Seeing Light

HNR 250 - Seeing Light

MySlice Info:

Term: Fall 2019
Class #: 13779
Section: M001
Credits: 3

Middleton, Alan

Counts toward:
HNR Nat Sci, Interdisciplinary

Course Time(s):
TuTh 9:30am-10:50am


Course Description:

The goal for this course is to change how you 'see' the world using light: You will gain a deeper understanding of light and vision that you can apply to your interests and to your experience. Light is both a central tool in science and an object of study by science. It runs through many areas of human experience and thought. Together we will study questions in light and vision: How has our concept of human vision and color changed over the past 2500 years? Why are peacock feathers and titanium jewelry iridescent? What makes a moon halo? How do 3D movie glasses work? Why can nothing go faster than the speed of light? Why are high doses of X-rays bad for you while cell phone radiation is not harmful? During the class, we will read about these subjects, including primary writings over time, have frequent extensive discussions, and carry out small experiments to learn about the properties of light.

This course has no advanced science prerequisites. We will use some algebra, a bit of trigonometry, and, frequently, scientific notation (powers of 10), but this course does not require a calculus course. You will ...

Learn how notions of light and vision have evolved over the last 2500 years. People in many parts of the world have had some crazy ideas about light and vision, at least from our current viewpoint. But study of these ideas will show how scientific theories evolve and help us appreciate vision and light better. The elaboration and refinement of scientific knowledge by experiment, both historically and through your lab experiments, will be a central theme of the course. Study the geometric aspects of light: you will see how light can be described both by rays and by waves.

Learn about color. We will study the spectrum of visible light and properties of light sources, objects, and how our eyes function. This will allow us to understand the richness and limitations of color descriptions, variations in color perception between individuals and species, and applications such as color displays and printing.

Learn about atmospheric optical effects, such as rainbows, mirages, halos, and the color of the sky.

Learn how light tells us that space and time are deeply connected, through a brief introduction to Einstein?s theory of special relativity, and the modern theory of light as made up of quantum particles and how this tells us about the health effects of different types of radiation.