What are the similarities and differences of reflection and refraction? thanks

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dcbiostat eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Reflection and refraction are both behaviors of waves , such as light and sound waves.  

To “reflect” means to “bounce off of”. Reflection of light occurs the best off of smooth, hard, and shiny surfaces. When bouncing off of such surfaces, light reflects in the same angle as it hit the surface. Shiny, rough surfaces cause light to reflect in all directions. This is referred to as the “scattering” of light. Reflection of light decreases on opaque, rough surfaces.

Echoes are reflections of sound waves. Sound echoes the best off of smooth, hard surfaces. This is why your voice echoes well off of the walls and floors of a gymnasium. Sound does not echo well off of a soft, rough surface. This is why your voice does not echo in a carpeted living room.

Refraction is the bending of a wave as it enters a medium that causes the wave’s speed to change. As light enters from a fast medium into a slow medium, the light wave bends toward the normal to the boundary between the two media.

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