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Science at Wrigley Field: clouds & mirrors

May 3, 2011

April 25, 2011 was a gloomy day in Chicago. Clouds blocked out the sunlight and water droplets were ubiquitous. Yet, at the end of the day a bright light shone transforming gloom into happiness. ‘Happy’ is not a word I’d use to describe the Chicago Cubs these days, but I was happy about the opportunity to take this cool picture of the Wrigley Field lights. It also reminded me about science in my life.

science chicago education atom travels

The reflection of lights from Wrigley Field

Earlier in the day clouds were playing the role of suntan lotion–blocking sunlight traveling from the depths of our solar system. The opposite occurred at night; as clouds trapped light waves from escaping into space, the sky above Wrigley Field was illuminated. You might be asking, how is this an example of science in my life? Well, every time you look in the mirror, the same science is taking effect as in the picture above. A lightbulb in your bathroom shines (1, diagram below), the light bounces off your face into the mirror (2), and bounces off the mirror back into your eyes (3D). In the picture above, the lightbulbs from Wrigley Field shine, and light waves bounce off the clouds and then back at your eyes.

science chicago education atom travels

The simple & cool science of light reflection

Next, you might be thinking, “Tom, why don’t I see a reflection of my face or Wrigley Field in the clouds?” Clouds don’t reflect all the light from Wrigley (they absorb a lot of it, 3B). Also, clouds are not smooth, therefore light waves reflect in many directions (3c) and you see a blurry array of lights (as in the photograph). Mirrors, on the other hand, reflect most of the light (absorbing very little), and due to their smoothness most light waves reflect directly back to your eyes. Any questions?

Here are some other related articles/stories/blog posts about science in your life:

  1. A very simple science game for kids: Fun with Light & Mirrors.
  2. If you look at the picture closely, notice the concentric circles. These appear in your life more than you know: Drop a rock in a pond or take a look at The Bohr Model of the Atom, or my Bohr Model of Friends.
  3. A fun article about elephants recognizing their reflection in mirrors. They are one of a few animals that will recognize their reflection as themselves, and not a stranger: Elephants have an identity.
Thank you for reading, let you be you!
(Note: I don’t have an editor, so if you notice any inaccuracies, please let me know. Thanks!)
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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Geneless permalink
    May 16, 2011 8:36 AM

    love the pic and the diagram!
    it also looks like there are some sort of halos in the light — how/why we see those?

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