Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Get out in the dark! and experiment!

This weekend I had the luck to get out of the city and into the woods -- and one of my favorite things about it, apart from the chance for my brain to escape the internet, was the dark. Real dark. Dark enough to see stars. Dark enough to be afraid of the woods. Not something you can get in the city!

So for your enjoyment, the next time you're out in the dark (or in a closet with nothing else to do) try these mini- experiments. Remember, it can take up to 15 minutes for your eyes to fully adjust to the dark ... so take a walk without a flashlight and get used to it!

1. After your eyes have adjusted outside: pick a star - a pretty faint one. Stare directly at it. Then look a little to the side. Which way is easier to see it?

2. After your eyes have adjusted, get a bright candle or flashlight. Close one eye, gently cover it with your hand, turn on the light, and stare at it with your open eye. Stare for a good 30-60 seconds, then turn off the light and open both eyes. Switch back and forth - what's the difference?

3. Get a bunch of markers or crayons. Write the name of the color with the marker on a paper and save it until the lights come back on. Did you get any right?

The last three experiments have to do with rods and cones in your eyes ... rods are more sensitive, are found more in the periphery of the eye, and only see black and white. Cones see color and they are more concentrated in the center of your eye. So, which ones work in the dark?

Other things to try:

1. Different smells in the dark - use little containers of spices, coffee grounds, lemon juice, vinegar, etc. Or tastes - try different kinds of juice.

2. Sounds in the dark - sit on the ground and close your eyes. Have someone else snap their fingers or tap two spoons together, about 2 feet from your head. Point to where you think the sound is coming from. Try it in different places, then switch. Which is easier to tell apart - left and right, back and forwards, or up and down?

Enjoy! And since I've already done all these, I'd love some new suggestions!