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Research

How a mirror works:

Light, made up of particles called photons, is invisible to the human eye unless it reflects off an
object. The angle at which it hits an object, the angle of incidence, is equal to the angle at which it
bounces off, the angle of reflection. Normally, objects have uneven surfaces, so light reflects off
each individual facet and scatters, or it is absorbed and seen as colour. When light reflected from
an object strikes the smooth surface of a mirror, however, the light is able to reflect the full image
back again without disruption. This is known as 'specular reflection'. What actually happens in
reflection is that the electrons of the atoms that make up the mirror briefly absorb the photons,
vibrating with the added energy, before ejecting an identical photon back out rather than the
same photon that entered. Only surfaces which do not absorb much light will be reflective. The
image thus produced is seen by the eye as flipped because the mirror reverses front and back, as
the photons are directly reflected. Most mirrors are made from flat, clear glass thinly coated with
metal on the back to create the clearest and most proportionate reflection.


Parts of the eye:


Sclera: the white outer layer of the eye. It protects the eye.
Cornea: the clear front section of the sclera. It refracts light as it passes through the eye.
Iris: the pigmented circle surrounding the pupil. Its muscles relax or contract to regulate
the amount of light entering the eye through the pupil.
Aqueous humour: contained in the anterior (between the cornea and iris) and posterior
(between the iris and lens) chambers. It nourishes the cornea.
Conjunctiva: the inner lining of the eyelid. It lubricates the eyeball by secreting mucus.
Pupil: the opening in the middle of the iris. It allows light to pass through the eye.
Lens: the clear, flexible part of the eye located behind the iris, held in place by suspensory
ligaments. It focuses light onto the retina.
Vitreous humour: the transparent gel which fills the area between the lens and the retina.
It protects the retina and maintains the eye's shape.
Retina: the light-sensitive lining at the back of the eye. It contains photoreceptors, which
convert light into electrical signals.
Macula: the small part of the retina at its centre, covering the fovea. It produces central
vision.
Fovea: the centre of the macula. It produces the sharpest focus on an image.
Optic nerve: the bundle of sensory neurons behind the retina, which transmits the
electrical signals produced by the photoreceptors to the brain.


How the eye works:

The light waves reflected by objects are refracted by the cornea into the pupil, which the iris
shrinks or widens to regulate the amount of light passing through the eye. The lens focuses this
light onto the retina at the back of the eye, where it is absorbed by the photoreceptors: cones and
rods. Cones, found mostly in the fovea, detect colours and details while rods, found mostly outside
the macula, detect black and white in dim light as well as peripheral vision. The photoreceptors
change the waves into electrical impulses, which are then sent along the optic nerve to the
occipital lobe of the brain, where the information is pieced together as an image.

Human vision is stereoscopic because both eyes capture slightly different images, which are then
combined into one in the brain. This creates an image with depth, allowing distances to be judged.


Why objects appear coloured:

Objects absorb different wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation, reflect some, and transmit
others. The visible wavelengths that are not absorbed are translated by the eye as colour. The
visible light spectrum ranges from red to violet, and combinations of reflected wavelengths
produce all the different hues of colour. For example, an object that only reflects wavelengths of
yellow light will appear yellow, an object that reflects all light will appear white, and an object that
absorbs all light will appear black. An object that transmits (allows to pass through) all
wavelengths will appear transparent.

The eye is able to pick up these wavelengths with the cones located in the retina. There are three
different types of cone: ones which detect red light, ones which detect green light and ones which
detect blue light. The data from these cones is then combined into a coloured image in the brain.