Bending Light

Stars are able to bend light because of the enormous gravitational pull they have, but you don't have to be a Superman or a Superwoman to bend light...

You still don't believe that light can be bent? Then try this for yourself!!

A Broken Pencil?

  • Fill a clear drinking glass 1/2 full of water.
  • Place a pencil or straw in the glass holding is straight up and down (vertical).
  • The pencil should look normal. Lean the pencil against the side of the glass.

How does it look now? Back up a little or peer in from the top. It should look like it is broken and bent at a funny angle. This is the effect of refraction or bending of light.

We use this idea to make lenses - shaped pieces of glass that bend light in a special way.

Lenses are used in telescopes to make things far away appear to be closer. They are also used in microscopes to make small things appear to be larger.



  1. If you don't have a prism at home to play with (often found in old binoculars) then try this demonstration...
  2. You can make a simple magnifying lens by dipping the top end of a hair clip into some water. You could use a piece of copper wire bent into a small loop at the top instead. Try out your water drop lens and see how many times bigger it makes things look.
  3. Want to make a better light bender? Build this microscope...
  4. Some microscopes do not use light at all. See what an electron microscope can do!
  5. Build a Sun Gun..look at the closest star to Earth during the day time...
  6. What kind of work did Albert Einstein and Sir Isaac Newton do on light?

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