Mini Stories from Science

Ultrashort stories about how scientists think and what goes on behind the scenes. To receive notification of updates, go to :

3. Newton’s Missed Chance

Posted on December 9, 2014

The story of light is still going, with some very surprising twists, as later posts will show. Light itself can even be twisted, like the fibers in a rope, and also used to lift small objects and move them around. When Newton published his book Opticks in 1704, however, everything was still up for grabs. Newton still thought of light as “fiery particles” – an unfortunate analogy, considering that his first manuscript caught fire when he ...

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2. Two Fingers to Newton

Posted on December 8, 2014
Two Fingers

If you want to repeat one of Isaac Newton’s most significant experiments, try holding your index and middle fingers up to the light (don’t do this, as I once did, in a train full of drunken football supporters!). With the tips of the fingers just touching, there will be a small gap lower down through which the light can pass. Look carefully at the middle of the gap. If your fingers are close enough, there will be a black line down it. Where ...

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1. Why Newton Added Two Colors to the Rainbow

Attribution: Christine Matthews

When Isaac Newton allowed the sunlight passing through a hole in his blind to hit a glass prism that split it into different colours, he wasn’t the first to see such colours. In fact, he’d probably seen them as a child, reflected from the bubbles in his bath, and of course in the colours of the rainbow, which appear when white light is split up by being bounced around inside raindrops. Newton was the first, however, to think of using a ...

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