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Using Media to Explore Light and Optics

Much of the information that you get comes from the media--newspapers, magazines, radio, and television. You are the focus of the media because of your "buying power." Young people from ages 6 to 12 spend nearly $11 billion each year. Children between the ages of 13 and 17 spend $57 billion of their own money and about $36 billion of their parents' money. As the focus of so much media attention, you need to become a good consumer of information, just like you would be a consumer of toys, food, or games. The activities on this page are, therefore, designed to help you learn to use your best judgment regarding the information you receive.

Since you are studying light and optics, this should be the main thing that you think about when you use newspapers, magazines, television, or radio to complete these activities. Also, be aware that if you choose a television activity, it means you will be watching a news program. This is not a talk show like Rosie O'Donnell or Oprah Winfrey, nor is it a news magazine show like Dateline or 20/20.

Activity Directions

  1. Use the newspaper to find ads for instruments or electronic equipment that use lenses or optical tools to work, such as DVD players, video recorders, optical scanners, or digital cameras. Cut out the ads and glue them in your science notebook. Answer these questions:

      Do the ads say anything about light, color, lenses, or optics?

      Why do you think information about light, lenses, color, or optics is needed or not needed for people to want to buy this product?

      How would you write the ad?

  2. Find all the ads that you can about one type of instrument or piece of electronic equipment that uses lenses or optical tools to work. For each of the ads or articles, answer the following:

      Who are these ads designed for?

      Would this ad be used anywhere, or just in your community?

      How does the company get your interest?

      Would you buy the product? Why or why not?

  3. Design an advertisement for Galileo's microscope. Before you begin, think about these questions and write your answers in your science notebook.

      If Galileo had a newspaper or magazine in his town in Italy, how do you think he would advertise his new invention?

      Would he want everyone to have one, or would Galileo want only a few people to be able to have a microscope?

      What features of the microscope would Galileo want to show off?

      What kinds of things would people expect to see if they bought a microscope?

  4. Look in the newspaper for articles or advertisements about new kinds of eye surgery. Radial keratotomy and LASIK surgery (Laser in-situ Keratomileusis) are two ways to correct vision and laser surgery is used to remove cataracts so that people can see clearly. Read the articles and decide if they are written in an unbiased way. In other words, ask yourself whether or not they share both sides of the story, or both benefits and risks, of the surgery. Record your findings in your science notebook.

  5. Each day in newspapers, in magazines, on television, and on the radio, people are talking about our planet, the stars, or our universe. One of the reasons that these topics are so interesting to so many people is that we have very good equipment that helps us look at these distant objects. For example, almost every day since it was launched and placed in space, the Hubble telescope has been in the news. Find as many articles as you can that discuss new ways of looking at our universe. Cut out the articles, put them in your science notebook, and answer the following questions:

      Why is this article interesting enough to be in the newspaper?

      Why is it so important for us to learn about what is happening in space?

      How do lenses, lights, and colors help us learn about the universe?

  6. Write a newspaper or magazine story about a person who has used light, color, or optical instruments to change the world. Remember to use the five W's and the H (who, what, when, where, why, and how).

  7. Develop a public relations campaign for an optical invention that has changed our world. It could be an invention from a long time ago, like the microscope, or it could be a recent invention, like fiber optics. When you have chosen the product, theory, or point of view that you wish to support with your campaign, plan your strategy. A public relations campaign does the following: says positive things about the client, stands for a certain point of view, uses many different media to get the message out (bumper stickers, radio and television messages, brochures, stickers, buttons, debates, town meetings, videos, etc.), and usually has a slogan, song, or jingle. When your campaign is complete, present it to your classmates.

  8. Photographs are a major feature of newspapers and magazines. In fact, people often read articles because a photograph has caught their attention. The art and technology of photography continues to grow and change based on new ways to use lenses and new technology for cameras. Look at a newspaper or magazine and think about the following questions (you may have to do some research). Answer them in your science notebook.

      Before cameras, were there newspapers?

      Did newspapers have illustrations before photographs were used?

      How do photographs change the way people read and understand news articles?

      How would newspapers be different if photographs were not used?

      What kinds of photographs do you like looking at in the newspaper?

  9. Many photographs that are used in newspapers are prepared on computers. Computers "digitize" images that are sent to newspapers all over the world via satellite. Local photographs can be scanned into computers and can be changed by the person at the newspaper in charge of getting pictures ready to be printed. Sometimes the images are changed, words or parts of pictures taken out, or colors are altered to bring out a certain part of the photograph.

    When you read the newspaper, do you think you should be told if the photograph has been changed? With your classmates, discuss whether you think photographs used in news stories should be changed. If they are changed, who should be in charge of making the decision to replace them? When you have brainstormed this with your classmates, write three paragraphs in your science notebook about how you feel about each of the three following questions:

      Should photographs presented by the media be changed?

      Who should be allowed to change them?

      Should the reader be told?

  10. When you look at a color photo or advertisement in a newspaper, sometimes the colors seem to separate. Find out why this happens by contacting your local newspaper to find out how they use color. Beforehand, write down questions that you want to ask in your science notebook. Then, after you interview someone at your local newspaper, write their responses in your science notebook, as well as what you think about the use of color in newspapers.

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