Yesterday, we did two activities that were not conducive to laptop-taking and note-producing. One was a lab with Jim Verley on spectroscopy in which he gave us spectroscopes and had us look at argon, helium, hydrogen, and a few other elements, so that we could see how they broke down into color spectrums. Some were easier to see than others–neon, for instance, looked like a rainbow. Argon was very hard to see; the element itself glowed purple, but the vague hint of a purple line it sent out was hard to spot.
Jim Verley said something in the lab that I thought was fairly profound, and which a few people mentioned this morning at breakfast that they thought was profound, too: “Astronomers have learned everything they know with a single medium–light.”
That’s pretty amazing, when you think about it. All we have is light–from the ultraviolet to the radio wave–and yet we’ve been able to learn so much from that simple tool. (more…)