The obscure word of the week is birefringent

look_it_up_T httpwww.clipartpal.comclipart_pdeducationdictionary_10586.htmlThis week’s obscure English word is birefringent.

This is a physics term meaning something that has two refractive indices. Just to explain that, most transparent materials bend light in one direction, a ‘refractive’ property. Birefringence is usually a product of crystalline minerals such as calcite, and of the way light is bent in two directions when shone through it. Scottish scientist and inventor William Nicol exploited this fact in 1828 to create a ‘Nicol Prism’, which produces polarised light (today it’s usually done with a layer of iodine crystals, which have similar properties).

Your challenge? Write a sentence (or two) in the comments using this word.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2017

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6 thoughts on “The obscure word of the week is birefringent

  1. Thanks for the explanation. Before I clicked from the reader I thought ‘birefringent’ was going to mean ‘a male bisexual with a new hairstyle that he used to have when he was growing up but now has had done again’.

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