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Science At Play: Fiber Optics

Post Author: Andrew Fotta & Jessie Scott
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Light is a really cool piece of science that has so many applications in our everyday lives. We are so used to light being all around us, but do you know what light truly is? What are the properties of light? How does light behave? We are going to answer all those questions and so much more in this Science At Play. Let’s get started!

Materials to Collect

  • Mirrors
  • Laser Pointer

Laser Safety: Do not point lasers at eyes! 

They can cause damage to eyes, so make sure no one is looking directly at them.

Try it!

  1. Point your laser at a wall, can you see a spot of light?
  2. Now point the laser at a mirror, and try moving the mirror while the laser is shining on it.
  3. Try putting the laser in one spot, and without moving it, use a mirror to make the laser appear in a different place.
  4. See if you can use mirrors to make the laser shine around a corner in your house or across the room!

What is the Science? 

Lasers are a beam of light, and they always move in a straight line. When a laser hits a mirror, it bounces off of the mirror and changes direction to move away in another straight line – this is called reflection. By changing the angle of the laser hitting the mirror, you can change where that spot of light appears in the room of your house! Fiber-optic cables use this direction change to direct light to different places. These cables are a tube only slightly thicker than a human hair, made of glass or plastic that has a special coating to make the light reflect off of the walls of the tube, like a ton of tiny mirrors. With these tubes, scientists and engineers are able to share information at the speed of light! In fact, much of the world’s internet, telephone,. and cable television is transmitted through fiber-optic cable! 

Ask Your Young Scientists

  • What happens when you change the angle of the mirror that the laser is shining on?
  • Can you set up your laser and mirror so that the light goes around a corner?
  • What happens if you use two mirrors? Can you make the laser shine back to you? 

More to Explore

  • How Scientists Light the Way – An exploration of how scientists have learned so much about the behavior of light, even when advanced technology wasn’t available.

Science At Play: Change the Color of the World Around You – Learn how light affects the colors we see.

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