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The figures compare the working of a lawn mower to that of the refraction phenomenon. In figure (a) the lawn mower goes from a sidewalk to grass, it slows down and bends towards a perpendicular drawn at the point of contact of the mower with the surface of separation. An imaginary line along the mower when it is on sidewalk is taken to be the incident ray and the angle which the mower makes with the perpendicular is taken to be theta one. As it goes into the grass, the mower turns and the imaginary line moves towards the perpendicular line drawn and makes an angle theta two with it. The imaginary line drawn along the mower when the mower is in the grass is taken to be the refracted ray. Sidewalk is taken to be a medium of refractive index n one and that of grass to be taken as n two. In figure (b), the situation is the reverse of what has happened in figure (a). The mower moves from grass to sidewalk and the ray of light moves away from the perpendicular when it speeds up.
The change in direction of a light ray depends on how the speed of light changes when it crosses from one medium to another. The speed of light is greater in medium 1 than in medium 2 in the situations shown here. (a) A ray of light moves closer to the perpendicular when it slows down. This is analogous to what happens when a lawn mower goes from a footpath to grass. (b) A ray of light moves away from the perpendicular when it speeds up. This is analogous to what happens when a lawn mower goes from grass to footpath. The paths are exactly reversible.

The amount that a light ray changes its direction depends both on the incident angle and the amount that the speed changes. For a ray at a given incident angle, a large change in speed causes a large change in direction, and thus a large change in angle.

Take-home experiment: a broken pencil

A classic observation of refraction occurs when a pencil is placed in a glass half filled with water. Do this and observe the shape of the pencil when you look at the pencil sideways, that is, through air, glass, water. Explain your observations. Draw ray diagrams for the situation.

Section summary

  • The changing of a light ray’s direction when it passes through variations in matter is called refraction.
  • The speed of light in vacuum c = 2 . 9972458 × 10 8 m/s 3 . 00 × 10 8 m/s . size 12{c=2 "." "9972458" times "10" rSup { size 8{8} } " m/s" approx 3 "." "00" times "10" rSup { size 8{8} } " m/s"} {}
  • Index of refraction n = c v size 12{n= { {c} over {v} } } {} , where v size 12{v} {} is the speed of light in the material, c size 12{c} {} is the speed of light in vacuum, and n size 12{n} {} is the index of refraction.

Conceptual questions

Diffusion by reflection from a rough surface is described in this chapter. Light can also be diffused by refraction. Describe how this occurs in a specific situation, such as light interacting with crushed ice.

Why is the index of refraction always greater than or equal to 1?

Does the fact that the light flash from lightning reaches you before its sound prove that the speed of light is extremely large or simply that it is greater than the speed of sound? Discuss how you could use this effect to get an estimate of the speed of light.

Will light change direction toward or away from the perpendicular when it goes from air to water? Water to glass? Glass to air?

Explain why an object in water always appears to be at a depth shallower than it actually is? Why do people sometimes sustain neck and spinal injuries when diving into unfamiliar ponds or waters?

Explain why a person’s legs appear very short when wading in a pool. Justify your explanation with a ray diagram showing the path of rays from the feet to the eye of an observer who is out of the water.

Why is the front surface of a thermometer curved as shown?

A triangular shaped transparent thermometer is shown.
The curved surface of the thermometer serves a purpose.

Suppose light were incident from air onto a material that had a negative index of refraction, say –1.3; where does the refracted light ray go?


What is the speed of light in water? In glycerine?

2 . 25 × 10 8 m/s size 12{2 "." "25" times "10" rSup { size 8{8} } " m/s"} {} in water

2 . 04 × 10 8 m/s size 12{2 "." "04" times "10" rSup { size 8{8} } " m/s"} {} in glycerine

What is the speed of light in air? In crown glass?

Calculate the index of refraction for a medium in which the speed of light is 2 . 012 × 10 8 m/s size 12{2 "." "012"´"10" rSup { size 8{8} } " m/s"} {} , and identify the most likely substance based on [link] .

1 . 490 size 12{1 "." "491"} {} , polystyrene

In what substance in [link] is the speed of light 2 . 290 × 10 8 m/s size 12{2 "." "290"´"10" rSup { size 8{8} } " m/s"} {} ?

There was a major collision of an asteroid with the Moon in medieval times. It was described by monks at Canterbury Cathedral in England as a red glow on and around the Moon. How long after the asteroid hit the Moon, which is 3 . 84 × 10 5 km size 12{3 "." "84"´"10" rSup { size 8{5} } " km"} {} away, would the light first arrive on Earth?

1 . 28 s size 12{1 "." "28"" s"} {}

Components of some computers communicate with each other through optical fibers having an index of refraction n = 1 . 55 size 12{n=1 "." "55"} {} . What time in nanoseconds is required for a signal to travel 0.200 m through such a fiber?

1.03 ns size 12{ {}=1 "." "03"" ns"} {}

On the Moon’s surface, lunar astronauts placed a corner reflector, off which a laser beam is periodically reflected. The distance to the Moon is calculated from the round-trip time. What percent correction is needed to account for the delay in time due to the slowing of light in Earth’s atmosphere? Assume the distance to the Moon is precisely 3 . 84 × 10 8 m size 12{3 "." "84"´"10" rSup { size 8{8} } " m"} {} , and Earth’s atmosphere (which varies in density with altitude) is equivalent to a layer 30.0 km thick with a constant index of refraction n = 1 . 000293 size 12{n=1 "." "000293"} {} .

Questions & Answers

can someone help me with some logarithmic and exponential equations.
Jeffrey Reply
sure. what is your question?
okay, so you have 6 raised to the power of 2. what is that part of your answer
I don't understand what the A with approx sign and the boxed x mean
it think it's written 20/(X-6)^2 so it's 20 divided by X-6 squared
I'm not sure why it wrote it the other way
I got X =-6
ok. so take the square root of both sides, now you have plus or minus the square root of 20= x-6
oops. ignore that.
so you not have an equal sign anywhere in the original equation?
Commplementary angles
Idrissa Reply
im all ears I need to learn
right! what he said ⤴⤴⤴
what is a good calculator for all algebra; would a Casio fx 260 work with all algebra equations? please name the cheapest, thanks.
Kevin Reply
a perfect square v²+2v+_
Dearan Reply
kkk nice
Abdirahman Reply
algebra 2 Inequalities:If equation 2 = 0 it is an open set?
Kim Reply
or infinite solutions?
The answer is neither. The function, 2 = 0 cannot exist. Hence, the function is undefined.
Embra Reply
if |A| not equal to 0 and order of A is n prove that adj (adj A = |A|
Nancy Reply
rolling four fair dice and getting an even number an all four dice
ramon Reply
Kristine 2*2*2=8
Bridget Reply
Differences Between Laspeyres and Paasche Indices
Emedobi Reply
No. 7x -4y is simplified from 4x + (3y + 3x) -7y
Mary Reply
is it 3×y ?
Joan Reply
J, combine like terms 7x-4y
Bridget Reply
im not good at math so would this help me
Rachael Reply
I'm not good at math so would you help me
what is the problem that i will help you to self with?
how do you translate this in Algebraic Expressions
linda Reply
Need to simplify the expresin. 3/7 (x+y)-1/7 (x-1)=
Crystal Reply
. After 3 months on a diet, Lisa had lost 12% of her original weight. She lost 21 pounds. What was Lisa's original weight?
Chris Reply
what's the easiest and fastest way to the synthesize AgNP?
Damian Reply
types of nano material
abeetha Reply
I start with an easy one. carbon nanotubes woven into a long filament like a string
many many of nanotubes
what is the k.e before it land
what is the function of carbon nanotubes?
what is nanomaterials​ and their applications of sensors.
Ramkumar Reply
what is nano technology
Sravani Reply
what is system testing?
preparation of nanomaterial
Victor Reply
Yes, Nanotechnology has a very fast field of applications and their is always something new to do with it...
Himanshu Reply
good afternoon madam
what is system testing
what is the application of nanotechnology?
In this morden time nanotechnology used in many field . 1-Electronics-manufacturad IC ,RAM,MRAM,solar panel etc 2-Helth and Medical-Nanomedicine,Drug Dilivery for cancer treatment etc 3- Atomobile -MEMS, Coating on car etc. and may other field for details you can check at Google
anybody can imagine what will be happen after 100 years from now in nano tech world
after 100 year this will be not nanotechnology maybe this technology name will be change . maybe aftet 100 year . we work on electron lable practically about its properties and behaviour by the different instruments
name doesn't matter , whatever it will be change... I'm taking about effect on circumstances of the microscopic world
how hard could it be to apply nanotechnology against viral infections such HIV or Ebola?
silver nanoparticles could handle the job?
not now but maybe in future only AgNP maybe any other nanomaterials
can nanotechnology change the direction of the face of the world
Prasenjit Reply
At high concentrations (>0.01 M), the relation between absorptivity coefficient and absorbance is no longer linear. This is due to the electrostatic interactions between the quantum dots in close proximity. If the concentration of the solution is high, another effect that is seen is the scattering of light from the large number of quantum dots. This assumption only works at low concentrations of the analyte. Presence of stray light.
Ali Reply
the Beer law works very well for dilute solutions but fails for very high concentrations. why?
bamidele Reply
how did you get the value of 2000N.What calculations are needed to arrive at it
Smarajit Reply
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Source:  OpenStax, Concepts of physics. OpenStax CNX. Aug 25, 2015 Download for free at https://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11738/1.5
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