law of reflection
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What is the law of reflection?
While it may sound like a form of meditation, the law of reflection is a principle about what light does when it hits a perfectly smooth surface, like a mirror.
The law states that light will bounce off such a surface at the exact same angle it hit that surface at.
Why is the law of reflection important in physics?
But in fields such as science, engineering, and philosophy, a law is a statement about something that holds true in all situations—for example, Newton’s laws of motion. In physics, reflection is when light, sound, or other types of energy hit and bounce off of a surface (reflects). The word reflection comes from a Latin word literally meaning “a bending back.”
So, according to the law of reflection, when a ray of light hits a perfectly smooth surface, such as a mirror or polished metal, it bounces off that surface at an equal angle it came in.
- The angle light hits the surface at is called the angle of incidence.
- The angle light bounces off the surface is called the angle of reflection.
These two angles are measured relative to what’s called the normal, or a line perpendicular (at a right angle) to the surface.
Let’s put all this back together in scientific language. The law of reflection holds that the angle of incidence is equal to the angle of reflection when light (or other such forms of energy) strikes a smooth surface.
But what happens when light encounters a rough surface, like, say, sandpaper? It still reflects, or bounces off, but it scatters in many directions. This is called diffuse reflection, and when this happens, the angles of incidence and reflection aren’t equal.
What are real-life examples of law of reflection?
The law of reflection has been described since at least Hero of Alexandria in the first century AD. Hero (also known as Heron) was a remarkable mathematician and mechanical engineer whose many inventions include an early (perhaps the first) vending machine, which dispensed holy water when a coin was deposited.
Our Plane Mirror Images Interactive includes graphics, animation, and interactive questioning organized into two short Tutorials on the law of reflection and image formation.https://t.co/fvoBCk0eBg pic.twitter.com/nY02YBV7F6
— Physics Classroom (@Allthingsphysix) May 8, 2019
Today, the law of reflection is considered a fundamental principle in the branch of physics known as optics, which deals with the behavior of light. Scientists, mathematicians, and engineers working with other forms of radiation, such as sound or microwaves, may apply the law of reflection in work with such things as acoustics or x-rays. Technicians at concert light shows and performers of magic acts may use the law of reflection to dazzle us with their spectacles and illusions.
Love an installation that puts the Law of Reflection as implied by Maxwell's equations to good use. pic.twitter.com/wDv0Frg4bZ
— Ben Frandsen (@benfrandsen) March 24, 2019