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12.

3 How reflections form

When you look in a mirror, you see a clear reflection of yourself. The
picture you see in a mirror is called an image.

Bouncing light
Mirrors reflect light. White paper reflects light. Why do we see a clear
image in a mirror but not in a sheet of paper?
A sheet of paper has a rough surface. When rays of light strike the
paper, they are scattered in all directions.
A mirror has a very flat, smooth surface. Rays of light bounce off a
mirror without being scattered.

A mirror gives a clear


image of whatever is in
A piece of paper scatters A mirror reflects all the light front of it.
light in all directions. in the same direction.

Predicting the path of light


If you shine a ray of light at a mirror, it reflects off the mirror
incident ray
mirror. The law of reflection tells us about the direction
in which the ray is reflected. The diagram on the right
shows this.
angle of incidence
Here is how to understand this diagram: normal
angle of reflection
• The mirror is represented by a straight line; the shading
shows the back of the mirror.
• The ray of light coming in is called the incident ray.
The ray of light going out is the reflected ray. reflected ray
• To predict the direction of the reflected ray, we need Diagram showing the law of reflection
to draw the normal to the surface of the mirror. The of light.
normal is a straight line drawn at right angles (90 °) to
the mirror at the point where the ray is reflected.
The law of reflection of light says that the two angles
marked in the diagram are equal. (Note that each of the
angles is measured from the normal to the ray, not from the
ray to the mirror.)
Law of reflection:
angle of incidence = angle of reflection

152 12 Light
12.3 How reflections form

Questions
A+I 1 Give three uses of mirrors in everyday life.
2 If you look into a pond or a calm river, you may see a clear reflection of
yourself. What does this tell you about the surface of the water?
3 Make a copy of the diagram showing the law of reflection. Use a ruler
to draw the rays and the mirror. Use a protractor to make sure that you
draw the normal at 90 ° to the mirror. Draw the angles of incidence and
reflection with values of 30 °. Label your diagram fully.
4 If a ray of light strikes a mirror with an angle of incidence of 60 °, what
will be the angle of reflection? Sketch a diagram of this situation.

Activity 12.3
Law of reflection
SE You can use a ray box and a plane (flat) mirror to show that the law of
reflection is correct.

ray box paper slit plane mirror

light ray

Testing the law of reflection.

1 Stand the mirror on a sheet of white paper. Using a pencil, draw a line
along the back of the mirror (where its reflecting surface is).
2 Direct a ray of light at the mirror. Look for the reflected ray.
3 Mark two dots on the incident ray and two dots on the reflected ray.
4 Now remove the sheet of paper. Using a ruler, draw the paths of the two
rays. The dots will show you their paths. Use a protractor to help you
draw in the normal. Mark the angle of incidence and angle of reflection
and measure them with a protractor. Are they equal?
5 Repeat this with the ray striking the mirror at a different angle.

Summary
• Smooth surfaces reflect light according to the
law of reflection.
• Law of reflection: angle of incidence = angle of reflection.

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