Fun with plants – Refraction

Let’s do a simple experiment. To prepare I’ve cut two silverbeet leaves from the garden. (You might call this chard – it’s the same thing.) Each goes in a glass. One glass is filled with water and the other glass is dry.

silverbeet refraction 2

Hey wait a minute!

Do you see that? See how the stalk in water doesn’t seem to connect to the stalk in the air? It’s called REFRACTION.

silverbeet refraction closeup

It looks bigger in water too.

silverbeet refraction closeup 3

We don’t always see things as they are!

When you see something – like a leaf – it’s because light has hit the leaf and bounced off it, onto your eye. Light travels. Have you heard of a light year? That’s how far light goes in a year. It’s a very very long way – light is very fast.

In the picture you can see through the water because light went through it. The same with the glass.

Not only does light travel, but it can change direction. Light can bend when it moves from air into water, or water into air. (Click here for a simple diagram that shows you how that works.)

You can do this for yourself, maybe with a spoon in a glass of water.

See how the bricks curve behind the glass. That’s refraction too. You can find out more about refraction if you’re interested. There are some links below.

Anyway – that’s not why I cut two leaves.

Why did I cut two?

Can you guess what I’m going to do with them?

Find out more next time.



There are quite a few! They include chard, Swiss chard, silverbeet, perpetual spinach, spinach beet, crab beet, bright lights, seakale beet, mangold and spinach. This list is from the wikipedia entry for chard:




Cross-posted to Real Science and Other Adventures