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How is the water shiny?

How is the water shiny?
Ryan Parry from Swansea (Age 5-14)

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One Response

  1. Light is quite good at penetrating water if it strikes the air/water surface at 90 degrees. A small amount is reflected to our eyes. So if we are on a boat in a very calm and deep lake, the water will look quite dark and not shiny.

    Alternatively, if the light strikes the surface at a very shallow angle then nearly 99% of the light will be reflected. So if we look at a rough sea with the sun low in the sky and very bright there will some surfaces on the waves where the incidence angle is shallow and we see a very bright sparkle. The same is true of rain drops on a car roof. At some part of the curve the angle is just right to reflect a lot of light and the drops look very bright and shiny.

    If you have polarising sun glasses, these are designed to minimise the reflections from water surfaces such as lakes and wet roads etc.

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