Objects near a fire place appear to shimmer. Why?


This is due to continuous change in the refractive index of air brought about by random motion of smoke and temperature fluctuations near the fire place.

  • The air rises and becomes hotter as it passes over the hot surface.  Space is occupied by cool air.
  • Hot air has a lower refractive index than cooler air.
  • As a result, the physical state of the medium varies.
  • The light tends to come from different directions due to the medium’s changing Refractive Index (RI).
  • As a consequence, the apparent location of objects fluctuates.

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