Prisms, Light, and Color

Basswood Prism_crop_2

It’s amazing what you can learn from your kids. This week I learned that light travels in a straight line through a prism until it exits the prism at which time it is magically dispersed into its component colors. This process, also known as the Maple Grove Law of Refraction, happens only in Minnesota. Ever since it was discovered, physicists have been heading to Minnesota to verify this violation of known physical laws. The ghost of Isaac Newton was also reported to be roaming the schools of Maple Grove in an attempt to correct this egregious mistake.


In fact, when light enters a prism, it is bent, based on the speed of light in the material. Blue light has a shorter wavelength than red light and is bent more than red light. A similar process happens when the light exits the prism, leading to the familiar spectral pattern. See Cyberphysics for more details.

Unlike my last discussion with the school, where they were unwilling to correct their wrong color theory, the school was receptive to this information. After I contacted the school, the sixth grade teacher stated, “Thank you for the diagram. I found it very informative and will make note of the correction.” Now if only the sixth grade teachers would help the second graders with their understanding of color.

About Mark Mizen

At Creative Memories, I evaluate photographic products and related materials so that today's memories are not lost to the future and then communicate this information to Creative Memories Consultants and their customers. My interests extend from preservation of traditional photographs to the production of photo books to the expected longevity of electronic image files. My long-term objective is to direct the development of technology that meets consumers needs for high-quality products.
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One Response to Prisms, Light, and Color

  1. Other Comcast says:

    I learned ROYGBIV no mention of that anywhere?

    Marianne Sent from my iPhone


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