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230
votes
21answers
81k views

A mirror flips left and right, but not up and down

Why is it that when you look in the mirror left and right directions appear flipped, but not the up and down?
116
votes
2answers
9k views

Why does a mirror split my laser beam?

Last night my daughter was asking why a mirror "always does that" (referring to reflecting a spot of light). To help her figure it out, I grabbed my green laser pointer so she could see the light ...
51
votes
1answer
15k views

Why does a window become a mirror at night?

In day, when you look in the room through the window out, you can clearly see what happens outside. At night when it's dark outside but there's light inside you can look in the window but it becomes a ...
45
votes
2answers
6k views

Why are gold mirrors yellow?

Why are golden mirrors yellow? Do they add a yellow component to the spectrum or absorb non-yellow components? If they absorb, then why are they used in telescopes being imperfect? If they add a ...
38
votes
11answers
13k views

Why don't we hear sound reflecting from buildings, mirrors, etcetera?

We can see buildings, doors, cars etc. as light falls on it gets reflected to us. but why doesn't the same thing happen with sound? I mean why don't we hear sound reflecting that much?
37
votes
4answers
3k views

What causes this pattern of sunlight reflected off a table leg?

My friend noticed an interference-like pattern around the table leg. However, we do know that interference patterns of sunlight produces rainbow colours. What seems to be happening here?
31
votes
7answers
14k views

What is the difference between a white object and a mirror?

I was taught that something which reflects all the colors of light is white. The function of a mirror is the same, it also reflects all light. What's the difference? Update: But what if the white ...
28
votes
6answers
7k views

Why did high quality mirrors use aluminum coatings instead of silver?

I have two questions on mirrors. I’ve read that in the past quality mirrors were coated with silver but that today vacuum evaporated coatings of aluminum are the accepted standard. When I look at ...
24
votes
2answers
5k views

How are classical optics phenomena explained in QED (Snell's law)?

How is the following classical optics phenomenon explained in quantum electrodynamics? Reflection and Refraction Are they simply due to photons being absorbed and re-emitted? How do we get to ...
23
votes
5answers
5k views

Does a well-lit mirror weigh more than an unlit mirror?

If you weighed a mirror in a room with no light, and then weighed a mirror in a well lit room so that the mirror reflects light, would the weight be different?
23
votes
5answers
27k views

Phase shift of 180 degrees on reflection from optically denser medium

Can anyone please provide an intuitive explanation of why phase shift of 180 degrees occurs in the Electric Field of a EM wave,when reflected from an optically denser medium? I tried searching for it ...
22
votes
3answers
3k views

Why is the light reflected at the same angle from mirror?

From the school physics I know that the material objects bounce from the plane surface at the same angle, losing some kinetic energy. In the same school I was taught that the light (and waves in ...
21
votes
9answers
12k views

Why do solar panels not have focusing mirrors?

Most of the solar panels that I have seen do not have any mirrors, etc., but usually solar cookers have mirrors. What is the reason for solar panels not having focusing mirrors?
21
votes
1answer
2k views

Why does the spotlight reflected off of a rectangular mirror tend to become circular?

Background and setup When I was 12 I used to like a girl, we were almost neighbors and it was essential that our parents don't find out. So whenever one of us wanted to call the other they'd signal ...
20
votes
1answer
4k views

How are photons “consumed”?

I have very little background in physics, so I apologize if this question is painfully naive. Consider the following thought experiment: an observer is in a closed room whose walls, floor, and ...
19
votes
4answers
5k views

Why can't my eye see itself in the mirror through polarizing 3D-glasses?

I found a pair of polarizing "3D glasses" lying around, and tried to look at myself in the mirror while wearing them. To my utter confusion, when closing the left eye and only looking through the ...
17
votes
5answers
2k views

Why is the surface of the Moon white?

Why is the surface of the Moon white? Rather, what makes the surface white?
17
votes
1answer
251 views

Should a superconductor act as a perfect mirror?

I have been told that metals are good reflectors because they are good conductors. Since Electric fields in conductors cause the electrons to move until they cancel out the field, there really can't ...
16
votes
2answers
2k views

Why does my watch act like a mirror under water?

I have a digital watch, rated to go underwater to $100 \rm m$. When it is underwater it can be read normally, up until you reach a certain angle, then suddenly, it becomes almost like a mirror, ...
15
votes
5answers
2k views

Thought experiment regarding an object approaching a mirror

Here's a thought experiment I came up with in class today when my mind drifted (I however highly doubt I'm the first to think about this since it is pretty rudimentary) : Let's say superman ...
14
votes
3answers
3k views

Is it possible to 3D print a mirror to create a high quality telescope?

Is it possible to 3D print a mirror with todays available materials? If so, would there be a reduction in image quality?
14
votes
3answers
3k views

Is true black possible?

Black is the absence of light because it absorbs light, but when we create black paint or black objects, light is always reflected, either in all directions in matte or smoothly in shiny black ...
14
votes
2answers
2k views

Would you see a rainbow from refraction when the sun is in front of you?

I know how rainbows are formed, and why. Usually it is said that the Sun must be behind the observer, in order for its light to be totally reflected inside the droplet and then reach the observer. ...
14
votes
4answers
1k views

Is there a limit to the resolving power of a mirror telescope?

Like, if you hammered out the asteroid 16 Psyche into a 1 mm thick iron foil disc telescope mirror with 2.4x the radius of the Sun, could you resolve details on the surface of an exoplanet? At what ...
14
votes
1answer
898 views

Why is everything not transparent? [duplicate]

There is a related question on this site here: Why glass is transparent? Which explains that glass is transparent because the atoms in glass have very large energy differences between energy levels ...
13
votes
3answers
2k views

Why is sound reflected and not transmitted through a wall?

We know that speed of sound is higher in a denser medium. So when a sound wave strikes a wall, why does it echo instead of passing through it with a speed faster than the speed of sound in air?
13
votes
5answers
787 views

What longest time ever was achieved at holding light in a closed volume?

For what longest possible time it was possible to hold light in a closed volume with mirrored walls? I would be most interested for results with empty volume but results with solid-state volume may ...
13
votes
4answers
6k views

What happens when a photon hits a mirror?

When a photon of light hits a mirror does the exact same photon of light bounce back or is it absorbed then one with the same properties emitted? If the same one is bounced back does it's velocity ...
12
votes
1answer
2k views

Would the inside of a black hole be like a giant mirror?

As any light reflected or emitted from objects inside a black hole (if it is possible to be there) does not leave the event horizon and comes back inside, would it be like seeing yourself? What I ...
12
votes
6answers
4k views

How come an anti-reflective coating makes glass *more* transparent?

The book I'm reading about optics says that an anti-reflective film applied on glass* makes the glass more transparent, because the air→film and film→glass reflected waves (originated from a paraxial ...
12
votes
2answers
978 views

Why does sunset over a body of water cause a path of light stretching towards the horizon?

Have you ever notice the sunset's image in the sea? It's like long light path to the end of the horizon! I've attached a sample of this: How can we explain this? I know that it can happen even in ...
12
votes
2answers
867 views

Why are so many different types of objects white, yet appear gray when they are wet?

There are many things with different textures that appear white – salt, beer foam, paper, shaving cream, snow, talcum powder, white paint, etc. The most common answer is all of the frequencies must be ...
11
votes
2answers
5k views

How does reflection work?

In Newton's model of light as being composed of particles, it's easy to imagine reflection as being the rebounding of individual corpuscles off a surface. However, since light can also behave like a ...
10
votes
3answers
15k views

What is the color of a mirror?

A mirror couldn't be white, as then you wouldn't be able to see your reflection so clearly. It wouldn't be transparent, as that then won't reflect. So what color is it?
10
votes
1answer
13k views

Two mirrors facing each other

What happens when you place two mirrors facing each other? Is it possible to have an infinite amount of reflections?
10
votes
3answers
767 views

Using a black hole as a mirror?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENd8Sz0AFOk The YouTube video is a good example how the gravity of this merging binary black holes bend light around themselves.
10
votes
2answers
375 views

QM: why is reflection of a photon not a measurement?

Many experiments with entangled photons are sending them through different glass fiber cables (e.g. in opposite directions for spatial separation). The photons will inevitably be reflected many times ...
9
votes
1answer
891 views

Why is ice more reflective than liquid water?

Why is ice more reflective (has higher albedo) than liquid water? They're both the same substance (water). Is something quantum mechanical involved?
9
votes
2answers
429 views

Is reflection instantaneous?

I was wondering while reading "On the Electrodynamics of moving bodies" by Albert Einstein (1905) (Translated to English). In the paper, he describes the time as being: by definition that the ...
9
votes
2answers
88 views

Why is reflected light polarised?

Why is reflected light polarised? I have learnt about Brewster's angle, and how at a particular angle all light reflected is polarised, but do not understand why. Is this something that could be ...
8
votes
1answer
940 views

Glass that only allows light of specific amplitude to pass through it

Is there a type of glass, mirror or lens that allows only lights of amplitude equal to or greater than a fixed value to pass/reflect through them?
8
votes
3answers
9k views

Why does your reflection stay the same size when you move further away from the mirror?

This was an experiment I saw in my son's workbook. It said to mark out the top of your forehead and the bottom of your chin on a mirror using a whiteboard marker. Then slowly move backwards, and ...
8
votes
2answers
1k views

Do mirrors have a “resolution” quality to them?

I would like to know if mirrors have a quality of "resolution" to them like a regular photograph might, or like a JPEG does. For example, if you looked to closely, or magnified a photograph, you ...
7
votes
1answer
416 views

Does a wave experiencing a total internal reflection penetrate the medium in any way?

Let me explain my concern usingn this picture: At the point of total internal reflection does a fraction of the wave get into medium 2? I would imagine it should happen because of the uncertainty ...
7
votes
5answers
3k views

Explain reflection laws at the atomic level

The "equal angles" law of refection on a flat mirror is a macroscopic phenomenon. To put it in anthropomorphic terms, how do individual photons know the orientation of the mirror so as to bounce off ...
7
votes
1answer
2k views

Polarization and mirrors

When a light beam reaches a dielectric surface, the incident and reflected beams have different intensities depending on polarization. For the so-called Brewster's angle, the reflected light is ...
7
votes
5answers
4k views

What happens to light in a perfect reflective sphere?

Let's say you have the ability to shine some light into a perfectly round sphere and the sphere's interior surface was perfectly smooth and reflective and there was no way for the light to escape. If ...
7
votes
1answer
1k views

Wavefront RMS errors, mirror surface roughness and Gaussian beam scattering

What I'm interested is in the scattered power of Gaussian beams reflected from mirrors with a given surface RMS. Usually the surface RMS $\sigma_{s}$ of a mirror translates in an error for the ...
7
votes
2answers
3k views

How do mirrors work?

My physics professor explained to me that electromagnetic waves are consisted of two components - electric and magnetic - which cause each other. Which part of the mirror actually reflects the wave? ...
7
votes
1answer
2k views

The physics behind Google Glass' “prism”

In writing a bachelor's thesis about applicable use cases for Google Glass in retail I also strive to explain the physics behind Glass' optics. So far I've come to the following conclusions: Glass ...