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Home > Science & Nature > Science > Physics > Language > Words > Reflection and Refraction Compared

Difference Between Reflection and Refraction

Reflection vs Refraction

Reflection is a “mirror-like” representation of an object’s image being bounced back from another surface. Refraction is a change in direction of a state or an object due to a change of its speed. The change is visible when an object passes from one medium to another, depending on the angle of change. The two are similar in a sense because they provide an almost perfect image of an object. A reflection presents an almost distort-less replica of an image, a refraction of an image may present a slight distortion or contortion change for an image’s form. So, both reflection and refraction give out a replica of an object’s base image.

A reflection is a result of light bouncing off an object and hitting another clear surface, giving out an object’s mirror-like image. This is most apparent and clear on mirrors and water surfaces. A reflection usually gives out little or no distortion on an object’s image, depending on the surface’s “flatness”. Reflections are more commonly used by people to sort out their facial arrangement, hair arrangement, how they wear their clothes, whether they appear neat and clean in public, etc. This is because of the little or no distortion given out by a reflection. Plus, depending on light conditions, one can even enhance or de-scale one’s reflection.

Refraction is what is in layman’s terms, an object’s visual proportion being distorted or refined when passing from one state to another through an angle. This is most visible when viewing objects on, for example, droplets of water, etc. Try putting a straw on a glass of water at an inclining angle, you would notice or see that the straw is “bent” once submerged in water. That is an example of refraction. But refraction is not only limited to images, it is also present in sound waves when it interacts with another medium. The most common example for refraction is image refraction. As far as sound refraction is concerned, it is clear and apparent during sound editing or when sound is bounced off solid surfaces, for example.

Reflection and Refraction are similar because:

• They show a representation of an object.

They differ from each other because:

• A reflection gives out a perfect or almost perfect representation of an object; refraction may distort the image, depending on the angle which image hits another surface.

• Refraction may also be involved in sound waves, whereas a reflection is mainly based on images.

• Reflections are used in everyday life, for example, hair arrangement, fashion, cosmetics, beauty arrangement. Refractions are used mainly in researching about light properties, sound editing, anything involving science.

• Refractions are useful in making visual illusions as well.

• Reflections can be enhanced depending on lighting scenarios; refractions are somewhat difficult to do so.


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