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| Introduction to Reflection and Refraction | Reflection, Part 1 | Reflection, Part 2 | Refraction, Part 1 | Refraction, Part 2 |

Introduction to Reflection and Refraction

In talking about the fundamental nature of light, we indicated that light tends to travel in a straight line, unless it is acted on by some external force or condition. The obvious next question is, "What kinds of forces or conditions can affect light, and how?"

To answer this question, we start with what we can see in every day life. For example, we already know first hand that light won't pass through the wall of a house, but it will go through a window. Furthermore, some windows introduce noticeable distortion in what we see. Looking carefully at the glass of such a window, we can see that it is uneven, perhaps with ripples across its surface.

We have also seen that some surfaces show accurate images of an actual scene nearby, while other surfaces show distorted images, but most surfaces only show one or more colors no matter how we look at them.

On top of that, some surfaces seem very much darker than their surroundings, while other surfaces seem just as bright as their surroundings. Indeed, occasionally you can see something that looks brighter than its surroundings, both at night and in broad daylight.

Reflection In the series of pages in this particular thread, we will first look at the phenomenon of reflection, by which light bounces off of a surface and starts traveling abruptly in a very different direction.

Go to explore reflection now.

Refraction Following the discussion of reflection, we will explore the more subtle phenomenon of refraction, where light changes direction, but without reflecting from a surface. If you have already completed the material on reflection, you can follow this link directly to the topic of refraction.

Go to explore refraction now.

Prev: Optics: Basic Concepts Next: Reflection, Part 1

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