mirror

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

mirror

mirror, in optics, a reflecting surface that forms an image of an object when light rays coming from that object fall upon it (see reflection). Usually mirrors are made of plate glass, one side of which is coated with metal or some special preparation to serve as a reflecting surface. The junction of this reflecting surface and the plate glass is called the mirror line. Highly polished metal and other materials serve also as mirrors; fused quartz is used for applications that require high precision because of its very low thermal expansion. Three common types of mirror are the plane mirror, which has a flat, or plane, surface; the convex mirror; and the concave mirror.

The Plane Mirror

In a plane mirror the rays of light falling on it are reflected with little change in their original character and their relationship to one another in space. The apparent position of the image is the same distance behind the mirror as the actual object is in front of the mirror; the image is the same size as the object and is called a virtual image (i.e., the rays of light from the object do not actually go to the image, but extensions of the reflected light rays appear to intersect behind the mirror).

Convex and Concave Mirrors

Convex and concave mirrors are known collectively as spherical mirrors, since their curved reflecting surfaces are usually part of the surface of a sphere. The concave type is one in which the midpoint or vertex of the reflecting surface is farther away from the object than are the edges. The center of the imaginary sphere of which it is a part is called the center of curvature and each point of the mirror surface is, therefore, equidistant from this point. A line extending through the center of curvature and the vertex of the mirror is the principal axis, and rays parallel to it are all reflected in such a way that they meet at a point on it lying halfway between the center of curvature and the vertex. This point is called the principal focus.

The size, nature, and position of an image formed by a concave spherical mirror depend on the position of the object in relation to the principal focus and the center of curvature. If the object is at a point farther from the mirror than the center of curvature, the image is real (i.e., it is formed directly by the reflected rays), inverted, and smaller than the object. If the object is at the center of curvature, the image is the same size as the object and is real and inverted. If the object is between the center of curvature and the principal focus, the image is larger, real, and inverted. If the object is inside the principal focus, the image is virtual, erect (right side up), and larger than the object. The position of the object can be found from the equation relating the focal length f of the mirror (the distance from the mirror to the principal focus), the distance do of the object from the mirror, and the distance di of the image from the mirror: 1/f=1/do+1/di. In the case of the virtual image, this equation yields a negative image distance, indicating that the image is behind the mirror. In the case of both the real and the virtual image, the size of the image is to the size of the object as the distance of the image from the mirror is to the distance of the object from the mirror.

In a convex spherical mirror the vertex of the mirror is nearer to the object than the edges—the mirror bulges toward the object. The image formed by it is always smaller than the object and always erect. It is never real because the reflected rays diverge outward from the face of the mirror and are not brought to a focus, and the image, therefore, is determined by their prolongation behind the mirror as in the case of the plane mirror.

History and Development

The mirror of the ancient Greeks and Romans was a disk of metal with a highly polished face, sometimes with a design on the back, and usually with a handle. Glass mirrors date from the Middle Ages. They were made in large quantities in Venice from the 16th cent., the back being covered with a thin coating of tin mixed with mercury; after 1840 a thin coating of silver was generally substituted. The introduction of plate glass for mirrors (17th cent.) stimulated the use of large stationary mirrors as part of household furniture. Small bits of silvered glass were much used in the East to adorn articles of dress and of decoration. The metal trench hand mirror of World War I revived the manufacture of mirrors of this type. More recently, aluminum was introduced as the reflecting material because it is almost as efficient as silver but is more resistant to oxidation. Mirrors play an important part in the modern astronomical telescope.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

mirror
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.