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MCAT Question A Day - 9/4/13 - Answer!

Light is incident on a prism at an angle of 90° relative to its surface. The index o refraction of the prism material is 1.50. Which of the following statements is most accurate?

A.  The angle of refraction will be greater than 0° but less than 45°.
B.  The angle of refraction will be greater than 45° but less than 90°.
C.  The angle of refraction will be 0°.
D.  The angle of refraction cannot be determined from the information given.

The correct answer is (C). Snell’s law is n1 sin(theta1) = n2 sin(theta2). Since the incident rays are normal to the prism surface, (theta1) = 0°, and sin 0° = 0. Since 0 = n2 sin(theta2),  (theta2) = 0.