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Reflecting on Reflection: How Mirrors Work


What are mirrors?

Mirrors are shiny surfaces that reflect light in a way that allows us to see our reflection. Have you ever looked at yourself in a mirror? Did you notice that your reflection in the mirror is just as clear and detailed as you are in real life? That’s because mirrors are designed to reflect light in a very special way.

The History of Mirrors

Mirrors have been around for thousands of years. The first mirrors were made by polishing metal surfaces, like copper and bronze. These mirrors were not very clear, but they were still useful for seeing your reflection. Later on, people discovered that glass was a better material for making mirrors. They found that they could coat the back of a piece of glass with a thin layer of metal, like silver or aluminum, and create a much clearer reflection. Today, most mirrors are made from glass with a reflective coating on the back.

How do mirrors work?

Mirrors work by reflecting light in a certain way. Light is a type of energy that travels in straight lines. When light strikes a shiny surface, like a mirror, it bounces off the surface and reflects back in the opposite direction. The angle at which the light hits the mirror is called the angle of incidence, and the angle at which it reflects off the mirror is called the angle of reflection. Mirrors are designed to reflect light at exactly the same angle as it hits the surface, which makes it possible for us to see our reflection.

Reflective Coating

The back of a mirror is coated with a very thin layer of reflective material, like silver or aluminum. This coating is what makes the mirror reflective. When light hits the mirror, it passes through the glass and reflects off the reflective coating on the back. This causes the reflection to appear on the front of the mirror. The reflective coating is also what gives the mirror its color. Most mirrors have a greenish tint because of the way the reflective coating absorbs certain colors of light.

Reflection Quality

Mirrors are designed to reflect light in a way that keeps the reflection clear and detailed. The quality of the reflection depends on the quality of the mirror. A mirror that is not perfectly flat or smooth may distort the reflection. A mirror that is dirty or scratched may also make the reflection appear blurry. The angle at which the mirror is placed can also affect the quality of the reflection. For example, if you tilt a mirror too much, the reflection may appear distorted or stretched out.

Types of Mirrors

There are several different types of mirrors that people use for different purposes. Here are some examples:

Plane Mirrors

A plane mirror is a flat mirror that reflects light in a way that creates a virtual image of the object being reflected. This means that the image appears to be behind the mirror, even though it is not really there. You might have seen a plane mirror in your bathroom or bedroom. They are also used in cars and in makeup mirrors.

Concave Mirrors

A concave mirror is a curved mirror that reflects light inward. This means that it creates an image that is magnified and often upside down. Concave mirrors are used in telescopes and other optical devices.

Convex Mirrors

A convex mirror is a curved mirror that reflects light outward. This means that it creates an image that is smaller and often right-side up. Convex mirrors are used in security cameras and in car side mirrors.

Fun Facts about Mirrors

Did you know that:

– Mirrors can be used to start a fire in a survival situation because they reflect sunlight in a focused beam.
– The world’s largest mirror is the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia, which is a 10000 square km salt plain that acts like a giant mirror.
– The first mirror factory in the United States was established in 1835 in Brooklyn, New York.
– In ancient cultures, mirrors were believed to have magical powers and were used in ceremonies and rituals.


Mirrors are important tools that help us see ourselves and the world around us. They work by reflecting light in a special way, and there are different types of mirrors for different purposes. By reflecting on reflection, we can learn more about the science behind how mirrors work, and appreciate the ways in which they enhance our daily lives.

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