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Author Topic: Why does heat distort light?  (Read 20386 times)

therodgers21

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Why does heat distort light?
« on: 14/09/2008 10:59:07 »
therodgers21  asked the Naked Scientists:

How can something as slow as heat waves distort something as fast as light?

Love the podcasts.

Bruce Rodgers

What do you think?


 

Offline graham.d

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Why does heat distort light?
« Reply #1 on: 14/09/2008 15:28:22 »
I expect you are referring to heat effects due to light passing through air, wobbling images, mirages etc. This is due to the air having a refractive index that is not equal to 1 (as would empty space) and this refractive index varying with temperature. The light is continually bent this way and that by complex patterns of pockets of air at different temperatures. Although each time the deviation is not much, over a distance the net effect can be quite large and images very distorted. Because of temperature gradients as a result of the air being hotter nearer the ground, for example, the image may remain largely coherent leading to mirages.
 

Offline wolfekeeper

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Why does heat distort light?
« Reply #2 on: 17/09/2008 03:25:22 »
Yeah, it's the refractive index, which varies, in turn presumably due to the variations in density due to hot air being lighter.
 

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Why does heat distort light?
« Reply #2 on: 17/09/2008 03:25:22 »

 

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