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Is the Spoon Black or Silver?

You will need light-bending science to explain what is going on with this fun visual illusion!

Two photos of a black spoon and the same spoon appearing silver while in a glass of water

Fun with Science: Why does this blackened spoon look silver in water? www.sciencebuddies.org

Kids love science that appears to be somehow "like magic" in the way something tricks our mind or eyes into believing something different than what is really happening. When kids are given the opportunity to explore the science behind an illusion firsthand and learn how to create and control the illusion, they can then share the "magic" with others and explain what is going on!

The Turn Soot into Silver--with Science! activity will make viewers of all ages look and look again when a soot-blackened spoon appears shiny and silver in water. Students will pick up some fascinating information about light and reflection as they experiment with their own soot-covered spoon.

The science here is not a substitute or workaround for cleaning dirty silverware, but we encourage you to give this science activity a try for some guaranteed oohs and ahhs at home or in the classroom!

(Note: Be careful. Adult supervision is needed for some parts of this experiment.)

This Science Buddies activity appears in the Bring Science Home area at Scientific American.

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