A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Science Guy: Reverse the direction of arrow with water, glass and the science of light


Did you know you can change the direction of an arrow just by using water?
 

The reversing arrow

 
Ingredients:
 
• Transparent glass
 
• Black permanent water
 
• Piece of paper
 
• Water
 
Instructions:
 
Step 1: Fill the transparent glass with water.
 
Step 2: Using the black permanent marker, draw a horizontal arrow on the piece of paper.
 
Step 3: Place the piece of paper with the horizontal arrow behind the transparent glass of water. Make sure the paper is touching the transparent glass of water and observe the horizontal arrow.
 
Step 4: Move the piece of paper with the horizontal arrow away from the transparent glass of water and observe the horizontal arrow.
 
Explanation:
 
As you moved the piece of paper with the horizontal arrow away from the transparent glass of water, the arrow appears to reverse. Light travels in a straight line until it hits an object. Then, the light may reflect or bounce off the object, refract or pass through the object, or absorb or get caught by the object. The light is refracted as it passes through the transparent glass, the water, then through the back of the transparent glass, and finally through the air to the paper with the horizontal arrow. This refraction causes the horizontal arrow to appear as if it is reversed.
 
See below for a video of this experiment:
 

 
 
 
 

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Click here for more experiments that might get you and your family “Hooked on Science.”
 

Jason Lindsey is an award-winning science educator and author. Jason studied science and journalism at Western Kentucky University, focusing on general science with an emphasis in meteorology and climatology. Each year he performs hands-on science experiments at hundreds of schools and community events throughout the United States, as well as produces and hosts a hands-on science segment airing on television stations across the nation. He previously worked as a chief meteorologist, backpack journalist, science reporter and webmaster.


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