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Tape your mirrors together so that they can be opened and closed like a hinge. You want to
leave a slight gap between the two edges (around 1/16th of an inch) to do this.
Taped Mirrors Diagram
Mark angles of 30, 36, 45, 60, 90, 120 and 180 degrees on a piece of paper using your
Place the hinge of your mirrors at the vertex of your marked angles.
The first angle you will test will be 180 degrees.
Place your object (you can embed it in modeling clay if it wont stand up on its own) in the
middle of the mirrors and look at the reflection. How many objects do you see, including both
reflected and real?
Keeping the object equally between the two mirrors, move the mirrors together into the other
angles you marked out with your protractor. How many objects do you see at each angle? Is
there something about the angle can help you predict how many objects you will see? Is every
reflected image the same brightness?
Reflection Diagram
Write a word on a piece of paper, and place it in between the mirrors at 60 degrees. Look
closely at the second reflection (the reflection of the reflection). Can you read the text? Why do
you think this is happening?
You will see an ever-increasing number of objects as you move the mirrors closer together
(reducing the angle between them). Whenever you can see a whole number of images
reflected, the angle of the mirrors will perfectly divide into 360 degrees. When you look at the
reflection of a reflection you will be able to read the text in the mirror, as if you pointed a camera
at the object. The reflections should get dimmer (more silvery) as the number of times they are
reflected increases
The mirrors reflect the reflections of other mirrors within 180 degrees of the mirrors face. When
mirrors reflect, the reflected image will be backwards, but if you reflect something twice, it will
look normal.
Because light is traveling in a straight line to and from each mirror, the light will bounce a
number of times back and forth between the mirrors before it travels from the object to your eye.
The number of times the light bounces (and the number of objects that you see) will correlate to
the number of times the angle divides into 360. As the mirrors get closer and closer to having
zero angle between them, more and more images appear. At an angle of 0 degrees, or when
the two mirrors are facing each other, there are an infinite number of reflections.
So, how are you going to accomplish your trick? You can make the text appear by lining up your
mirrors and your projector so that the light bounces an even number of times before it gets to
your eyes. Using multiple mirrors will also dim the image before it hits the glass plate for the

Visible objects fall into two general categories: luminous objects (such as your computer
monitor) that emit their own light and illuminated objects (your keyboard, for instance) that
reflect light emitted by other sources. Your eyes see objects by detecting either emitted or
reflected light, and under most circumstances that light has to reach your eyes by traveling in a
straight line. In other words, you usually need an unobstructed line of sight between yourself
and any object you intend to view.
Mirrors and other highly reflective surfaces present a common exception to this rule. Most
mirrors are made by layering a reflective metal backing behind a sheet of clear glass. Because
the backing is so reflective, it provides an "image" (an apparent reproduction of visible objects).
This sort of image can be deceptive because its apparent location doesn't match up with the
actual, physical location of the object creating that image. Consider an image of a chair that you
see in a mirror versus the real chair that you can see in the actual room if you have a direct line
of sight to it.
So-called plane mirrors are even more mind-bending because the images they create are
known as virtual images. These images are created when rays of light emitted or reflected by an
object seem to converge somewhere behind the mirror. And some surfaces can act as mirrors
without the special reflective silver backing. Sound confusing? Don't worrywe'll get to see all
of these concepts in action. In this activity we will use a transparent surface to see how it both
transmits and reflects light. This will allow us to learn about light by interacting with the real,
visible space behind the surface where virtual images appear.
Two tea candles
Matches or a lighter to light the candlesalong with adult assistance or supervision for doing
CD jewel case with one glossy, transparent surface
Dark surface (you can create one by laying a black T-shirt flat on a table)
Identical household items (paper clips, etcetera) in pairs (optional)
Find a room that can be made dark by turning the lights off.
With the lights still on, prepare your dark surface.
Remove the album art from the CD case if it has any so that the hinged front cover is now a
transparent panel.
Use caution (and adult assistance/supervision) when lighting the candles and working with lit
Working on your dark surface with the lights still on, stand the CD case on its bottom edge.
Open the CD case at a 90-degree angle.
Take one unlit tea candle and place it on the side of the CD case's transparent panel nearest
you. Make sure you can see its reflection. Where in space does the reflected image appear to
be? Why do you think this is?
Take the other unlit tea candle and place it on the other side of the transparent panel. Adjust
the position of the second candle so that it's in the same apparent location as the reflection of
your first tea candle.

Move your head around while looking at the second tea candle through the CD case. Can you
see the reflection of the first tea candle? Does the reflection ever not appear to be transposed
over the actual location of the second tea candle?
Now, take a look at the orientation of the CD case and the tea candles from above. Note the
position of the two tea candles. What's special about their positions relative to the CD case's
transparent panel?
Nudge the first tea candle away from the CD case slightly. What happens to the reflection?
Nudge the second tea candle to match the apparent location of the first tea candle's reflection.
Turn off the lights and light the tea candle located on the side of the transparent panel nearest
you. Look at the reflected image. What do you see?
Extra: If you want to turn this into a great illusion for another observer, do it again, just make
sure they don't see how you set it up beforehand! Your observer should observe the illusion
from the side of the transparent pane with the lit candle. Touch the wick of the unlit candle on
the opposite side of the panel with your hand. Your observer may be surprised that you don't
burn yourself!
Extra: Without looking at the reflections directly, try to make a diorama with household objects
such as paper clips on both sides of the CD case so that the reflections match perfectly. It may
be easier if you make it without the lit candles. Hint: The tea candles demonstrated how far
away from a mirror two objects need to be to match each other's reflections.
Observations and results
When you lit one of the tea candles and looked through the CD case from the first side, your
eyes detected both the light coming directly from the unlit candle and the reflected light emitted
by the lit candle's flame. This reflected light creates a virtual image of the flame appearing
behind the transparent panel. We interpret virtual images as appearing behind the reflective
surface that creates them because our brains naturally interpret light from visible objects as
traveling to our eyes in straight lines. Light from the lit candle is reflected by the "mirror," but our
brain's tendency is to "unfold" that light , placing a virtual image of the lit candle behind the
transparent plastic (and apparently right on top of the actual location of our unlit candle). Light
from the lit candle doesn't actually travel to your eye from behind the transparent plastic (as we
know the light is only coming from the candle on the front side of the plastic)but it looks like it
This overlapping can be attributed to a property of light known as superposition, meaning that
visible light can represent the combination of many sources simultaneously. The light rays
coming from the unlit candle and the reflected light rays of the lit candle are superposed on top
of one another. In situations where one source of light is much stronger than another, only the
stronger source is clearly visible. This helps explain why things that seem bright in the dark (like
stars) don't seem that bright or are invisible when the sun is out.
Every surface exhibits some transmission and some reflection. For very transparent substances
like glass, only about 5 percent of the light that hits it is reflected. The remaining 95 percent is
transmittedit passes right on through. When you light one of the tea candles in a dark room,
some of its light is transmitted through the CD case, and some of it is reflected. Even though the
case can only reflect something like 5 percent of the flame's light, that reflected light is more
than enough to create an illusion of two flames as opposed to one flame and one unlit wick.

This same basic manipulation of virtual images has been utilized on stage for decades as a
technique known as Pepper's ghost . It's how Disneyland creates The Haunted Mansion's
ghouls . It's so compelling that the setup of the illusion has changed very little since its
introduction in the mid 19th century!