UCSB Science Line Does the consistency of an object increase or decrease magnification, thus play a role in refraction? Question Date: 2017-03-04 Answer 1:Interesting question! Short answer: sometimes. Here's the long answer. I think that the words "magnification and "refraction" should be switched in your question. That's because every material has a property called the refractive index. On the other hand, you can change the magnification of a telescope in many ways, like by changing the refractive index of a lens, or by cutting the lens into a more curved shape, or by moving the lens up or down the telescope. How does the refractive index affect magnification? The refractive index n determines the angle of refraction for light that enters a new medium. In other words, the refractive index controls how much light "bends" when it passes through a new medium. Here, "medium" means any substance or material that light is passing through, whether it's solid, liquid, gas, or a combination of different things. For example, the medium can be air, water, glass, a rain-cloud, or simply vacuum (nothing). Each of these media has a different refractive index. Snell's law tells you how light will bend when it changes media. Wolfram ScienceWorld has a simple diagram showing how Snell's law works. You need to know three things: the refractive indices for the starting medium (n1) and the end medium (n2) and the angle of incidence (the direction that light is coming from). Then you can use Snell's law to calculate the angle of refraction. So does the consistency of a medium change its refractive index? Sometimes. Let's just say that every medium can have a different refractive index. For example, a dense glass usually has a much higher refractive index than a light glass. For other materials, I don't know any rules about how consistency will affect the refractive index, or if it would have no effect--I would just have to test it.Click Here to return to the search form.    Copyright © 2020 The Regents of the University of California, All Rights Reserved. UCSB Terms of Use