How Fast Does Light Travel in Water vs. Air? Refraction Experiment
How fast does light travel, and does it travel faster in water or air? The fastest thing in the whole universe is the speed of light in a vacuum (like outer space!), clocking in at a great 2.99 x 108 m/s. Light travels in waves, and we call this traveling propagation. Propagation of waves has both a speed and a direction, called the velocity. The velocity of light changes depends on the material it travels through.
Light waves can be changed in a few different ways. Reflection is when the waves bounce off a surface and change direction, like when they hit a mirror or pool of water. Diffraction spreads out light waves; an example of this is water vapor in the air diffracting light from the sun to create a rainbow. The third type of light behavior is refraction. Refraction is where light waves pass through a material (what scientists call a medium) and change direction. Have you ever stuck your arm beneath the surface of the water in a fountain or swimming pool, and wondered why it looks like it has a sharp bend in it right at the surface? This is because of refraction!
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