Viewing Additive and Subtractive Spectra through a Prism

Stanley J. Micklavzina

While at a physics demonstration show held at the 1996 national summer meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), I demonstrated a way to view spectral colors and their compliments with a prism. I was surprised by the large number of scientists that had never seen this way of observing the complementary spectrum. Like Newton and Goethe, you can make a wonderful study of the properties of color using a prism and two sheets of black and white paper. (If you cannot buy or salvage a prism locally, you can purchase them from science supply companies such as Arbor Scientific or Edmund Scientific. An equilateral prism will cost between $7 and $15).

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