Skip to Content

Refraction of Light in Water Experiment (Video)

Have you noticed that things look a little funny when you see them through a glass of water? 

Some of the aberrations are caused by the imperfection in the glass production. But there is more to it.

Refraction is the bending of light as it passes from one transparent medium into another​1​

This bending by refraction allows us to make use of lenses, magnifying glasses, prisms, etc.

It also makes it possible for us to see because our eyes use lenses to focus images onto our retina.

Here are two simple and fun water refraction experiments.

Water Refraction - Light Science Experiment

Refraction of Light in Water

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Here is an easy science experiment you can do to "wow" your kids or friends. It's super simple and you can set it up within minutes.

Materials

  • water
  • graphics you want to see the changes

Tools

  • a clear glass or jar
  • adult supervision

Instructions

  1. Place the glass in front of the graphics.
  2. Adjust the distance between the glass and the graphics until the image can be seen clearly through the empty glass.
  3. Slowly pour the water in and see what happens.
    smiling face behind glass, water poured into the glass, reversed smiling face behind glass full of water
    right arrow behind glass, left arrow behind glass full of water

Did you try this project?

Follow us on Pinterest and share a photo!

Notes

  • Do the experiment again using different distances between the glass and the graphics.
  • Try glasses and jars of different shapes.
  • Try using different liquids such as oil, juice, etc.

Why

Have you noticed that things look a little funny when you see them through a glass of water? 

Some of the aberrations are caused by the imperfection in the glass production. But there is more to it.

Refraction is the bending of light as it passes from one transparent medium into another​1​

This bending by refraction allows us to make use of lenses, magnifying glasses, prisms, etc.

It also makes it possible for us to see because our eyes use lenses to focus images onto our retina.

Refraction Experiment - bending of light from air to water

When light travels through a cylindrical glass, it bends when entering the glass and water, and then it bends again when leaving the water and glass.

As a result, the light paths cross and the image appears to be flipped horizontally (left/right).

Illustration of refraction of light after passing through a glass of water

Science Kits And Books On Light


References

  1. 1.
    Jiang W, Chen RT, Lu X. Theory of light refraction at the surface of a photonic crystal. Phys Rev B. June 2005. doi:10.1103/physrevb.71.245115

Balloon Rocket Car Race | STEM Experiment
Previous
Balloon Rocket Car Race | Propulsion STEM Activity
Next
2 Light Refraction Experiments
Disclaimer and Safety Precautions

Rookieparenting.com provides science activity ideas for informational purposes only. Rookieparenting.com does not make any guarantee or representation regarding such ideas and is not responsible or liable for any loss or damage, directly or indirectly, caused by your use of such information.

By accessing the science activity ideas on Rookieparenting.com, you waive and renounce any claims against Rookieparenting.com that arise thereof. In addition, your access to Rookieparenting.com's website is covered by Rookieparenting.com's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Warning is hereby given that not all activities are appropriate for all individuals or in all situations. Implementation should be undertaken only in appropriate settings and with appropriate parental or adult supervision.

Reading and following the safety precautions of all materials used in an activity is the sole responsibility of each individual. For further information, consult your state's Science Safety Handbook.

Skip to Instructions