Daily Archives: 17th September

Demonstrating refractive index

The refractive index of a material governs how much light bends as the light moves into it. You’ve probably seen this bending effect when looking at the surface of a swimming pool: the bottom of the pool looks closer to the surface than it actually is because light rays bend as they travel from water to air.

But if the refractive index of two materials is the same, as is the case for sunflower oil and Pyrex, then light doesn’t bend at all, and you end up with the nice effect demonstrated below.

To say that this demonstration impressed my pupils would be an understatement.