Refracted light

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Pencil in bowl of water


The change in angle of a light path as it passes from one medium into another with a different refractive index. The amount of deflection is proportional to the ration of the refractive indices of the two media. Refraction causes a straight object, like a pencil, appear to bend and the interface of two mediums, such as Air (refractive index = 1.00) and Water (refractive index=1.33). Refraction is responsible for rainbows and for dispersing white light into the spearate colors as it passes through a Prism.

Refraction in a Perspex block

Synonyms and Related Terms

refraction; refraktion (Dan.); gebrochenes Licht (Deut.); refracción (Esp.); lumière réfractée (Fr.); rifrazione (It.); lichtbreking (Ned.); refração (Port.)

Resources and Citations

  • R. J. Gettens, G.L. Stout, Painting Materials, A Short Encyclopaedia, Dover Publications, New York, 1966
  • Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing)
  • Walter C. McCrone, John Gustave Delly, The Particle Atlas, W. McCrone Associates, Chicago, IV, 1972
  • Matt Roberts, Don Etherington, Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books: a Dictionary of Descriptive Terminology, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington DC, 1982
  • The American Heritage Dictionary or Encarta, via Microsoft Bookshelf 98, Microsoft Corp., 1998