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Additive color: Making colors by mixing beams of light

Subtractive color: Making colors with dyes, inks, markers, chemicals, etc.

Light: Geometric optics

Light: Optical instruments (geometric optics)

Eyes and optics

Ray tracing for convex and concave lenses

Light: the wave nature of light

MCAS light and optics practice problems


Additional topics

Eclipses: Understanding them with geometric optics

Physics of sunsets, and the green flash


Rainbow reflections: Rainbows are not Vampires

Mirages and the Fata Morgana

Why is the sky blue?

Advanced Placement PowerPoint: Chap 23 Geometric Optics Giancoli

Learning Standards

Massachusetts Arts Curriculum Framework: The Practice Of Creating

PreK- 4 Visual Arts Standards – Identify primary and secondary colors; predict and demonstrate the effects of blending or overlapping primary colors; demonstrate knowledge of making dark to light values of colors. Identify and use basic two-dimensional hollow and solid geometric shapes (circle, triangle, square, rectangle) and three-dimensional forms (sphere, pyramid, cube).

Grades 5-8 Visual Arts Standards –  Create compositions that reflect knowledge of the elements and principles of art, i.e., line, color, form, texture; balance, repetition, rhythm, scale, and proportion. Demonstrate the ability to apply elements and principles of art to graphic, textile, product, and architectural design.

Massachusetts Arts Curriculum Framework

The Arts Disciplines: Visual Arts
PreK–12 STANDARD 2: Elements and Principles of Design

By the end of Grade 4:  2.1 Students will, for color, explore and experiment with the use of color in dry and wet media Identify primary and secondary colors and gradations of black, white and gray in the environment and artwork.
By the end of Grade 8:  2.7 Students will, for color, use and be able to identify hues, values, intermediate shades, tints, tones, complementary, analogous, and monochromatic colors. Demonstrate awareness of color by painting objective studies from life and freeform
abstractions that employ relative properties of color

2016 Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework

6.MS-PS4-2. Use diagrams and other models to show that both light rays and mechanical waves are reflected, absorbed, or transmitted through various materials.

HS-PS4-1. Use mathematical representations to support a claim regarding relationships among the frequency, wavelength, and speed of waves traveling within various media. Recognize that electromagnetic waves can travel through empty space (without a medium) as compared to mechanical waves that require a medium

HS-PS4-3. Evaluate the claims, evidence, and reasoning behind the idea that electromagnetic radiation can be described by either a wave model or a particle model, and that for some situations involving resonance, interference, diffraction, refraction, or the photoelectric effect, one model is more useful than the other.

HS-PS4-5. Communicate technical information about how some technological devices use the principles of wave behavior and wave interactions with matter to transmit and capture information and energy. Emphasis is on qualitative information and descriptions. Examples of principles of wave behavior include resonance, photoelectric effect, and constructive and destructive interference.

SAT subject test in Physics: Waves and optics

• General wave properties, such as wave speed, frequency, wavelength, superposition, standing wave diffraction, and Doppler effect
• Reflection and refraction, such as Snell’s law and changes in wavelength and speed
• Ray optics, such as image formation using pinholes, mirrors, and lenses
• Physical optics, such as single-slit diffraction, double-slit interference, polarization, and color

A Framework for K-12 Science Education

Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (2012)


When a wave passes an object that is small compared with its wavelength, the wave is not much affected; for this reason, some things are too small to see with visible light, which is a wave phenomenon with a limited range of wavelengths corresponding to each color. When a wave meets the surface between two different materials or conditions (e.g., air to water), part of the wave is reflected at that surface and another part continues on, but at a different speed. The change of speed of the wave when passing from one medium to another can cause the wave to change direction or refract. These wave properties are used in many applications (e.g., lenses, seismic probing of Earth)… the wavelength and frequency of a wave are related to one another by the speed of travel of the wave, which depends on the type of wave and the medium through which it is passing. The reflection, refraction, and transmission of waves at an interface between two media can be modeled on the basis of these properties… At the surface between two media, like any wave, light can be reflected, refracted (its path bent), or absorbed. What occurs depends on properties of the surface and the wavelength of the light…. Lenses can be used to make eyeglasses, telescopes, or microscopes in order to extend what can be seen. The design of such instruments is based on understanding how the path of light bends at the surface of a lens.


Chapter 22: Electromagnetic Waves

22.1: Changing Electric Fields Produce Magnetic Fields; Maxwell’s Equations (2)
22.2: Production of Electromagnetic Waves (4)
22.3: Light as an Electromagnetic Wave and the Electromagnetic Spectrum (10)
22.4: Measuring the Speed of Light (1)
22.5: Energy in EM Waves (7)
22.6: Momentum Transfer and Radiation Pressure (1)
22.7: Radio and Television; Wireless Communication (7)

Chapter 23: Light: Geometric Optics

23.1: The Ray Model of Light
23.2: Reflection; Image Formation by a Plane Mirror (5)
23.3: Formation of Images by Spherical Mirrors (10)
23.4: Index of Refraction (3)
23.5: Refraction: Snell’s Law (6)
23.6: Total Internal Reflection; Fiber Optics (4)
23.7: Thin Lenses; Ray Tracing
23.8: The Thin Lens Equation (14)
23.9: Combinations of Lenses (5)
23.10: Lensmaker’s Equation (5)

Chapter 24: The Wave Nature of Light

24.1: Waves vs. Particles; Huygens’ Principle and Diffraction
24.2: Huygens’ Principle and the Law of Refraction
24.3: Interference—Young’s Double-Slit Experiment (12)
24.4: The Visible Spectrum and Dispersion (3)
24.5: Diffraction by a Single Slit or Disk (8)
24.6: Diffraction Grating
24.7: The Spectrometer and Spectroscopy (10)
24.8: Interference in Thin Films (6)
24.9: Michelson Interferometer (2)
24.10: Polarization (9)
24.11: Liquid Crystal Displays (LCD)
24.12: Scattering of Light by the Atmosphere

Chapter 25: Optical Instruments

25.1: Cameras: Film and Digital (4)
25.2: The Human Eye; Corrective Lenses (9)
25.3: Magnifying Glass (6)
25.4: Telescopes (10)
25.5: Compound Microscope (5)
25.6: Aberrations of Lenses and Mirrors (1)
25.7: Limits of Resolution; Circular Apertures
25.8: Resolution of Telescopes and Microscopes; the λ Limit
25.9: Resolution of the Human Eye and Useful Magnification (2)
25.10: Specialty Microscopes and Contrast
25.11: X-Rays and X-Ray Diffraction (2)
25.12: X-Ray Imaging and Computed Tomography (CT Scan)

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