Law of Reflection Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Erin Noxon
All energy can reflect and bounce, but on smooth surfaces, we can measure how the light will bounce. In this lesson, we will talk about reflection and how the law of reflection demonstrates the way that light will reflect.

What is Reflection?

Have you ever noticed that you look different in pictures than you do in the mirror? When you see yourself in the mirror, it is a 'mirror image' of yourself, which is a flipped version of what everyone else, including a camera, sees. Why is that image flipped? The reason is that the image you see in a mirror is a reflection, which is energy in the form of light bounced back from a surface.

Many kinds of energy can reflect, including sound, heat, and earthquake waves. In this lesson, we will focus on light reflection.

Light reflection is very important, because it's the reason we can see anything at all. When you see a red apple, it is because red light is bouncing off the apple to enter your eye. The air scatters around blue light, causing it to bounce into your eyes, making the sky look blue. The sun's light bounces off the moon, illuminating it in the sky. All of these bounces are reflections.

The Law of Reflection

It's easy to measure light reflecting on a mirror--mirrors reflect so well because they're smooth and shiny, and so almost all of the light that hits it can reflect back off. However, light bouncing off any smooth surface can be measured. And so, since we can measure light, we can actually predict what the light will do and where it will bounce to. With this information, scientists have developed the law of reflection.

The law of reflection says that, no matter which direction light hits a smooth surface from, the light reflects back off at an equal angle. It bounces off from the midline of the smooth surface, reflecting on the opposite side of the midline, as demonstrated in the image below:


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You may have noticed when looking in a mirror that, depending on where you stand, you can see different objects reflecting off. That's because of the law of reflection--when you change your position in relation to the mirror, you see different light reflections bouncing at the particular angle needed to reach your eyes.

Examples

Next time you're riding in the back seat of a car, look at the driver's rear view mirror.

Reflection in a rear view mirror
Eyes in a rear view mirror

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