SOLAR POWER TO THE RESCUE!
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,
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.
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
[Most of you did this experiment in
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.
might be “Which type of food, peanuts or bread, contains the most stored solar
might be “If burned then the peanut will release more energy than the bread.”
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
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 cannot
do 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!!!!!
· Whatever you decide
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
Reflection of radiation
Absorption of radiation
Conversion of radiation to other forms of energy such as food, heat,
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!!!
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.
A. Re-send me your original
, your hypothesis
and your experimental
B. Send me your lab
. 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
C. Based on your observations, write a conclusion
does your data tell you? What did you learn from your experimental
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!