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  • Explain reflection of light from polished and rough surfaces.

Whenever we look into a mirror, or squint at sunlight glinting from a lake, we are seeing a reflection. When you look at this page, too, you are seeing light reflected from it. Large telescopes use reflection to form an image of stars and other astronomical objects.

The law of reflection is illustrated in [link] , which also shows how the angles are measured relative to the perpendicular to the surface at the point where the light ray strikes. We expect to see reflections from smooth surfaces, but [link] illustrates how a rough surface reflects light. Since the light strikes different parts of the surface at different angles, it is reflected in many different directions, or diffused. Diffused light is what allows us to see a sheet of paper from any angle, as illustrated in [link] . Many objects, such as people, clothing, leaves, and walls, have rough surfaces and can be seen from all sides. A mirror, on the other hand, has a smooth surface (compared with the wavelength of light) and reflects light at specific angles, as illustrated in [link] . When the moon reflects from a lake, as shown in [link] , a combination of these effects takes place.

A light ray is incident on a smooth surface and is falling obliquely, making an angle theta i relative to a perpendicular line drawn to the surface at the point where the incident ray strikes. The light ray gets reflected making an angle theta r with the same perpendicular drawn to the surface.
The law of reflection states that the angle of reflection equals the angle of incidence— θ r = θ i . The angles are measured relative to the perpendicular to the surface at the point where the ray strikes the surface.
Parallel light rays falling on a rough surface get scattered at different angles.
Light is diffused when it reflects from a rough surface. Here many parallel rays are incident, but they are reflected at many different angles since the surface is rough.
Light from a flashlight falls on a sheet of paper and the light gets reflected at different angles as the surface is rough.
When a sheet of paper is illuminated with many parallel incident rays, it can be seen at many different angles, because its surface is rough and diffuses the light.
A flashlight casting light on a mirror, which is smooth; the mirror reflects light only in one direction at a particular angle.
A mirror illuminated by many parallel rays reflects them in only one direction, since its surface is very smooth. Only the observer at a particular angle will see the reflected light.
A dark night is lit by moonlight. The moonlight is falling on the lake and as it hits, the lake’s shiny surface reflects it. A bright strip of moonlight is seen reflecting from the lake on a dark background reflecting the night sky.
Moonlight is spread out when it is reflected by the lake, since the surface is shiny but uneven. (credit: Diego Torres Silvestre, Flickr)

The law of reflection is very simple: The angle of reflection equals the angle of incidence.

The law of reflection

The angle of reflection equals the angle of incidence.

When we see ourselves in a mirror, it appears that our image is actually behind the mirror. This is illustrated in [link] . We see the light coming from a direction determined by the law of reflection. The angles are such that our image is exactly the same distance behind the mirror as we stand away from the mirror. If the mirror is on the wall of a room, the images in it are all behind the mirror, which can make the room seem bigger. Although these mirror images make objects appear to be where they cannot be (like behind a solid wall), the images are not figments of our imagination. Mirror images can be photographed and videotaped by instruments and look just as they do with our eyes (optical instruments themselves). The precise manner in which images are formed by mirrors and lenses will be treated in later sections of this chapter.

A girl stands in front of a mirror and looks into the mirror for her image. The light rays from her feet and head fall on the mirror and get reflected following the law of reflection: the angle of incidence theta is equal to the angle of reflection theta.
Our image in a mirror is behind the mirror. The two rays shown are those that strike the mirror at just the correct angles to be reflected into the eyes of the person. The image appears to be in the direction the rays are coming from when they enter the eyes.

Take-home experiment: law of reflection

Take a piece of paper and shine a flashlight at an angle at the paper, as shown in [link] . Now shine the flashlight at a mirror at an angle. Do your observations confirm the predictions in [link] and [link] ? Shine the flashlight on various surfaces and determine whether the reflected light is diffuse or not. You can choose a shiny metallic lid of a pot or your skin. Using the mirror and flashlight, can you confirm the law of reflection? You will need to draw lines on a piece of paper showing the incident and reflected rays. (This part works even better if you use a laser pencil.)

Section summary

  • The angle of reflection equals the angle of incidence.
  • A mirror has a smooth surface and reflects light at specific angles.
  • Light is diffused when it reflects from a rough surface.
  • Mirror images can be photographed and videotaped by instruments.

Conceptual questions

Using the law of reflection, explain how powder takes the shine off of a person’s nose. What is the name of the optical effect?

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Problems&Exercises

Show that when light reflects from two mirrors that meet each other at a right angle, the outgoing ray is parallel to the incoming ray, as illustrated in the following figure.

Two mirrors meet each other at a right angle. An incoming ray of light is reflected by one mirror and then the other, such that the outgoing ray is parallel to the incoming ray.
A corner reflector sends the reflected ray back in a direction parallel to the incident ray, independent of incoming direction.
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Light shows staged with lasers use moving mirrors to swing beams and create colorful effects. Show that a light ray reflected from a mirror changes direction by 2 θ size 12{2f} {} when the mirror is rotated by an angle θ size 12{f} {} .

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A flat mirror is neither converging nor diverging. To prove this, consider two rays originating from the same point and diverging at an angle θ . Show that after striking a plane mirror, the angle between their directions remains θ .

Light rays diverging from a point at an angle theta fall on a mirror at two different places and their reflected rays diverge. When the reflected rays are extended backwards from their points of reflection, they meet at a point behind the mirror, where they diverge from each other at the same angle theta.
A flat mirror neither converges nor diverges light rays. Two rays continue to diverge at the same angle after reflection.
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Questions & Answers

2 how heat loss is prevented in a vacuum flask
Abdullah Reply
what is science
Helen
logical reasoning for a particular phenomenon.
Ajay
I don't know anything about it 😔. I'm sorry, please forgive 😔
Adarsh
due to non in contact mean no conduction and no convection bec of non conducting base and walls and also their is a grape between the layer like to take the example of thermo flask
Abdul
dimensions v²=u²+2at
Lagben Reply
what if time is not given in finding the average velocity?
Alan Reply
the magnetic circuit of a certain of the flux paths in each of the long and short sides being 25cm and 20cm reprectielectrove. there is an air gap of 2mm long in one the long sides if a flux density of 0.8weber/m is to produce in the magnet of 1500 turns..
Daniel Reply
How do you calculate precision
Sacky Reply
what module is that?
Fillemon
Chemisty 1A?
Fillemon
No it has something to do with measurements bro... What we did today in class
Sacky
Tah bra honestly I didn't understand a thing in that class..when re your Tutorials?
Fillemon
Friday bro... But the topics we did are in this app... Just try to master them quickly before the test dates... Are you done with the Maths sheet
Sacky
I eat ass
Anderson
I'll work on the maths sheet tomorrow bra @Sacky Malyenge but I'll try mastering them
Fillemon
I'll eat your mom's ass with a side of tendies
Anderson
@Fillemon Nanwaapo
Anderson
lol, hush
Emi
There are very large numbers of charged particles in most objects. Why, then, don’t most objects exhibit static electricity?
Bilkisu Reply
Because there's an equal number of negative and positive charges... objects are neutral in nature
NELSON
when a ball rolls on a smooth level ground,the motion of its centre is?
Mary Reply
what is electro magnetic field?
Mary
electromagnetic field is a special type of field been produced by electric charges..!!! like the word electro from Electricity and the word magnetic from Magnetism.. so it is more of a join field..!!!
NELSON
Electromagnetic field is caused by moving electric charge
Muhammad
when a ball rolls on a smooth level ground,the motion of its centre is?
Mumeh
what's the relationship btw displacement and position
Declan Reply
displacement is the change of position 8======✊=D 💦💦
Anderson
what is the meaning of elasticity
Pele Reply
is the ability of a material to or any object to expand to a limit point
king
this is about kinematics you bonk
Emi
what does emf/R mean
Eze Reply
What is work
Wisdom Reply
work is the product of force and perpendicular distance
DAVID
Pls explain simple harmonic motion
Olaiya Reply
Any to and from motion of a fluid or any elastic object
Sacky
a current of 5.5mA is flowing through a 3.3k resistor.compute th p.d developed across the resistor
Clifford Reply
A p.d of 24 volts exist across a 15 OHM'S resistor.calculate the current flowing the resistor
Clifford
a current of 5.5mA is flowing through a 3.3kOHM'S resistor.compute th p.d developed across the resistor
Clifford
solve it please
Festus
the so unit power is the watt(w)/joul/second (w1)/s
Jibo Reply
Really
Lawal
what is time
Jibo Reply
a measure of the duration of an event
Raymond
density
Masente
Practice Key Terms 2

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Source:  OpenStax, College physics. OpenStax CNX. Jul 27, 2015 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11406/1.9
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