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Candidate Name: Karolina Wilczyska

Candidate Number: 006644-0019


Session: May 2014

VERYFYING SNELLS LAW AND HENCE DETERMINING THE REFRACTIVE


INDEX OF GLASS

Data Collection & Processing


According to the Snells Law, the ratio of the sines of the angles of incidence and refraction is
constant for given media and is defined as a refractive index of the media.
The aim of experiment is to determine the refractive index of glass using the Snells Law, which is
calculated by the following formula:
n=
where: n is refractive index; i is the angle of incidence; r is the angle of refraction.

Table 1. Raw data


no. of
observation
1
2
3
4
5
6
7

incident
angle, i/
36.0
35.0
52.0
41.0
57.0
13.0
46.0

i /
1.0
1.0
1.0
1.0
1.0
1.0
1.0

refracted angle, r/
r1

r2

r3

r4

r5

22.0
20.0
31.0
25.0
34.0
6.0
30.0

23.0
22.0
30.0
25.0
34.0
9.0
30.0

23.0
20.0
32.0
22.0
29.0
6.0
29.0

24.0
20.0
31.0
25.0
32.0
7.0
29.0

25.0
21.0
33.0
24.0
31.0
8.0
31.0

r /
1.0
1.0
1.0
1.0
1.0
1.0
1.0

Finding the uncertainties of incident and refracted angles:


The uncertainty of result obtained with the use of an analog apparatus is equal to one half of its
smallest division interval. The angles were measured with the use of protractor thats least count is
1, therefore the uncertainty is 1.0.

Candidate Name: Karolina Wilczyska

Candidate Number: 006644-0019


Session: May 2014

Table 2. Processed data


no. of
observation

average
refracted
angle, rav /

1
2
3
4
5
6
7

23.4
20.6
31.4
24.2
32.0
7.2
29.8

rav /
1.5
1
1.5
1.5
2.5
1.5
1

sin i

sin r

0.588
0.574
0.788
0.656
0.839
0.225
0.643

0.391
0.358
0.521
0.407
0.530
0.122
0.500

sin i / sin r
1.50
1.60
1.51
1.61
1.58
1.85
1.29

Calculating the average refracted angle:


Average refracted angle is obtained by calculating arithmetic mean of the measurements taken, e.g.
r av =

= 23.4

Calculating the average angle uncertainty:


The average angle uncertainty is calculated with the use of following formula:
r av =

= 1.5

Calculating the sines of incident and average refracted angles and the ratio between them:
Each of the results mentioned above was obtained with the use of scientific calculator.

Candidate Name: Karolina Wilczyska

Candidate Number: 006644-0019


Session: May 2014

Table 3. Processed data

no. of
observation
1
2
3
4
5
6
7

sin i

i + i

0.588
0.574
0.788
0.656
0.839
0.225
0.719

37.0
36.0
53.0
42.0
58.0
14.0
47.0

sin (i +
i)
0.602
0.588
0.799
0.669
0.848
0.242
0.731

sin i

sin r

r + r

0.014
0.014
0.011
0.013
0.009
0.017
0.012

0.391
0.358
0.521
0.407
0.530
0.122
0.500

24.9
21.6
32.9
25.7
34.5
8.7
30.8

sin (r +
r)
0.421
0.368
0.543
0.434
0.566
0.151
0.512

sin r
0.030
0.010
0.022
0.027
0.036
0.029
0.012

Calculating the uncertainty of the sines of incident and average refracted angles:
The uncertainties are calculated with the use of following formula:
y = f(x + x) f(x)

Hence:
i = sin(i + i) sin(i)
i = sin(36.0 + 1.0) sin(36.0) = sin(37.0) sin(36.0) = 0.602 0.588 = 0.014

r = sin(r + r) sin(r)
r = sin(32.0 + 2.5) sin(32.0) = sin(34.5) sin(32.0) = 0.556 0.530 = 0.036

sin i /
sin r
1.50
1.60
1.51
1.61
1.58
1.85
1.44

sin i
/ sin r
0.153
0.083
0.085
0.139
0.127
0.584
0.059

Candidate Name: Karolina Wilczyska

Candidate Number: 006644-0019


Session: May 2014

Graph 1. sin r versus sin i

sin r vs. sin i


0.600

0.500

sin r

0.400
y = 0.694x - 0.031
0.300

sin r vs. sin i


Linear (sin r vs. sin i)

0.200

0.100

0.000
0.000

0.200

0.400

0.600

0.800

1.000

sin i

From the graph we can see, that the values of sine of incident and refracted angles increase
proportionally, as the points are located along the straight line.
The line, which is a trend line of the graph, does not cross the origin as is passes 0.031 below.
By adding equation of trend line I found the slope of graph, which is equal to reversed value of
refractive index, if uncertainties are neglected.
There is one point, however, that coordinates are (0.719, 0.500) what located it slightly above the
trend line.

Candidate Name: Karolina Wilczyska

Candidate Number: 006644-0019


Session: May 2014

Graph 2. sin r versus sin i

sin r vs. sin i


0.600

0.500
y = 0.7719x - 0.0812
0.400

sin r

y = 0.5573x + 0.0259

sin r vs. sin i


min line

0.300

max line
Linear (min line)
0.200

Linear (max line)

0.100

0.000
0.000

0.200

0.400

0.600

0.800

1.000

sin i

To add min and max lines, the exact values of refracted angles uncertainties were used.
In order to calculate the Y coordinates of min line, I added the uncertainty of sin(7.2) to the Y
coordinate of the first point and subtracted the uncertainty of sin(32.0) from the Y coordinate of
the last point. The X coordinates remained unchanged. As a result, I obtained the line with the slope
equal to 0.5573.
In an analogous way I added the max line. I subtracted the uncertainty of sin(7.2) from the Y
coordinate of the first point and added the uncertainty of sin(32.0) to the Y coordinate of the last
point. The X coordinates remained unchanged. As a result, I obtained the line with the slope equal to
0.7719.
The slopes of both max and min line were found through the equation of the lines, which were
added to the graph.
5

Candidate Name: Karolina Wilczyska

Candidate Number: 006644-0019


Session: May 2014

Calculating the value of n:


As it follows from the formula given, the value of sine of incident angle divided by the value of sine
of the refracted angle is equivalent to the value of refractive index. Therefore, the slopes of the
graphs above are reversed values of refractive index.
Hence:
n=
m min = 0.5573
n max =

= 1.794

m max = 0.7719
n min =

= 1.296

The value of refractive index is found by calculating the reversed value of the slope of the trend line
of the graph.
n =

= 1.441

The refractive index uncertainty is calculated with the use of formula given below:
n=

= 0.125

Hence, the final value of glass refractive index investigated through this experiment, rounded to two
decimal places, is equivalent to:
n = 1.44 0.12

Candidate Name: Karolina Wilczyska

Candidate Number: 006644-0019


Session: May 2014

Conclusion & Evaluation


Conclusion
According to the data I found in the Internet1, the glass refractive index may vary from 1.485 to
1.925, depending on type and purity of glass.
Due to the fact, that it is crown glass that is used as optic material, I assume that the glass block I
used to conduct this experiment was made of this type. Thus the range of refractive index value is
narrowed to 1.50 1.54. According to that, the result I obtained is not accurate, as it equals to 1.44
according to the calculations based on the slope of Graph 1 presented in the DCP part, which is
below the range. Using a median of crown glass refractive index values, I calculated the percentage
error I got.
100% = 5.3%
The error calculation above shows that the result I obtained is not very accurate, nevertheless as the
error does not exceed 10 per cent, it is still conclusive and close to the actual refractive index value,
provided that the glass used in the experiment was in fact the crown glass.

Evaluation and future improvements


From the fact that the value of glass refractive I have obtained is not exactly accurate follows that
there are some errors involved, which have influenced the final result.
The main cause for the significant difference between real and investigated value are random errors
that are involved. Apparently, despite quintuple repetition of each measurement, some random
errors were not reduced enough.
For example, according the Graph 1, the ratio between sin r and sin I for the angle of incidence
equivalent to 46 (observation no. 7) is above the trend line. Although it cannot be considered as an
anomaly yet, the distance between the point and the trend line is the highest in this case. With the
use of equation of the trend line, I calculated the refracted angle that should be measured:
y = 0.694x 0.031
hence,
sin r =

= 0.467986

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_refractive_indices, accessed on 06-03-2014

Candidate Name: Karolina Wilczyska

Candidate Number: 006644-0019


Session: May 2014

According to trigonometric tables, the most accurate angle corresponding to the value of sine I
obtained is 28. Among the measurements I have taken, however, the angle of refraction equals to
30 in this case. Therefore, the calculations revealed a significant random error.
Moreover, despite the fact that I marked the area, where the glass block was initially placed, with a
propelling pencil in order to hold the same location throughout the whole experiment, it might have
not been enough to prevent an error. It is due to the fact that the glass block was not fixed and got
displaced several times. The marking is always a little greater than dimensions of the glass block,
thus its position might have been slightly shifted.
In order to reduce the possibility of error, the glass block should be fixed to the board or stuck to the
paper in order to avoid potential displacement. Another possible solution is using a glass block that
has greater dimensions, so that its weight increased and as a result the block cannot be moved that
easily.
Besides, the pins were fixed manually during the observation. It is possible, that they were not
located exactly on a straight line, due to lack of human precision.
In order to make the measurements more accurate, a beam of colour light can be used. Thus the
error caused by deficiency of human sight is reduced, as the pins no longer need to be observed
through the glass. Instead, they only need to be fixed on the line, which is created by the light beam.
Using a board made of a softer material, for example cork one instead of wooden, would also help to
reduce possible errors. The experiment would be then easier to conduct, as the pins would be fixed
to the board in much more stable way and thus less likely to get detached from the wood.
Furthermore, all seven observations were made on the same piece of paper. As a result, the marked
points were very close to each other, what led to confusion and might have caused less accurate
results of the refracted angle measurements.
Therefore one piece of paper three observations should be taken at the outmost. It would make the
results more clear and lead to greater accuracy of measurements.

All in all, these possible errors affected the final result only to a limited extent, as it is not that far
from the actual value. Perhaps the greatest strength of this experiment was that each measurement
was taken five times. In this way the random error, particularly evident in the aforementioned
observation 7, was reduced. Also a precise protractor, with a smallest division equal to 1,
contributed to the reliable results that were obtained. Not only was reading of the angle sizes easy,
but also the uncertainty of each reading was 0.5 and combined from two ends gave the total
uncertainty of the measurements equal to 1, which is relatively small. The fact that one protractor
was used throughout the experiment caused that the systematic error it includes, if any, remained
constant for all measurements. Finally, the use of the same set of identical pins and the same glass
block ensured that specific properties of these objects, such as the size of the pins, and the shape
and refractive index of the glass block, were maintained. Even if seemingly identical objects had
been used, these properties might have been slightly different, and affected the results.