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the only answer I can think of is that light is reflected from the objects in front of the mirror (visible color) and then reflects again off of the mirror to our eye, but im not quite satified with this answer

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Did I provide a satisfactory answer? –  Undo the Snowman Jun 6 '13 at 14:10

2 Answers 2

Your answer is correct. A mirror is simply a surface that does not trap light, and is smooth enough that the light 'bounces' off of it, much like a ball bounces off of concrete.

Light from some outside source hits your body (or any object) and bounces off of it. Some of that will hit the mirror, and some of the reflected light will hit your eyes.

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Think this way:

In order to light (an electromagnetic wave) to propagate through a material, the atoms of the structure should be "oscillating" in such a way that themselves are the resposibles for the creation of that electromagnetic wave (that's why it was "strange" to imagine light propagating in vaccuum)

Reflection is enhanced in the mirror by suppression of wave propagation. Also, a mirror has a smooth surface that decreases the probability of light being absorbed by the material.

Furthermore, by the laws of reflection (wikipedia):

  • The incident ray, the reflected ray and the normal to the reflection surface at the point of the incidence lie in the same plane.
  • The angle which the incident ray makes with the normal is equal to the angle which the reflected ray makes to the same normal.
  • The reflected ray and the incident ray are on the opposite sides of the normal.

All this together, means exactly what you said: light (including the visible range) "bounces" in the surface of the mirror because the probability to propagate through the material and/or being absorved is minimized by the smooth surface and the material itslef.

If your question is actually related to: "Why do the laws of reflection are like that?", the answer is "Science". Science means to do experiments, try to understand the what happens, and define patterns of behaviour (what's so called theories) that can be used to predict or analyse similar systems. That means "we are just telling how things work, not actually WHY".

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