Fun with light – thanks to Galileo!


There’s a book titled “The Starry Messenger” which shares the story of Galileo Galilei.  It states that, “He was born with stars in his eyes!”  I hope we were all born with stars in our eyes for stars reflect beautiful light and light gives our life hope and healing and happiness!

The past few days our class has spent time looking at reflection and refraction, the solar system, the Hubble telescope, pendulums, gravity and Pisa, Italy just to name a few.  We watched this short video clip of light bending as it is reflected through the water.

We tried it ourselves and were thrilled when it worked just like the video!

We used some mirrors and magnifying lenses to do some further exploring.

Next we did some research on the telescope and how Galileo improved it.  We watched a video showing exactly how refraction and reflection are used to make a telescope function correctly.  Afterward we walked outside and enjoyed the mountains around our home up close and personal!

Did you know that the people of Galileo’s time thought that gravity would pull items of greater mass to the earth faster than items of lesser mass?  Actually people of today still think the same thing if they haven’t studied Galileo’s teachings. Galileo believed that all items, regardless of their mass, would fall at the same rate and hit the ground at the same time.  Our class did some theorizing and decided it made sense to think that heavier items would fall faster – though most of them knew this was incorrect.  We decided to do some testing of our own.

We found out that Galileo was correct.  Our 8 pound cannon and our 1 ounce rubber ball both hit the ground at the same time! Of course we couldn’t stop there!  We had to find all kinds of things to drop off the balcony.  Except for very light things, such as paper and feathers (due to friction and air resistance) everything fell at the same rate regardless of their mass!

Galileo wrote his own book called “Starry Messenger” where he shares his discoveries of viewing the moon through a telescope for the first time.  Can you imagine the excitement he must have felt?  I encouraged our students to read this short book since primary sources are always superior to second-hand versions. You can find it here.

A study of Galileo can lead to conversations and research on so many topics:

The moon, the solar system, the universe, pendulums, clocks, Italy, the Catholic Church, Copernicus, religion, water, light, fiber optics, stars, the Milky Way, constellations, meteors…

Thanks Galileo for giving us something to think about.


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