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THE MENLO ROUNDTABLE

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8 Conclusion

Despite these inaccuracies, by the end of the experiment it was clear that salinity and temperature do aect the refraction of light in water. Although errors were present, I consider this experiment to be an overall success. Still, if I had the opportunity to perform it again there are a few things I would change. First, I would have taped down the “on” button on the laser so that no external force could accidentally move it as it was being pressed on and o. Additionally, I would have made the prism with thicker walls so that the water weight and heat would not be able distort it as easily. Even if the bowing did not aect the x-axis displacement per my observations, it would still be a good factor to remove. Lastly, I would pour in clean water and siphon it out a few times before switching to the temperature alternation so as to minimize the amount of residual salt. I would hope these alterations would allow the calculations and results to be even more precise.

As I nished my data collection, I also investigated what the refractive index would be for vinegar and oil. My results for vinegar were as expected, but I was surprised that the oil exhibited a much higher refractive index than water. Oil is less dense than water because it oats (and separates) when the two are put together. So why does the lighter- density uid have a higher index than the heavier one? I asked myself if my hypothesis was something that only applied to materials of the same substance (i.e., if you had oil with a high density and oil with a low density, would the higher density oil refract more?). It would be very interesting to measure refraction indexes with a number of dierent substances, and would be a good way to take this experiment to the next level.

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