The distinction between reflection and scattering and how images are formed in a mirror

Reflection and scattering have been discussed in the section above.

Mirror reflection is an interesting one. If we brought a mirror up to the word Ambulance written on a piece of paper what would you see in the mirror? Would it be A or B?

What would you see written on the front of an Ambulance? Would it be A or B?

In the first case it would be A and in the second B. Confused? maybe slightly and if you are, you are not alone!

An important concept in understanding what is happening is symmetry and particularly lines of symmetry. When you have a line/or plane of symmetry everything on one side of that line is symmetrical to what is on the other side. When you are using a mirror on a word like "Ambulance" the mirror is a line/plane of symmetry so that everything in the mirror has got to be symmetrical to what is outside the mirror. The image is therefore reversed front to back, not left to right as quite a few people think.

Why is the Ambulance sign written on the front of the Ambulance written from left to right? This is because the writing is going to be reflected in your mirror where it is going to be symmetrical to the word on the Ambulance. We then read the word as displayed in the mirror and as we are sitting in the opposite direction and we read from left to right the word needs to be around the other way to be read successfully.


Light does appear to travel in straight lines
Light can differ in intensity and wavelength
The colour of an object depends on the wavelength of light that it scatters
Objects are seen when light enters the eye through the pupil
Self assessment