jello optics

Some science investigations are especially fun to do at home. Playing with light and playing with jello are each great activities for indoors. This investigation prompt puts these two things together.

Here’s a video that Adam made himself, in his own home, with no fancy lab or equipment — the kind of setting we that is our favorite for making science. This is just to give you some ideas of where you can start, but there’s lots more you can play with and do.

Adam plays with light and jello at home.

In summary, all you need to do is make a gelatin dessert in your choice of flavor/color. Plain gelatin works great, too, but it doesn’t smell as good. When we make it, we just use half as much water (or don’t add any chilled water) and let the gelatin set in the refrigerator overnight. Then, cut out any shapes you’d like and put them on a surface like wax paper, a cutting board, or even just a clean table. Use a small flashlight or laser pointer to shine through the jello from the side, and observe what the light looks like as it goes into, through, and out of the jello. In my investigation in the video, I discovered some new things about how the light gets bent and focused; and I learned that my yellow jello lets through certain colors of light, but not others. I thought this was all really surprising and interesting, especially knowing that it was all caused by my 99 cent box of generic, lemon dessert.

Many other people do jello optics as well. Our friends at the Exploratorium in San Francisco showcase jello optics as one of their “science snacks.” Once you get started you’ll probably find other experiments to create on your own, and we’d be happy to have you share them with us, either by contacting us or leaving a comment here. Have fun!

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