A Different Type Of STAR Test

My children teach me things on a regular basis.  They don’t realize it most of the time, as most of life’s little lessons you can only learn by being caught in the moment.  Sometimes I learn things because I have to relearn things, like tonight when I had to recall the statistical definitions of median and mode. Every time I learn something from them it’s always a treat and frequently a surprise.

The other night, as I was tucking our daughter in bed, the two of us came upon a discovery.  Above her bed (which is a lofted bed and close to the ceiling) she has glow-in-the-dark stars.  When you turn out the light they glow, of course (hence the name).  Their effect is amplified, though, by the fact that you’re left amazingly blind right after the light is turned out and they’re the only things that you can see (assuming the room is dark enough of course).  In this environment is where we made our scientific discovery. (And no, that picture on the right is not of a glow in the dark star that we’re talking about. It’s a glow in the dark ball but it just looks cooler than a little dot on a wall would have looked and I just like the picture).

Right after the light was turned off, my daughter and I decided to reach out and touch the stars.  What we found was we couldn’t.  Or at least we couldn’t without multiple attempts.  When you can’t see your fingers (because your eyes adjust so slowly to darkness) and the only thing you can see in the star you’re trying to touch, it turns out that your brain just isn’t sure exactly where in space your finger is.  The end result is that you’ll likely miss the star and your finger won’t land right on it.  In fact, you’re sense of where-is-my-finger is so bad you’ll likely get it wrong multiple times in a row (at least until your finger passes between the star and your eyes and gives you a clue). It’s an amazingly frustrating and simultaneously fascinating experiment to try.

Somewhere there is a research paper, or better yet, a school science project waiting to be written on this subject.  Probably involving a large number of study participants randomly poking stars in a dark room and seeing how many times it takes them to really touch the stars.  And somewhere, of course, in the results will be an interesting bunch of statistical data.  Probably involving median and modes.

I expect a mad rush on glow in the dark stars because of this article. It’s an experiment you should definitely try. Preferably with kids, as they’ll make it much more entertaining.

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