What Is the Difference Between Reflection and Refraction?

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The difference between reflection and refraction is that in reflection waves bounce off of a surface while in refraction those waves do not bounce back but pass through the surface, which bends them and changes the speed of the waves. The image of a face is reflected back from a pool of water, but the light on the bottom of the pool of water is refracted because it is uneven and hazy due to the way the water bends the light waves.

According to How Stuff Works, reflection occurs when waves are bent back after hitting a surface. Reflection is necessary to vision. All objects reflect some wavelengths of light. The precise wavelengths reflected and absorbed determine the colors of objects.

According to Dictionary, refraction waves are also bent, but they travel through the substance as well as being bent back. In this way, a pool of water that reflects light and therefore shows the image of a face also refracts that light, causing it to give the bottom of the pool a speckled look. The reason for refraction is that waves pass at different speeds through different substances. The wavelengths of light that determine color are broken up during refraction, which creates rainbows.