Reflective Properties of a Semicircular Mirror
Date: 05/16/2000 at 10:44:33 From: Hunter DG Subject: Reflective properties of a circle I would like to know what happens to parallel rays that enter a semicircle at any angle. Does a semicircle have reflective properties similar to one half of the x created by the intersection of the equations y = x and y = -x? /\ / \ /____\ /| |\ / | | \ ^ V ^ V Notice the ray (with the arrows) entering the two lines. Once it hits a point on the line y = x it is reflected as a horizontal line until it hits a point on the line y = -x and is then reflected back parallel to the incoming vertical line: /\ / \ />>>>\ /^ V\ / ^ V \ ^ V ^ V ^ V Will a circle have a similar property, like this? (Excuse the crude drawing) ____ _/>>>>\_ / ^ V \ | ^ V | ^ V ^ V ^ V
Date: 05/16/2000 at 12:52:50 From: Doctor Rick Subject: Re: Reflective properties of a circle (please answer) Hi, Hunter. No, the semicircle doesn't have this "retroreflective" property. You can use basic geometry to understand some things about reflection in a circle. My figure is a bit less crude than yours is, but still not very good -- I hope you can understand it: ******** ***__ | *** ** |\ \_| ** * |a\a |\__ * * | \ | \__ * * | \a| \__ * * | \| __a_\* * | O____/ a /| | | / | | | / b| | | / | | | / | I drew a line entering vertically (parallel to the centerline of the hemisphere.) It is reflected such that the angle between the reflected ray and the radius of the circle at the point of reflection equals the angle between the incoming ray and the radius. (Both angles are "a" .) The same happens at the second reflection, if there is one. It's easy to show that all the angles marked "a" are equal. The angle marked "b" is how far the outgoing ray is from being parallel to the incoming ray. You can show that: b = 180 degrees - 4a For what angle a is angle b equal to 0? If you know a little trigonometry, you can figure out where the outgoing ray crosses the centerline, as a function of angle a; you will find that the rays do not converge at a single focal point, as they would if the reflector were a parabola. You can do further explorations concerning the behavior of rays that aren't parallel to the centerline. Another interesting exploration is the 3-dimensional version of the angle reflector you drew. The corner of a cube has the retroreflective property; when I was your age, "corner reflectors" like this were placed on the moon by the Apollo astronauts for laser ranging experiments. - Doctor Rick, The Math Forum http://mathforum.org/dr.math/
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