Refraction and the Green Flash
— Using Film Clips from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
Subject: Science & Technology — Physics — optics; Green Flash;
Ages: 10+; Late Elementary to High School;
Length: Film Clips: One minute and five seconds, in two segments; three additional optional segments total about 50 seconds; Lesson: Adds 30 minutes to a class in which the phenomenon of optical refraction is introduced.
Excerpts from the Snippet Lesson Plan
Learner Outcomes/Objectives: Students will see the principals of optical refraction demonstrated in the elusive green flash will therefore have better retention of the scientific principles of optics.
Rationale: The famous green flash is a dramatic and fleeting effect of optical refraction that evokes fascination because it is not easily observed. It has been used in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean – At World's End as a magical moment that signals special events. Its appearance in the movie is a good starting point to introduce the concept of refraction and the physics related to it. This and a few of the other examples of the Green Flash provided by Internet sites linked in the Lesson Plan will provide an anchor for retention of lessons concerning optics.
Description of the Film Clips: The first segment shows the characters of the movie trying to interpret a peculiar navigational chart that is supposed to lead them to the World's End. The chart mentions "a flash of green" and an experienced sailor talks about the green flash. The second segment corresponds to the departure of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom), who sails off leaving his beloved Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) to await his return. A green flash at sunset marks his disappearance as his ship sails over the horizon.
Light travels in a straight line and at a given speed through any medium, be it in vacuum, air, water or glass. When light passes from one medium to another, however, light waves are deflected if they hit the boundary between the two media at an oblique angle. This occurs because the speed of light in one medium is different than its speed in the other. As a result, a spoon sticking out of a glass of water appears bent to the human eye. . . .
[The complete Snippet Lesson Plan provides a complete description of the separation of images of the sun into disks the color of the rainbow and why the green disk shows at sunrise and sunset. It also provides additional helpful background on refraction, including links to Internet sites providing beautiful images of the Green Flash. Finally, the lesson plan provides simple step-by-step instructions on how to present the film clips and information to the class.]
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An understanding of the optics of the Green Flash will fix in the minds of students important information about optics and refraction.
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