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The law of refraction

n 1 sin θ 1 = n 2 sin θ 2 size 12{n rSub { size 8{1} } "sin"θ rSub { size 8{1} } =n rSub { size 8{2} } "sin"θ rSub { size 8{2} } } {}

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.

Determine the index of refraction from refraction data

Find the index of refraction for medium 2 in [link] (a), assuming medium 1 is air and given the incident angle is 30 . size 12{"30" "." 0°} {} and the angle of refraction is 22 . size 12{"22" "." 0°} {} .


The index of refraction for air is taken to be 1 in most cases (and up to four significant figures, it is 1.000). Thus n 1 = 1 . 00 size 12{n rSub { size 8{1} } =1 "." "00"} {} here. From the given information, θ 1 = 30 . size 12{q rSub { size 8{1} } ="30" "." 0°} {} and θ 2 = 22 . size 12{q rSub { size 8{2} } ="22" "." 0°} {} . With this information, the only unknown in Snell’s law is n 2 size 12{n rSub { size 8{2} } } {} , so that it can be used to find this unknown.


Snell’s law is

n 1 sin θ 1 = n 2 sin θ 2 . size 12{n rSub { size 8{1} } "sin"θ rSub { size 8{1} } =n rSub { size 8{2} } "sin"θ rSub { size 8{2} } } {}

Rearranging to isolate n 2 size 12{n rSub { size 8{2} } } {} gives

n 2 = n 1 sin θ 1 sin θ 2 . size 12{n rSub { size 8{2} } =n rSub { size 8{1} } { {"sin"θ rSub { size 8{1} } } over {"sin"θ rSub { size 8{2} } } } } {}

Entering known values,

n 2 = 1 . 00 sin 30 . sin 22 . = 0 . 500 0 . 375 = 1.33. alignl { stack { size 12{n rSub { size 8{2} } =1 "." "00" { {"sin""30" "." 0°} over {"sin""22" "." 0°} } = { {0 "." "500"} over {0 "." "375"} } } {} #=1 "." "33" "." {} } } {}


This is the index of refraction for water, and Snell could have determined it by measuring the angles and performing this calculation. He would then have found 1.33 to be the appropriate index of refraction for water in all other situations, such as when a ray passes from water to glass. Today we can verify that the index of refraction is related to the speed of light in a medium by measuring that speed directly.

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A larger change in direction

Suppose that in a situation like that in [link] , light goes from air to diamond and that the incident angle is 30 . size 12{"30" "." 0°} {} . Calculate the angle of refraction θ 2 size 12{q rSub { size 8{2} } } {} in the diamond.


Again the index of refraction for air is taken to be n 1 = 1 . 00 size 12{n rSub { size 8{1} } =1 "." "00"} {} , and we are given θ 1 = 30 . size 12{q rSub { size 8{1} } ="30" "." 0°} {} . We can look up the index of refraction for diamond in [link] , finding n 2 = 2 . 419 size 12{n rSub { size 8{2} } =2 "." "419"} {} . The only unknown in Snell’s law is θ 2 size 12{q rSub { size 8{2} } } {} , which we wish to determine.


Solving Snell’s law for sin θ 2 size 12{q rSub { size 8{2} } } {} yields

sin θ 2 = n 1 n 2 sin θ 1 . size 12{"sin"θ rSub { size 8{2} } = { {n rSub { size 8{1} } } over {n rSub { size 8{2} } } } "sin"θ rSub { size 8{1} } } {}

Entering known values,

sin θ 2 = 1 . 00 2 . 419 sin 30 . = ( 0 . 413 ) ( 0 . 500 ) = 0 . 207 . size 12{"sin"q rSub { size 8{2} } = { {1 "." "00"} over {2 "." "419"} } "sin""30" "." 0"°=" left (0 "." "413" right ) left (0 "." "500" right )=0 "." "207"} {}

The angle is thus

θ 2 = sin 1 0 . 207 = 11 . . size 12{θ rSub { size 8{2} } ="sin" rSup { size 8{ - 1} } 0 "." "207"="11" "." 9°} {}


For the same 30º angle of incidence, the angle of refraction in diamond is significantly smaller than in water ( 11.9º rather than 22º —see the preceding example). This means there is a larger change in direction in diamond. The cause of a large change in direction is a large change in the index of refraction (or speed). In general, the larger the change in speed, the greater the effect on the direction of the ray.

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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.
  • Snell’s law, the law of refraction, is stated in equation form as n 1 sin θ 1 = n 2 sin θ 2 size 12{n rSub { size 8{1} } "sin"θ rSub { size 8{1} } =n rSub { size 8{2} } "sin"θ rSub { size 8{2} } } {} .

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.

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Questions & Answers

If an object has no acceleration in an inertial reference frame, can you conclude that no forces are acting on it?
Von Reply
No unbalanced forces
Sorry, no unbalanced net force
What are the two major system units in the world
Jizel Reply
What is physical quantities
they are physical properties that can be measured or calculated
Do you mean the SI system and Imperial system? SI is used by scientists the world over (with notable exception being the USA)
Who is the father of physics
Gabriel Reply
Newton.Geliliyo and Einstein is called father of physics
Ancient - Archimedes Classical Physics - Newton Modern Physics - Einstein But each of these has built on the work of predecessors. No single personality defines physics.
Galileo Galilie must be. He was the creator of the scientific method
Galileo was no doubt inspirational, but the scientific method has existed for millennia. What Galileo did was prove the superiority of experimentation to just thinking (Aristotle's way). Again all noteworthy scientists
Newton galileo and Einstein
what is wave
Charity Reply
a wave is a distirbance that transmits energy from one place ro another within or without a medium
wave is the transfer of energy from one medium to another without the transfer of particles
wave is a disturbance which transfer energy from one medium to another without causing any permanent displacement by itself
wave is a disturbance or oscillation that travel through space and matter,accompanied by a transfer of energy
A wave is any disturbances in an elastic medium which carries energy from one point to another through a medium
what is harmonic motion
is a restoring force
a wave is a disturbance and there are trasfer energy from one medium to another and travel through any space without the trasfer of particles.
a wave is a disturbance that travels or carries energy from one point to another through a medium
A moving disturbance in the level of a body water, undulation
what is thermodynamics
Williams Reply
what is thermodynamics
thermodynamics is a heat and energy significant physics
Relating to the conversation of heat into other forms of energy
It's the science of conversion between heat and other forms of energy
Are the antimatters of Hadrons also Hadrons?!Does the same rule apply to Leptons?
Daniel Reply
yes. Hadrons are the elementary particles that take part in stong, electromagnetic and weak interactions. Infact only Hadrons are involved in Strong interactions and when an anti-particle of any hadron is produced, it would be a hadron-conservations laws. Leptons are involved in weak int and follow
what is physics
physic is a pure science that deal with behavior of matter,energy & how it related to other physical properties
Owk. But am are Art student.
Thanks a lot,Lalita
what are the differences between reflection and refraction ?
What happens when an aeroplanes window is opened at cruise altitude?
Theophilus Reply
what is the minimum speed for any object to travel in time?
Pankaj Reply
as per theory of relativity, minimum speed will be the speed of light
what is physics
Lote Reply
it is just a branch of science which deals with the reasons behind the daily activities taking place everyday in our lives. it clearly states the reason in the form of laws.
like Newton's laws , Kepler's laws etc....
physics is the study of motion or moving things. Usually the moving things are normal items like vars or planets but sometimes it's electricity or heat that moves.
physics is one of the most significant diciplines of natural science which describe the nature and its matter
I would describe it as the science that is interested in the fundamental laws of nature. For example, what is light, what is sound, what is electricity/magentism, what forces are at work on a specific body. The knowledge of the world around us makes it possible to fly, have cell phones, GPS, etc.
what happens when an aeroplane takes off?
Kofi Reply
it flies
the lift generated by the wing overcome the weight of the plane(in Newton)and a net force of upward is created
it is a direct application of Magnus effect (which helps in throwing curve balls) the wings of plane are made in such a way that the net flow of air is more below them rather than on their upper side. So when the plane accelerates, the flaps produce the upward lift when enough velocity is obtained
then due to lower pressure on upper part of wings helps producing an additional lift because air flows from areaof lower to the area of higher pressure
The engines located under the wings generate thrust .. in relation thrust is a force ... which ovwrcomes or becomes greater than the weight of the plane.. remember weight is a force Weight = m x g-2 So therefore F(thrust) becomes greater than F(weight) Even if by 1Newton the plane starts lifting o
what happens when a ship moves
What is the sign of an acceleration that reduces the magnitude of a negative velocity? Of a positive velocity?
Conwil Reply
If it reduces the magnitude of the velocity, the acceleration sign is the opposite compared to the velocity.
what is accerelation
John Reply
an objects tendency to speed up over time
acceleration is the change in velocity over the change in time it would be written delta-v over delta-t.
the change in velocity V over a period of time T.
Delta means "change in"...not period of
just kidding. it all works mathematically
except doesn't time really only change if the instantaneous speeds vary...?
and I assume we are all talking average acceleration
Hey shiii 😀
the rate of change of velocity is callaed acceleration
a=delta v/delta t
the rate of change in velocity with respect to time is acceleration
nana you r right
what is meant by lost volt
Hardeyyemih Reply
Lost volt. Lol. It is the electrical energy lost due to the nature or the envirommental conditions (temperature and pressure) that affect the cable across which the potential difference is measured.
What is physics?
Bedabyas Reply
physics is brance science concerned with nature and properties of matter and energy
physics is study of the natural phenomenon on the basis of certain laws and principles. it's like watching a game of chess and trying to understand its rules how it's played.
physics is study of nature and it's law
physics is a branch of science that deals with the study of matter ,properties of matter and energy
Branch of science (study) of matter, motion and energy
what is a double-slit experiment?Explain.
Daniel Reply
when you pass a wave of any kind ie sound water light ect you get an interface pattern forming on a screen behind it, where the peaks and troughs add and cancel out due to the diffraction caused by a wave traveling through the slits
double slit experiment was done by YOUNG. And it's to give out monochromatic coherent, if an incoherent wave is passing through it. And then the waves form interference fringes. The screen placed in front of the double slit is preferably a film and then in the middle where "p=0" a brighter color
is formed and then the constructive interferences occur at 0 (which is the brightest band)... then a sequence of bright band (constructive interference) and dark band (destructive interference) happens and the further from the central band the lower the intensity of bright band(constructive interfe
Practice Key Terms 2

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