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Disappearing Objects & Refractive Index

Scitech presenter Mita shows us a sciencey magic trick using the power of refractive index.

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Why do objects look like they move when placed in water? How does light bend?

Join Mita as we explore the magical science of refraction with an easy refractive index experiment that you can do at home. Can you trick your family members?

What you’ll need:

  • Water
  • Two large clear containers
  • Glass containers (such as jars)
  • Glycerin or vegetable oil
  • Tongs
  • Rubber gloves


  1. Fill your first large container with water, and the other container with glycerin (or vegetable oil).
  2. Step 2 Insert your glass object into the tub of water and look at the point where the water and the air touch.

    Notice how the glass object appears to be disjointed below the surface of the water – here, you’re observing the effect known as “refraction”.

  3. Step 3 Next, try submerging your glass object into the tub of glycerin. Can you see your object at all now (or has it disappeared below the surface)?


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