Can you believe what you see? shadows, light, eclipse

Double shadow during eclipse

Notice the double shadow of the hand, almost as if there were 2 light sources.

My son is 15 and we talk about all kinds of science stuff. He thinks because I graduated from college I must know something. Jokes on him. A couple of weeks ago I gave him a Bertand Russel book called the ABC’s of Relativity. I figured since I didn’t understand it that maybe he could explain it to me. With relativity invariably comes the discussion about the nature of light; the speed of light, photons, waves, wavelengths, energy, mass, etc.

Lights, action, camera

So it was cool that we happened to have a solar eclipse here in northern California at the end of May, 2012. Even as I tried to ignore the outdoor lighting changes as the moon passed in front of the sun, I found myself pulled outside as if in some bad science fiction movie, “The aliens are coming, No, they’re here!”

While we only experienced something like a 90% solar eclipse the effects were still pretty interesting. My son and I both noticed how the shadows from the towering oak tree on the wall were comprised of little rings. I had my son put his hand on the wall and we saw two distinct shadows, like a double image. It was as if there were two different light sources. One moon, one sun; but the light seemed to be coming from 2 different angles.

This whole double shadow image thing seemed to screw up my explanations of light to my son. “Remember son” I would tell him, “you are only experiencing the light from the star from one angle. The light is radiated out equally in all directions” I obviously had no clue what I was talking about. And now, with the bright solar eclipse light, both of us knew I was as bright a dim bulb.

Did you see that? What was it?

The big moment was that both of us experienced the same natural phenomena with an equal lack of intelligence to explain it. So he was, as if, an adult and I were, as if, a young man. It was one of those moments you recognize, but don’t speak about. There is an explanation for the double image or shadow or whatever it’s called. There is also an explanation for why my son doesn’t clean his room. Although, I really don’t care about explanations or clean rooms as long as we are both learning and asking geeky science questions. And someone said, “Let there be waves of photons traveling really fast and they will reflect off of stuff and hit your retina.”

e = mc2  And that’s the energy that keeps the electrons from crashing into the protons like they should.