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Paleontological Research Institution


6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Physics

Resource Type

  • Videos, 4 minutes, 37 seconds, CC, Subtitles

Regional Focus



YouTube Video

The Long & Short of Absorption & Transmission

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  • This short video describes how different forms of radiant energy interact with different materials and demonstrates an easy experiment that could be replicated in the classroom. 
  • The demonstration involves viewing one's hand with an infrared camera behind three different types of materials: glass, clear plastic and black plastic.
Teaching Tips


  • A thorough verbal explanation and visual demonstration show how certain materials like glass can absorb infrared radiation, similar to how greenhouse gases also trap infrared radiation.
  • The narrator describes all components of the demonstration, easily allowing a teacher to replicate this same setup in their classroom if they have access to the infrared camera technology.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Students should be familiar with terms like visible light, infrared radiation, and wavelength.
  • To replicate this in the classroom, you will need an infrared camera, glass, clear plastic, and black plastic.


  • Before watching the video, consider having students record their predictions on absorption or transmission of infrared radiation and visible light for each of the three materials tested in the video.
  • To dive deeper into the science of the greenhouse effect and climate change, high school students may benefit from this interactive online lesson: Heating It Up: The Chemistry of the Greenhouse Effect.
Scientist Notes
This resource demonstrates the properties of light at different wavelengths, including infrared, visible, and ultraviolet light, and how light interacts with different materials. These properties are presented in a demonstration in which visible and infrared light are examined through glass, plastic wrap, and a black plastic bag. This resource is recommended for teaching.
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