SOLAR POWER TO THE RESCUE!

Introduction:

As far as Earthlings are concerned, solar power is where it is at. Superman, Spiderman, Wonder Woman, X Men........All of the super heroes have super powers but none of their powers hold a candle to the sun’s power. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, our sun is THE super power. With it, we live. Without it, we die.

The sun is the major source of Earth’s energy. Some of the solar radiation that reaches the Earth is reflected but most is absorbed. Gases in the atmosphere trap some of the heat energy and delay radiation into space. The greenhouse effect retains energy longer in the Earth system. Currents in the atmosphere and hydrosphere distribute solar heat energy. These currents help determine global and local weather and climate patterns. Photosynthesis uses a small but vital part of the total solar energy for the biosphere. This energy is stored in the chemical bonds of sugars formed in plants.

Assignment:
You have just completed an activity that investigated the energy absorption properties of various materials. Now your task is to design and conduct an experiment
that investigates the interaction between energy and an aspect of any of the four spheres. WOW! How exciting is that! You get to choose. And the world is your laboratory.

The options are limitless. All you have to do is choose something from a sphere (biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere or geosphere) and design an experiment that explores how energy interacts with something from that sphere.

I will give you an example of an experiment that explores the relationship between energy and plants (a part of the biosphere). THIS IS ONLY AN EXAMPLE. You may NOT use this experiment for this assignment. [Most of you did this experiment in elementary school!]

Plants, through photosynthesis, capture the sun’s radiant energy and convert it to chemical energy. The chemical energy in plants is stored in food. When you eat food, you are eating converted solar energy. Some foods have more stored energy than others.

The question might be “Which type of food, peanuts or bread, contains the most stored solar energy?”

The hypothesis might be “If burned then the peanut will release more energy than the bread.”

The experimental plan could be:

1. Get two different glass quart canning jars and put 0.5 liter of water in each jar.

2. Label one jar “Bread”. Label the other jar “Peanut”.

3. Get a large peanut.

4. Get a piece of bread that is the same size as the peanut.

5. Put the “Bread” jar on the top rack of the outdoor grill.

6. Take the temperature of the water in the “Bread” jar.

7. Record the temperature.

8. Put on safety glasses or protective eyewear of some kind.

9. Hold the piece of bread in a pair of tweezers and VERY CAREFULLY light it on fire.

10. QUICKLY put the burning bread under the “Bread” jar and leave it there until it is completely burned.

11. Measure the temperature of the water in the “Bread” jar.

12. Record the temperature.

13. Repeat steps 5-12 with the “Peanut” jar and the peanut.

14. Subtract the initial water temperature from the water temperature after the bread and peanut were burned to find out how much heat was released.

See how easy it is! Remember, you cannotdo an experiment with energy, peanuts, and bread for two reasons. One, you already know what the result will be. You probably did this already in elementary school. Two, I have already outlined the experiment. Part of what you need to learn in this class is how to design your own experiment. You cannot learn that by doing an experiment that I have already designed! So, off you go. Be creative. Design your own experiment. But wait! Be sure to read the directions below before you do anything!!!!!

Materials:

· Whatever you decide

Assignment:

1. Determine what you want to find out when you do your experiment. Write down the QUESTION that you are trying to answer.

· If you are having trouble coming up with a question, think of the many things associated with energy

Air currents

Water currents

Reflection of radiation

Absorption of radiation

Conversion of radiation to other forms of energy such as food, heat, etc

Once you have decided on which aspect of the energy that you would like to investigate, then start brainstorming about things that would influence that aspect. For example, you could investigate melting rates of different things—Which melts more quickly, milk or dark chocolate? Or insulation properties---Does wet wool really insulate better than wet cotton? Or the dynamics of air currents---Would perfume sprayed over a heat source dissipate more rapidly than perfume sprayed over a cold source. Try to think of your own question. The possibilities are limitless.

2. Predict what you think the outcome of your experiment will be. (Hypothesis)

3. Design an experiment to test your prediction. Remember to include a control. Be very specific. Tell me exactly what you plan to do. Tell me how much of everything you plan on using. Tell me how long you plan on running the experiment and how often you will check it. Tell me how you will record your data. I want details!!!

4.

Submit your experimental design to me via email before going any further. I will give you feedback on your design within three days. If the design is scientifically sound, you may go ahead and conduct your experiment. If it has flaws, we will work together until you have designed a valid, reliable experiment---then you may go ahead and conduct your experiment.

5. AFTER you have received my go-ahead, conduct your experiment. Be sure to keep detailed lab notes. Your lab notes should contain a record of everything you did as well as all the data you collected. Each entry should have a date on it (month/day/year).

6. Follow the directions below to submit your assignment.

ANALYSIS

A. Re-send me your original question, your hypothesis, and your experimental plan.

B. Send me your lab notes. I want to the observations that you recorded. Do not simply send me a summary of your results. I want to see a record of your observations. Be sure to include dates and measurements.

C. Based on your observations, write a conclusion. What does your data tell you? What did you learn from your experimental results?

D. What kind of relationships did you find between energy and the aspect of the sphere you studied?

E. Do your findings support your hypothesis? Why or why not?

F. If you were to do this again, what would you change? Why?

G. What additional experiments could be performed?

Please, send me the information requested in analysis questions A-G.

GOOD LUCK AND HAVE FUN!

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