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Science Sundays: A lesson in refraction

Posted at 4:37 PM, Jan 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-16 19:37:55-05

Welcome back to Science Sundays. This week we're making a little magic happen by bending light.

Allison Bogart is a teacher of the year and works at Wonderful Prep College Academy in Delano. She demonstrated for us how, with a beaker, some corn oil, and some test tubes, light can bend through the scientific phenomenon of refraction.

She first began by putting some test tubes and placing them into the beaker.

“We can see through the oil, we can absolutely see the test tube. If we wanted to take advantage of the index of refraction, and how much each material bends light, we could take another test tube,” Boggart said while demonstrating the experiment. “Again it's just full of air, and place it right next to it, but now, watch! So what do you notice? What happened here?”

What happened: the first test tube filled with air. Boggart explained what happened after putting some oil inside the second test tube:

“The corn oil has the same index of refraction as the glass that this test tube is made of! And so if we take advantage of the index of refraction, and how some materials may have the same index of refraction, the light will not bend as it travels through,” Boggard said. “Bending is refraction. The light will not refract, the light will not bend, and so it looks as if that test tube has disappeared!"