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We are doing the science fair at our school and I need to conduct an interview with a scientist by e-mail. The question of my project is: Which color light transmits the most energy and heat?

In the interview, I would like to ask questions like this:

Information about you, like name, email, career field/studies.
What knowledge do you have on energy and the color spectrum?
What could I do to improve this project or expand from it?
What are some similar things that you work with that could help me better understand my project?
Any ideas that could help me will be great.

Question Date: 2012-11-08
Answer 1:

This student can e-mail me.

Answer 2:

a. Andy, paleontology.

b. I took undergraduate college physics. I know enough to tell you that your project is not going to work, for the following reason: light behaves like a wave, and the energy transmitted by light is determined by two things: (1) the frequency of the wave, that is how close together the peaks of the wave are, and (2) the amplitude of the wave, that is how high the peaks of the wave are. Color is dependent on the frequency of the wave, with blue having a higher frequency than red, and with green and yellow in the middle. However, color has nothing to do with the amplitude, the height of the peaks of the wave. You can have a blue light that is brighter than a red light, dimmer than a red light, or just the same.

c. I suggest that you change your project to the following: take three thermometers and place them in conditions with different light. Put one out in the sun. Put one in sun light, but with a pane of glass between it and the sun. Put the third in the shade behind a sheet of cardboard. Do all of these experiments outdoors and on the same day so that the temperature of the air will not change the values of your thermometers. I predict that the one in the sun will be warmer than the other two, and the one in the shade will be cooler, with the one behind glass being in-between. The reason is as follows: most of the sun's light is in the visible part of the spectrum, but a lot comes out in the infrared, and some comes out in the ultraviolet. Glass is transparent to visible light, but opaque to infrared and ultraviolet. Therefore, the thermometer in the sun will be exposed to the full strength of the sun's rays, while the one behind glass will be exposed only to the visible part of the sun's energy.

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