallow water or in a swimming pool.  When we are little we wonder about things all of the time, but sometimes that wonder--and the incessant questions that come with it--evaporate as we mature.  That's why it's fun to wonder along with children.

The science behind caustics is way too complicated for me to understand, much less to explain.  But I can at least share this term with you, and a few links that may satisfy your curiosity a little:

About lenses
Caustics in the water
Technical about caustics

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