|MadSci Network: Physics|
Hi there, Beth! Really sorry to take so long getting this to you! My computer is having trouble talking to other computers these days, so I don't always know if my answer gets through. I keep trying, so, assuming this one does… I think what you are referring to is called "refraction". That's a funny word for light rays getting "bent" because they don't travel at the same speed in water, glass, etc., as they do in empty space. If light travels from a vacuum to another medium it gets "slowed down" by electromagnetic interactions. The air-water mix we live in (not too dense, so, still pretty much like a vacuum,) scatters and slows the light. Then, however, the light hits a more dense thing, like clear glass. This slows it down some compared to the rest of the light which doesn't hit the glass. We mostly don't notice this. But… When light goes from air, into glass, into water, through some more glass, then out into the air again, finally striking our retinas, well, we notice something odd! Look at your glass of water with the spoon in it from the top. What do you see? The handle of the spoon looks bent! Is it, really? No. What you're seeing is a "trick" called refraction. The light hitting the spoon, then your eye, is different from the light which has to hit the water, the spoon, more water, then your eye! Another person asked me a similar question once. "Fishing" for the answer, I decided to have a little fun. (Hope you do, too.) Here is a link to my answer: a previous answer I'm going to make a guess about the magnification you ask about. I THINK the spoon looks bigger under the water (inside the glass) for the same reason I mentioned above. (Refraction.) (I THOUGHT I could prove this by plopping a spoon into a nifty clear wine glass full of water. I THOUGHT I'd see different magnification as I rotated the glass...knowing about refraction, as I do. Shows what I know! It all looks the same to me! That spoon really does look bigger, doesn't it?!) I still think my original response to your answer holds true, though. You see, refraction is what makes lenses work. My glasses are lenses. So are magnifying "glasses". Our spoons are magnified by "lenses" made of water, glass, and air. Refraction is what makes the lenses work! (It's not really an illusion. It's really about how light REALLY works!) If you want to get really technical, you can research "refraction", "index of refraction", or, "Snell's Law" on your computer. (If you need a place to start, check out the MadSci Search Engine.) I hope this helps, Beth, and I hope you receive it! E-mail me if I can help you more. Your MadSci, -Matt firstname.lastname@example.org
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