Kids' Trail

Polarised light artworks of Australian plants and animals are hidden on other exhibits. Polarising glasses reveal colour in the images.

How to Use It

Look through the provided polarising glasses at the artworks to reveal the colours hidden in plain sight.

What Science Tells Us

The artworks are made from varying thicknesses of cellulose film. A polarising film sits between the lightbox and the artwork, so the light coming through is highly polarised. The cellulose film is birefringent: colours in the white light are split between two polarisations, depending on the thickness of the cellulose film. This means that some colours are polarised one way, and the remainder are polarised the other way. Our eyes cannot see polarisation, so without the glasses we only see the combined white light.

The polarising glasses only allow through the colours that are polarised in alignment with the filter. This lets some colours through, and absorbs others. Each colour in the artwork is a different thickness or orientation of cellulose film.

Things to Try or Ask

Do your sunglasses do the same thing that the provided glasses do?

What happens when you view the artwork with the glasses turned sideways?

Finding the Science in Your World

The blue sky is polarised. Tilting your head from side to side while wearing polarised glasses and looking at the sky will change its colour from light to dark blue. Reflections from water are also polarised, and polarised glasses help to filter out this glare.