- How a normal appears in a geometric drawing depends on the circumstances:
- When light strikes a flat surface or plane, or the boundary between two surfaces, the normal is drawn perpendicular to the surface, forming a right angle (90°) with it.
- Expressed more formally, in optics, the normal is a geometric construct, a line drawn perpendicular to the interface between two media at the point of contact. This conceptually defined reference line is crucial for characterizing various light-matter interactions, such as reflection, refraction, and absorption.
- When light hits a curved surface, the normal line is drawn straight up from the point where the light hits the surface.
- If light travels directly through the centre of a sphere, the normal line also passes through the centre of the sphere.
- Light travels in a straight line through a vacuum or a transparent medium such as air, glass, or water that is still or in a constant state of motion.
- When light encounters an obstacle or passes from one transparent medium to another, it can result in a variety of optical phenomena including absorption, dispersion, diffraction, polarization, reflection, refraction, scattering, or transmission.
- Geometry can be used to calculate the outcome of light encountering different optical phenomena, such as the angle of refraction or reflection.
- When a normal is drawn on a ray-tracing diagram, it provides a reference perpendicular to the surface against which changes in direction of light can be measured.