# 13.1 Reflection

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## Types of reflection

The Law of Reflection holds for every light ray. Does this mean that when parallel rays approach a surface, the reflected rays will also be parallel? This depends on the texture of the reflecting surface.

## Specular reflection

[link] (a) shows a surface that is flat and even. Parallel incident light rays hit the smooth surface and parallel reflected light rays leave the surface. This type of reflection is called specular reflection . Specular reflection occurs when rays are reflected from a smooth, shiny surface. The normal to the surface is the same at every point on the surface. Parallel incident rays become parallel reflected rays. When you look in a mirror, the image you see is formed by specular reflection.

## Diffuse reflection

[link] (b) shows a surface with bumps and curves. When multiple rays hit this uneven surface, diffuse reflection occurs. The incident rays are parallel but the reflected rays are not. Each point on the surface has a different normal. This means the angle of incidence is different at each point. Then according to the Law of Reflection, each angle of reflection is different. Diffuse reflection occurs when light rays are reflected from bumpy surfaces. You can still see a reflection as long as the surface is not too bumpy. Diffuse reflection enables us to see all objects that are not sources of light.

## Experiment : specular and diffuse reflection

A bouncing ball can be used to demonstrate the basic difference between specular and diffuse reflection.

Aim:

To demonstrate and compare specular and diffuse reflection.

Apparatus:

You will need:

1. a small ball (a tennis ball or a table tennis ball is perfect)
2. a smooth surface, like the floor inside the classroom
3. a very rough surface, like a rocky piece of ground

Method:

1. Bounce the ball on the smooth floor and observe what happens.
2. Bounce the ball on the rough ground floor and observe what happens.
3. What do you observe?
4. What is the difference between the two surfaces?

Conclusions:

You should have seen that the ball bounces (is reflected off the floor) in a predictable manner off the smooth floor, but bounces unpredictably on the rough ground.

The ball can be seen to be a ray of light and the floor or ground is the reflecting surface. For specular reflection (smooth surface), the ball bounces predictably. For diffuse reflection (rough surface), the ball bounces unpredictably.

## Reflection

1. The diagram shows a curved surface. Draw normals to the surface at the marked points.
2. Which of the points, A–H, in the diagram, correspond to the following:
1. normal
2. angle of incidence
3. angle of reflection
4. incident ray
5. reflected ray
3. State the Law of Reflection. Draw a diagram, label the appropriate angles and write a mathematical expression for the Law of Reflection.
4. The diagram shows an incident ray $I$ . Which of the other 5 rays (A, B, C, D, E) best represents the reflected ray of $I$ ?
5. A ray of light strikes a surface at 15 ${}^{\circ }$ to the surface normal. Draw a ray diagram showing the incident ray, reflected ray and surface normal. Calculate the angles of incidence and reflection and fill them in on your diagram.
6. A ray of light leaves a surface at 65 ${}^{\circ }$ to the surface. Draw a ray diagram showing the incident ray, reflected ray and surface normal. Calculate the angles of incidence and reflection and fill them in on your diagram.
7. Explain the difference between specular and diffuse reflection.
8. We see an object when the light that is reflected by the object enters our eyes. Do you think the reflection by most objects is specular reflection or diffuse reflection? Explain.
9. A beam of light (for example from a torch) is generally not visible at night, as it travels through air. Try this for yourself. However, if you shine the torch through dust, the beam is visible. Explain why this happens.

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