Costa Rica 2005

Workshop on Colors and patterns in Nature

Colors of Nature

Pigment colors

Red/green/blue filters, Look at the world through red and green filters, imagine how the world looks to insects that don't see red and birds that don't see blue

Red/Green Afterimages, after looking at the world through a red filter for a while remove the filter and notice how green the world looks.

Bird in a Cage, Create a brightly colored image, stare at it for 15 seconds in bright light, then look at a white paper. You will see a colored afterimage that may move.

Colored Shadows, use red green and blue bulbs to cast multicolored shadows.

Interference colors

Soap Film in a Can, models the colors on the wings of Blue morpho butterflies and in abalone shells.

Permanent Oil Slick, models the colors on the wings of Blue morpho butterflies and in abalone shells.

In Your Eye

Floaters, notice the shapes that drift across a blue sky they are inside your eye.

Master Eye, point at a distant object and discover if you have a master eye.

Waterfall illusion, stare at one point in a waterfall for 15 seconds then look at the rock wall beside the waterfall, the rock wall will seem to rise up! This is an afterimage of motion.

Patterns of Nature

Meandering Rivers

Ice Balloons, freeze water inside a balloon then create meandering streams by melting the ice of the balloon with salt.


Bubble Bottle, Notice how bubbles pack together inside a bottle.

Bubble Prints, Use food coloring to record the pattern of bubbles onto a piece of paper.

Bubble Packing, In a shallow tray of slightly soapy water use a soda straw to fill the tray with hundreds of identical size small bubbles. Notice how they make the same pattern that bees do when they build a honeycomb.


Make a Rainbow, use a bight light from a projector or the sun and a clear plastic sphere or a drop of water to make a rainbow on a screen.

Project a colored arc of light Use a compact disk in the sunlight. Notice the interesting reflections that appear to be 3-dimensional.


Fractals, many patterns in nature have fractal patterns here we can make interesting fractals.


Symmetry, look at flowers or pictures of flowers, place the picture on a table top, hold a small square mirror perpendicular to the table top passing through the center of the flower. Examine the symmetry of the flower and its reflection.

Scientific Explorations with Paul Doherty

© 2005

8 May 2005