Science For Monastics 2011

What is Science?

The Exploratorium was founded as a museum of science, art, and human perception.

Observation is an important part of science and yet it is seldom taught in science courses. Many examples of poor science arise because people honestly report what they see, and yet their reports are flawed because they do not understand how their visual system can be fooled. Understanding perception is necessary to help us understand how there can be so many incorrect pseudoscientific reports in the media.

The workshop was at the Deer Park Institute, Bir India. At the base of the foothills of the himalaya.

Deer Park Institute Bir India


Day 1 Monday

Modesto Morning

Sound Cups Two cups taped together contain objects, the monks try to match their cup sound with the sound of another cup, to find their partner.

sound cups monks

Sensitivity of the Ear Monks drop a piece of paper into a cup held over the ear of another monk, the paper is made smaller and smaller to probe the limits of the sensitivity of the ear.

sound paper drop

Paul Afternoon

String Crossing Stretch a string from your nose to an extended hand. What do you see?


Laser Speckle Illuminate a wall with an expanded laser beam , or a candle, or a frosted lightbulb with an unexpanded beam. Notice how the speckles move.

Master Eye, Many people have a master eye, circle a distant object with your finger and thumb then bring the circle toward your face to find your master eye.

master eye

Day 2 Tuesday afternoon  Modesto

Feel temperature In a group of people, shake hands and line up by hand temperature.

hand temperature

Investigate an Apple Write down all the words you can think of to describe a real apple. Then cross out the words that no longer apply to a plastic apple, then a photo of the apple, then the word apple. This shows the importance of using the real phenomena in science learning.

apple exploration

Night Class Paul

Locating Rays Observe a small point of light, notice the rays spreading out from it. Locate the rays!

finding rays

Measure the rotation of the earth. Observe stars from one night to the next as they pass behind a power line. Measure the time it takes them to pass behind the line. In Bir on Monday evening I timed a star crossing behind a powerline at 20:44:15 hrs. The next night it crossed the powerline at 10:40:14. The time difference is 23 hours and 56 minutes.



Mirror walk  Hold a mirror horizontally under your eyes and walk. when you try to enter a room you see a barrier.

mirror walk

Mirror Symmetry Draw half an image use a mirror to make it a full image.

symmetry flower

Gray Step Observe a card with two gray squares. They are not what they appear to be.

gray step

Gray step card Print this out on a printer that can make 1200 dots per inch or greater.

Afterimage  Use a small bright points of ight to make afterimages.



Morning Modesto

Cheshire Cat


Peripheral vision. Start with thumbs in front of you and move them to the sde until they vanish. When they vanish, wiggle them and you can see them again.

peropheral vision

Afternoon Paul

Mirror Pairs Look at yourself in two mirrors flat on a table. Raies the outer edges like a book and raise them until you have two eyes.

two mirrors

Image finding in a mirror Point at an image from two different places to see where it is in space.

find the image

Ray Tracing Mirror Use a laser to trace the path of light reflecting off a mirror.

Scan a laser, Scan a laser pointer into a mirror and notice how the beam bounces off the mirror.

ray tracing



Find the distance to an image in a mirror using an eye chart. Hold a mirror reversed eye chart on your chest then read t in a mirror. Compare the distance you can read it in the mirror to the distance you can read it in a non-reversed eye chart. In the photo the monks have playfuly taped an eye chart to the back of a nun.

eye chart playful

Anamorphic Art Draw images that become clear when viewed in a cylindrical mirror.

anamorphic art


Reaction Timer Drop a ruler and catch it to measure your reaction time. Catch it with your feet to compare the time for hand versus foot.

reaction time

Pendulums  make pendulums of different length then measure their period and frequency.




Sound Box Monk-o-phone, have a monk hold a music box in his teeth and play it while other monks press their ears to his skull.

monk o phone

Learning Box How to make a learning box.



Explore Shadows Use a point of light to explore shadows. Make a faces/vases illusion from a human shadow profile. Fold the paper in half and face toward the fold.

faces vases howto

faces vases four


More pendulums Shorter pendulums have shorter periods and higher frequency.

Resonant Pendulum 1 Make a pendulum, move the suspension point back and forth at resonance, then at frequencies below resonance then at frequencies above resonance.

Resonant Pendulum 2


Scientific Explorations with Paul Doherty

© 2011

4 March 2011