Reflection vs. Refraction

The empirical distinction between Reflection and Refraction The terms reflection and refraction are two words that are common…

The empirical distinction between Reflection and Refraction

The terms reflection and refraction are two words that are common in physics and more particularly in the travelling of light through interfaces or mediums. While the two are similar in the fact that they both represent a complete mapping of an image of a given object, there are very categorical and apparent distinctions between the two. Reflection can be simply defined as the complete image formation of an object in a plain surface due to the bouncing back of light from the surface itself. For example a good example of a reflected image is the one contained in a mirror or even camera. Refraction on the other hand also represents the formation of an image but different from reflection, refraction may present a slightly or completely improvised image. Refraction occurs when light speed is reduced due to change in the optical densities of the materials it travels in.

The basic characteristic about reflection is that it involves the formation of an exact image of an object that results from bouncing of light from a plain surface. The nature of the image obtained is dependent on the plain of the surface involved although in many cases the ultimate image is always perfect. The basic application of reflection has been in the use of mirrors which have been used in shaving, dressing as well as other uses. The quality of a reflected image can be improved depending on the quality of light.

As for refraction, its basic ideas involve the change in visual or optical size of an object that is common when the given object is viewed through a medium such as a prism or water droplet at a given angle. A good example of refraction can be seen in a simple experiment that will involve dipping a ruler half way through in a transparent jar of water. A common observation will be that the ruler when vied from the side of the transparent jar, it will appear bent because of refraction of light as it moves from a lesser optically dense medium in this case air to a more optically denser medium in this case water. Refraction is not only restricted to image formation but also it may affect sound waves and the ultimate sound in general.


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