Chemistry, Rainbows, and Duct Tape

Source:  Chemistry, Rainbows, and Duct Tape    Tag:  shortest wavelength of visible light
I’ve had a career teaching chemistry at a community college spanning nearly thirty-eight years.  For the final 1.5 years, it was a part-time assignment as I eased into retirement.  I ended that assignment last month and now am completely retired.  Teaching at a public college has its challenges for a man of faith.  During most of my tenure, teachers were advised to never express their personal religious beliefs in any way and we always were given a renewed warning about this at Christmastime.  No one knew, however, that I had a small picture of the Blessed Mother on my desk.  For the last twenty-five years or so, religious invocations at our graduation ceremonies were banned, as society became increasingly more secular.  Fortunately, on one occasion prior to that, I had the privilege of inviting a priest that I knew, to give the invocation.  But his was among the last.

I taught chemistry.  Many chemistry principles are so “out of this world” that on many occasions over the course of the thirty-eight years, I wanted to shout out my belief during class that a Creator had his hand in a particular principle we were studying.  For example, just one additional electron and one additional proton turns gold into mercury. 

One topic for which I almost had to be gagged with duct tape was the concept of the wave theory of light.  This may seem to you like a physics topic, but it does relate to certain chemistry principles.  Wavelengths of light are as short as atomic diameters (ie., very, very, VERY short) and as long as the distance between two parallel country roads (ie., very,very long) and everything in between.  So we have (from the shortest wavelengths to the longest): gamma rays, x-rays, ultraviolet light, visible light, infrared light, microwaves, and radio/TV waves.  Visible light, the light that our eyes and brains are sensitive to, constitutes a very, very, VERY narrow part of the entire spectrum of light and the wavelengths are unimaginably short, though not the shortest that exist.  Our eye/brain combo translates wavelengths within the visible range as colors, red on the longer wavelength end, violet on the shorter end, and orange, yellow, green, and blue in between.  That is why there is such a thing as a rainbow and why material substances have a color.  This topic is just one example of the awesomeness of creation that is on display when we study science.

In the materialist's view, the eye and the brain (and their sensitivity to visible light) evolved over time due to natural causes, ie., because they could.  But why only the very narrow range of the visible wavelengths?  Why not ultraviolet light, or infrared light?  I have to think it was God's plan, a supernatural plan. 

I think I may have been better suited to teach at a seminary college.  But then maybe my students got the point anyway.  I believe very often in my classes I came extremely close to declaring the existence of God.  It’s just that the duct tape prevented it.  

The photo was taken at the Mormon Lakes SRA in central Nebraska on one particularly awesome day in August, 2013.