CHAPTER – 10
Light – Reflection and Refraction
We see a variety of objects in the world around us. However, we are unable to see anything in a dark room. On lighting up the room, things become visible. What makes things visible? During the day, the sunlight helps us to see objects. An object reflects light that falls on it. This reflected light, when received by our eyes, enables us to see things. We are able to see through a transparent medium as light is transmitted through it. There are a number of common wonderful phenomena associated with light such as image formation by mirrors, the twinkling of stars, the beautiful colours of a rainbow, bending of light by a medium and so on. A study of the properties of light helps us to explore them. By observing the common optical phenomena around us, we may conclude that light seems to travel in straight lines. The fact that a small source of light casts a sharp shadow of an opaque object points to this straight-line path of light, usually indicated as a ray of light..
If an opaque object on the path of light becomes very small, light has a tendency to bend around it and not walk in a straight line – an effect known as the diffraction of light. Then the straight-line treatment of optics using rays fails. To explain phenomena such as diffraction, light is thought of as a wave, the details of which you will study in higher classes. Again, at the beginning of the 20th century, it became known that the wave theory of light often becomes inadequate for treatment of the interaction of light with matter, and light often behaves somewhat like a stream of particles. This confusion about the true nature of light continued for some years till a modern quantum theory of light emerged in which light is neither a ‘wave’ nor a ‘particle’ – the new theory reconciles the particle properties of light with the wave nature.
In this Chapter, we shall study the phenomena of reflection and refraction of light using the straight-line propagation of light. These basic concepts will help us in the study of some of the optical phenomena in nature. We shall try to understand in this Chapter the reflection of light by spherical mirrors and refraction of light and their application in real life situations.