How does a prism work?

Answer

A prism works by slowing down light proportionally to wavelength as it enters into the prism, which causes the rainbow effect. Light changes speed as it moves from the air to another substance. This causes the light to change course.

In order to achieve the effect, the light must enter the prism at an angle. The light then bends once it is inside the prism and again when the light leaves the prism. Each wavelength of light gets bent at different angles. This causes each color to fan out and become more distinct.

1 Additional Answer
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How Do Prisms Work
When light passes from the air into glass, it slows down, and when it leaves the glass, it speeds up again. If the light hits the glass at an angle instead of dead-on, it undergoes refraction. The angle at which it hits the glass is not the same as the... More »
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Prisms work by refracting or the dispersion of light. In some instances, they may instead work by creating an internal reflection of the light. You can find more ...
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