The Infinity Mirror

Posted by Joe Sitter on

If you've ever found yourself standing between a pair of mirrors that are facing each other, like at a hair salon, there's a good chance that you've seen the endless series of images being reflected between them. The Infinity Mirror stunningly recreates this effect with just a single mirror. It looks like an ordinary mirror, but when you flip the switch in a darkened room, the optical illusion can be seen in all its glory.

Evangelista Torricelli, 1608-1647What is happening in the hair salon is that the two parallel reflective surfaces are bouncing a beam of light back and forth between themselves an infinite number of times (theoretically). This causes the reflection to recede into the "distance" because the light is actually traversing the distance that it appears to be traveling.

The optical illusion that you see in the salon are all straight on, so sometimes it is difficult to spot them. The infinity mirror are canted at a slight angle, creating a "visual tunnel" that is perceived to curve off to one side as it recedes into infinity. The effect created is known as Gabriel's Horn, or Torricelli's Trumpet, which is named after the Italian mathematician whoiginally studied it, Evangelista Torricelli.

In a classroom setting, this can be used as a teaching tool for the law of reflection, as well as helping students to understand light and optics.

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