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Controlled Variables in Exp to determine Refractive Index

  1. Feb 16, 2010 #1
    1. The problem statement, all variables and given/known data
    My question is very basic, yet one which has become increasingly frustrating.
    I am doing an investigation into determing the refractive index of Perspex for an assignment. To do this I am using a light ray box to shine a ray onto a rectangular perspex prism, and then using a pencil to trace out the path of the light ray. Then using a protractor to find the angles of incidence and refraction...before putting it into snell's law to give me the refractive index. My question is What would the controlled variables be in this experiment???

    2. Relevant equations
    BTW, I'm using the equation:

    sin i/sin r = n

    to find refractive index (being n in this case)

    3. The attempt at a solution

    Back to my problem.
    The only controlled variable I can come up with is the temperature of the air; as cold and hot air density varies. I cannot think of anymore and I need to clearly state them as part of this assignment. Any ideas?

    Thanks for any help. This is a wonderful forum which I'm sure I will be using in the future as I'm doing highschool physics through distance education.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 17, 2010 #2


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    Homework Helper

    Temperature is one thing but you can not control it two much. You are not supposed to freeze or boil yourself during an experiment. Nevertheless, you have to note the temperature in your report.

    The controlled parameter really counts is the colour of light. If white light is incident on the prism, you will notice that the refracted light is decomposed to colours of rainbow: the angle of refraction is different for different colours, and so is the refractive index. It depends on the frequency (or vacuum wavelength) of light.

  4. Feb 22, 2010 #3
    k thanks for that
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