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Turn Your Laptop Into a Spectrometer

Spectrometers fracture light into telltale patterns of colored bands that reveal the composition of just about any type of matter, whether it's a plant sample, the dark cloud spewing from a smokestack, or gases swirling in another planet's atmosphere. The devices can be found in biology and chemistry labs, hooked up to astronomical telescopes, and piggybacking on Mars landers. As I recently discovered, it's also possible to make one with a few inexpensive parts.

I was inspired by Jeff Warren, co-founder of the citizen-science Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (PLOTS).

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