Questions tagged [refraction]

Change in the direction of propagation of a wave when its transmitting medium changes.

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70
votes
8answers
10k views

What really causes light/photons to appear slower in media?

I know that if we solve the Maxwell equation, we will end up with the phase velocity of light being related to the permeability and the permittivity of the material. But this is not what I'm ...
62
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4answers
12k views

What's the physics behind XKCD #2027 (time between lightning flash and radio wave burst)?

XKCD usually has solid (and often contemporary) science behind it. Lightning Difference, #2027 one says: Q: What’s that trick for telling how many miles away lightning is? A: Just count the ...
61
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7answers
10k views

Could a human beat light in a footrace?

Is there anything preventing the following experiment from being done right now? Imagine that a human ran from point 'a' to point 'b' while light particles that reflected off a clock moved ...
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4answers
23k views

What is the mechanism behind the slowdown of light/photons in a transparent medium?

So light travels slower in glass (for example) than in a vacuum. What causes light to slow down? Or: How does it slow down? If light passes through the medium, is it not essentially traveling in the "...
52
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11answers
78k views

What determines color — wavelength or frequency?

What determines the color of light -- is it the wavelength of the light or the frequency? (i.e. If you put light through a medium other than air, in order to keep its color the same, which one would ...
52
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2answers
19k views

Why do I see better under water using swimming goggles? [duplicate]

I am myopic (I don't really know if this is relevant or not) and I usually swim without contact lenses. My vision is clearly better underwater when I am using swimming goggles. I have tried to ...
48
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6answers
106k views

Why doesn't the frequency of light change during refraction?

When light passes from one medium to another its velocity and wavelength change. Why doesn't frequency change in this phenomenon?
45
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3answers
15k views

How does light speed up after coming out of a glass slab?

As I learned today in school, my teacher told me that when light enters a glass slab it slows down due to the change in density and it speeds up as it goes out of the glass slab. This causes a lateral ...
43
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5answers
9k views

If a lens focuses all incoming light to a point, how do we get 2D images?

How do lenses produce 2-dimensional images, if a lens bends all incoming rays of light to intersect at the focal point? Shouldn't this produce a single dot of light on a screen placed at the focal ...
43
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3answers
6k views

How does light re-accelerate after slowing down? [duplicate]

Light travels at speed x through a vacuum, and then it encounters a physical medium and slows down, only to leave the physical medium and re-enter vacuum. The speed of light immediately re-accelerates ...
42
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4answers
10k views

Do rainbows have ultraviolet bands and infrared bands?

We have seen that rainbows looks so colorful as we are only able to see only the visible light. But Do they also have ultraviolet bands and infra-red bands, that we are unable to see? I know someone ...
42
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3answers
8k views

How are classical optics phenomena explained in QED (Snell's law)?

How is the following classical optics phenomenon explained in quantum electrodynamics? Reflection and Refraction Are they simply due to photons being absorbed and re-emitted? How do we get to Snell'...
40
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5answers
7k views

Why aren't rainbows more common?

Why are rainbows relatively rare? On any given day, there are billions of water drops in the air of varying sizes and dispersions, all of which light is passing through and refracting. What physical ...
40
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4answers
20k views

Why do prisms work (why is refraction frequency dependent)?

It is well known that a prism can "split light" by separating different frequencies of light: Many sources state that the reason this happens is that the index of refraction is different for ...
39
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5answers
13k views

Is light actually faster than what our present measurements tell us?

It is well established that the light speed in a perfect vacuum is roughly $3\times 10^8 \:\rm m/s$. But it is also known that outer space is not a perfect vacuum, but a hard vacuum. So, is the speed ...
38
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3answers
245k views

Virtual vs Real image

I'm doing magnification and lens in class currently, and I really don't get why virtual and real images are called what they are. A virtual image occurs the object is less than the focal length of ...
32
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3answers
166k views

Why does wavelength change as light enters a different medium?

When light waves enter a medium of higher refractive index than the previous, why is it that: Its wavelength decreases? The frequency of it has to stay the same?
26
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5answers
14k views

Eyes open under water

Yesterday I looked underwater with my eyes open (and no goggles) and I realized I can't see anything clearly. Everything looks very, very blurry. My guess is that the eye needs direct contact with air ...
26
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5answers
6k views

Why isn't the sunset/sunrise rainbow-colored

When the sun is rising/setting, it goes through a phase where the light is bending from the atmosphere. I believe this image will explain much better than I ever could. Now, if light goes through a ...
25
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3answers
4k views

Can air make shadows?

I have read about schlieren photography which uses the ability of non-uniform air to create shadows. Is it really possible that air makes shadows?
24
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3answers
4k views

Why doesn’t a normal window produce an apparent rainbow?

When light refracts in a prism it creates a rainbow. My question is, why don’t all windows or transparent objects create this dispersion, i.e. why is the refractive index dependent on frequency in a ...
24
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1answer
1k views

How can my window not scramble the image of my yard?

How can an image pass through a window if the atoms in the glass randomly emit photons in any direction? I've read that glass is transparent because the atoms don't readily adsorb visible light, so it ...
23
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2answers
4k views

Why are rainbows brighter through polarized glass?

I was standing outside in very light drizzle, sun behind me. I saw a rainbow. I know why they occur but... I was wearing polarized sunglasses. As an experiment, I turned my sunglasses through 90 ...
23
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5answers
149k views

Why does the road look like it's wet on hot days?

Often, I'll be driving down the road on a summer day, and as I look ahead toward the horizon, I notice that the road looks like there's a puddle of water on it, or that it was somehow wet. Of course, ...
23
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3answers
6k views

How can muons travel faster than light through ice?

When a neutrino traveling through ice hits and interacts with an oxygen atom, muons are created. Cherenkov radiation can be created when muons travel through ice faster than light and create a ...
22
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1answer
22k views

How does a photon travel through glass?

This was discussed in an answer to a related question but I think that it deserves a separate and, hopefully, more clear answer. Consider a single photon ($\lambda$=532 nm) traveling through a plate ...
20
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4answers
2k views

Light propagating through a sound wave

We know that the speed of light depends on the density of the medium it is travelling through. It travels faster through less dense media and slower through more dense media. When we produce sound, a ...
19
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6answers
9k views

Are we seeing everything in a delayed manner?

If light is faster in vacuum medium than in air medium, does it mean that we are seeing everything in a delayed manner since we live in air medium? Is there any way to see things in actual speed i....
19
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2answers
9k views

Would you see a rainbow from refraction when the sun is in front of you?

I know how rainbows are formed, and why. Usually it is said that the Sun must be behind the observer, in order for its light to be totally reflected inside the droplet and then reach the observer. ...
18
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4answers
3k views

Looking for the actual reason of refraction explained precisely without analogies

I'm a high school teacher trying to teach my students (15year olds) about refraction. I've seen a lot of good analogies to explain why the light changes direction, like the marching band analogy, that ...
17
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1answer
1k views

Do neutrinos refract?

The most benign of interactions is refraction. While neutrinos rarely interact with matter in a sense like the photoelectric effect, does that mean that they don't refract either?
17
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1answer
1k views

How can the refractive index be below 1 in a dielectric?

Upon checking the optical properties of different dielectrics, I found the interesting case of $Al_2O_3$. It seems to be reported with a refractive index below 1 in the infrared range of $10 - 12~\mu ...
17
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7answers
18k views

Why does light change direction when it travels through glass?

This was explained to me many years ago, by a physics teacher, with the following analogy: "If someone on the beach wants to reach someone else that is in the water, they will try to travel as much ...
16
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4answers
3k views

To what extent can speed of light be reduced? [duplicate]

Light slows down upon entering different transparent objects, and the ratio is taken as refractive index of the object. If light can be slowed down, then is there a limit up to which it can be slowed ...
16
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4answers
2k views

Reverse of diffraction

Can we arrange a practical in such a way that the dark and bright bands in diffraction grating be allowed to pass through the same slit to get the original light (i.e the incident light before ...
16
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1answer
2k views

Why is not everything transparent? [duplicate]

There is a related question on this site here: Why glass is transparent? Which explains that glass is transparent because the atoms in glass have very large energy differences between energy levels ...
15
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3answers
2k views

Can the speed of light become complex inside a metamaterial?

The speed of light in a material is defined as $c = \frac{1}{\sqrt{\epsilon \mu}}$. There are metamaterials with negative permittivity $\epsilon < 0$ and permeability $\mu < 0$ at the same time. ...
14
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3answers
7k views

Is true black possible?

Black is the absence of light because it absorbs light, but when we create black paint or black objects, light is always reflected, either in all directions in matte or smoothly in shiny black objects,...
13
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2answers
2k views

What happens if light/particles exceeded the speed of light for a particular medium

While the speed of light in vacuum is a universal constant ($c$), the speed at which light propagates in other materials/mediums may be less than $c$. This is obviously suggested by the fact that ...
12
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3answers
712 views

Optics: Derivation of $\vec\nabla{n} = \frac{d(n\hat{u})}{ds}$

I have been given this formula from optics here, with no background: $$\vec\nabla{n} = \frac{d(n\hat{u})}{ds}$$ Where $n$ is the refractive index and $\hat{u}$ is a unit vector tangent to the path $...
12
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2answers
436 views

Is it possible to calculate the distance to a rainbow by using the parallax method?

A colleague of mine (a physicist) recently claimed that it is possible to calculate the distance to a rainbow by applying the parallax method and that the result would be ~150 million kilometers, the ...
12
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3answers
28k views

Clarification needed in the concept of apparent depth & real depth

I understood the concept of apparent depth from here: But one thing I didn't understand is, will there be difference in the real depth and apparent depth when we are looking not at an angle as shown ...
12
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2answers
637 views

Which of these theories on why light slows in media are true?

This question is similar to previously asked questions, but the responses to them are confusing and I think it may be better covered by listing out all the potential answers for clarity. It's a ...
11
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2answers
2k views

Why do convex lenses not disperse light like prisms, given that entry and exit points aren't parallel?

I understand that light entering a parallel block of glass at a non-90 degree angle will cause dispersion of colours within the block but that these will be refracted by the same degree upon exit so ...
11
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3answers
3k views

Why does light not polarise off metallic surface?

I am aware that light partially polarizes upon reflection off a non-metallic surface, however, why is it that this only occurs for non-metallic surfaces?
11
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3answers
1k views

Are rainbows three dimensional? If so, what determines their depth? [duplicate]

I am wondering whether rainbows are three dimensional, and if so, what determine their depth? How to calculate the depth of a rainbow, given its radius? From what I understand, all rainbows are ...
11
votes
1answer
233 views

What do individual rainbow-forming droplets look like?

Suppose we took a photo of a rainbow, but in such a huge resolution and sharp focus as to be able to see each droplet in good detail. What would the droplets look like? Would they be nearly uniformly ...
11
votes
3answers
4k views

Photon energy - momentum in matter

$E = h\nu$ and $P = h\nu/c$ in vacuum. If a photon enters water, it's frequency $\nu$ doesn't change. What are its energy and momentum : $h\nu$ ? and $h\nu/c$ ? Since part of it's energy and momentum ...
11
votes
1answer
12k views

Why do some materials reflect (metals) and other materials reflect and refract (glass) from the quantum perspective?

Recently I was asked to explain the difference between reflection and total internal reflection from a purely conceptual standpoint (no math). Let me explain what I already know. Reflection and ...
10
votes
3answers
1k views

Do photons age in a medium?

According to special relativity, time starts to slow down as we increase our speed and eventually stops once we get to the speed of light. By that logic, photons don't age in a vacuum state as, to us, ...