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Boundary Behavior of Light

A wave doesn't just stop when it reaches the end of the medium. Rather, a
wave will undergo certain behaviors when it encounters the end of the
medium. Specifically, there will be some reflection off the boundary and
some transmission into the new medium. The transmitted wave undergoes
refraction (or bending) if it approaches the boundary at an angle.
The Cause of Refraction
The transmission of light across a boundary between two media is
accompanied by a change in both the speed and wavelength of the
wave. The light wave not only changes directions at the boundary, it also
speeds up or slows down and transforms into a wave with a larger or a
shorter wavelength. The only time that a wave can be transmitted across
a boundary, change its speed, and still not refract is when the light wave
approaches the boundary in a direction that is perpendicular to it. As long
as the light wave changes speed and approaches the boundary at an angle,
refraction is observed.

Conditions of Refraction
Will this refractive behavior always occur? No! There are two conditions
that are required in order to observe the change in direction of the path of
the students:
 The students must change speed when crossing the boundary.
 The students must approach the boundary at an angle; refraction will
not occur when they approach the boundary head-on (i.e., heading
perpendicular to it).
Refraction and Sight
We are able to see because light from an object can travel to our eyes.
Every object that can be seen is seen only because light from that object
travels to our eyes. As you look at Mary in class, you are able to see Mary
because she is illuminated with light and that light reflects off of her and
travels to your eye. In the process of viewing Mary, you are directing your
sight along a line in the direction of Mary.
The Broken Pencil
As light travels through a given medium, it travels in a straight line.
However, when light passes from one medium into a second medium, the
light path bends. Refraction takes place. The refraction occurs only at the
boundary. Once the light has crossed the boundary between the two media,
it continues to travel in a straight line. Only now, the direction of that line
is different than it was in the former medium. If when sighting at an object,
light from that object changes media on the way to your eye, a visual
distortion is likely to occur. This visual distortion is witnessed if you look at
a pencil submerged in a glass half-filled with water.
The brain judges the image location to be the location where light rays
appear to originate from.

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