Refraction: when light ray changes its direction in a new medium depending on the incident angle and the changes in speed. n1sinθ1 = n2sinθ2
A ray of light changes direction when it passes from one medium to another. The angle of incidence (towards the surface, the incidence ray) and angle of refraction (of the refracted ray) are measured relative to a perpendicular to the surface at the point where the light ray crosses it. In the image below, it is respectively θ1 and θ2.
The change in the direction of the light ray depends on how the speed of light changes, which is related to the indices of refraction of the mediums. In mediums that have a greater index of refraction, the speed of light is less. Here n1 and n2 are the indices of refraction for medium 1 and 2.
n = c/v,
where v is the speed of light in the material, c is the speed of light in vacuum
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 refraction angle. This is expressed in Snell’s Law:
n1sinθ1 = n2sinθ2
MCAT Official Prep (AAMC)
Physics Online Flashcards Question 8
• The change of a light ray’s direction (loosely called bending) when it passes through variations in matter is called refraction.
• The index of refraction is n=c/v, where v is the speed of light in the material, c is the speed of light in vacuum, and n is the index of refraction.
• Snell’s law of refraction: n1sinθ1=n2sinθ2.
Incidence ray: light ray towards the surface between 2 mediums
Refraction ray: light ray outgoing from surface between 2 mediums
Index of refraction: for a material, the ratio of the speed of light in vacuum to that in the material