The Physics of Autumnal Color

Last fall (2010) I visited the fifth grade art classes at Shepherdstown Elementary to teach the science of autumnal colors. The figure I am showing here is an absorption spectrum of green food coloring. We compared this spectrum to the spectrum of chlorophyll extracted from green maple leaves and red pigments extracted from red maple leaves. The students where learning the theory of color mixing so I showed them that white light is really all the colors of the rainbow and taught them that the objects surrounding us are certain colors because they absorb all the other colors and reflect or re-emit the colors that we see. This lesson was made possible using equipment (software, spectrometer, etc.) purchased with the WV Biophysics Innovation EPSCoR grant I was awarded in January of 2010.

Absorption Spectrum of Green Dye