Flipping arrow – awesome refraction demonstration

Posted: April 26, 2014 in Institute of Physics, Thoughts and ideas
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

When @CardiffScience posted (on Google+) a video demonstration of an arrow drawn on a piece of paper that flipped direction when seen through a glass of water I knew I had to try it myself and write this post. The video below shows the demonstration which is pretty neat, but carry on readying below the video for what I think is the explanation.

As some of you might know, I am one of the Editors of Talkphysics.org with David Cotton and he posted the below photo on this thread, which is think is a convincing explanation of what goes on in my video of the flipping arrow. glycerol_zpsee0be2d7 If you trace the path of the three rays in the Dave’s photo you can see the ray that start from the top slit from the ray box ends up at the bottom on the multimeter. This is essentially what is happening in the video, so the light reflected by the right side of the arrow gets refracted by the water inside the glass and ends up on the left when it reaches the camera. Looking at the photo above though gave me an idea, i.e. “If I go close enough to the glass I should go beyond the focal point of the glass lens and see the arrow flipping again!” – WRONG! That didn’t actually happen. However, I just noticed that Dave’s liquid was Glycerine (at least if the name of his image file tells the truth), so I wondered whether the refractive index of glycerol was such to cause less bending inside the glass, but I was wrong again. In fact, water has a refractive index of 1.33 and glycerol of about 1.47, so there should be more bending of light inside the glass. I still haven’t figured out why I can’t flip the image again if I go close enough to the glass, but I still think it was worth posting this article and if you know the answer, please leave a comment! Thanks!

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Comments
  1. 0olong says:

    Could it be that your glass is curved such that the focal point is actually inside of it? I just tried it with a glass I’ve got here, and it *does* flip as I move it towards and away from the glass, but it looks like the focal point is less than two inches behind it…

    • Alessio Bernardelli says:

      Yes, it must be to do with the focal point and I agree the curvature counts. Thanks for the comment.

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