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A ridiculously simple question: How does a mirror work ?

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posted on Sep, 18 2010 @ 02:32 AM
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Just recently I created a thread
Is physics rapidly leaving the realm of SCIENCE and RE-ENTERING the realm of MAGIC ?
that basically postulated that contrary to what we're led to believe that science/physics is rapidly unraveling the secrets of the universe through ongoing research and theories, that the very opposite may in fact be the case. To me it seems that science is actually digging a "virtual" bottomless pit for itself ... the more that research uncovers, the more answers that we force the universe to divulge, the more complex as a result we find the universe apparently becoming and the harder we're finding it to comprehend this increasingly complex universe.

Take the Large Hadron Collider as an obvious example of the deepness of our current level of (lack of) understanding of whats really going on deep down in the "bowels" of the universe. Arguably one of the most complex and sophisticated scientific research instruments ever created, we use it to smash together subatomic particles and forcing them to break apart into ever smaller constituent particles. And yet, the more particles we smash together and at increasingly higher and higher energies, we simply find more and more smaller particles ... there just doesn't seem to be an end to them. And even with all this violent subatomic destruction, we seem to be no closer to determining just how nature creates each of these various particles ... not one physicist on the planet can "build" something as basic as an electron from scratch and duplicate something that nature apparently does with ease.
What will our "physics" do when we're smashing these particles together with energy levels equivalent to those present at the very moment of the Big Bang and still find smaller and smaller particles spewing forth ? Or even if we do eventually reach the last particle but still find ourselves unable to explain how it's created and unable to duplicate that creation process by building those particles from the "ground up" ?

In that previous thread of mine, I "tongue-in-cheek" tried to show just how little science actually does know about the ultimate structure of the universe and how it works at the deepest levels by offering a very simple example, namely that of a mirrors ability to reflect back whatever is in front of it ... its basic reflection property.
But the more I thought about that example and the more I tried to locate a definitive explanation of how a mirror reflects, it very quickly became obvious to me that we really don't have a clue as to whats happening at the atomic level within the atoms of a mirror.

Sure, there's plenty of superficial explanations based on the well known Laws of Reflection, angles of incidence and reflection, media boundary changes, etc, etc ... but not ONE detailed explanation that I could find that explains just what happens to those incoming photons:
- how do they interact with electrons within the mirror ?
- do the electrons absorb the incoming photons or do they somehow cause the photons to change direction ("bounce back") by 180 degrees before exiting the mirror ? If "bounced back" without absorption by electrons, whats the mechanism that achieves this feat ?
- if the photons are absorbed, then how do the electrons physically absorb this incoming photon ... whats the "absorption" mechanism that they use ?
- if the photons are absorbed, how do the electrons store this energy ... whats the storage mechanism ?
- if the photons are absorbed, how do all the millions of electrons coordinate the release of their energy as photons to maintain image coherence and stability in the reflected image ? Whats the "release" mechanism and how does it work ?
- if the photons are absorbed then emitted, how do the electrons manage to emit their photons in an exact 180 degree direction reversal to that of the incoming photons ?

There are many more very similar questions regarding the reflection mechanism that I could pose but the above will suffice to show our current abysmal lack of understanding of whats really happening at the (sub)atomic level with such a simple device as a mirror. We've known how to make working mirrors for 1000's of years but as far as I can tell, we still have no deeper understanding of whats actually going on then we did say, 200 or even 100 years ago.

So, if any ATS'er has greater insight into the underlying physics of reflection, then I'll be very open to reading their response. I'm always interested in learning new things about how this wonderful universe of ours works


In fact, to make it much simpler, lets do away with all the atoms in the mirror except for one, then do away with all the incoming photons except for one.

Now, how does this single atom perform this marvelous feat of reversing the photons path by exactly 180 degrees ?




posted on Sep, 18 2010 @ 02:38 AM
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In other words, is there a place where religion and science actually meet and don't contradict each other?

www.thechronicleproject.org...

read the study notes first, I think you might find this discovery very amusing



posted on Sep, 18 2010 @ 02:59 AM
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Here is a fascinating lecture from Richard Feynman:
www.vega.org.uk...

He starts explaining how a mirror works at about 28:30.



edit on September 18th 2010 by Ian McLean because: To also mention that the "Principle of Least Time" is amazing, and well-worth groking.



posted on Sep, 18 2010 @ 03:04 AM
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I found a Richard Feynman talk on the subject: What are reflection and transmission, and how do they work?.

The person that provided the link said it was relevant to this question.

It's a long video so I didn't have a chance to check it out throughly. I plan to watch it myself.

 


reply to post by Ian McLean
 


Oh darn, you beat me to the post while I was wasting time being interested in his talk.



edit on 9/18/2010 by EnlightenUp because: a minute late and a penny short



posted on Sep, 18 2010 @ 03:12 AM
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I remember reading something long ago saying we live in a creation universe...and that things are basically created on the fly from our own consciousness...

such as, during say, cavemen days, atoms simply didn't exist...not a wasn't discovered kinda thing, but actually didn't exist...nor did galaxies far away, etc...any of it...
Then as we decide something must be up there and started looking, things sort of popped into existance that we assumed should be there

Same with the small...the smaller we looked, the smaller things got...and it will infinately go so long as we keep expecting to find something...

The whole theory was, people...all people...are actually just manifestations of a single thing...lets call it God...and it is exploring itself and understanding itself through creation and comparative sizing of things...so, when we investigate something, we are actually creating something to investigate overall, just sort of ignorant to that fact...

it was a interesting theory anyhow...who knows...perhaps there is some truth to that...I would go on about quantum physics/ observed results altering results, etc...but you get the point.



posted on Sep, 18 2010 @ 03:16 AM
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reply to post by EnlightenUp
 


Lol, looks like you followed the same "WHY does a mirror work?" path as I did...


It really is a great lecture; I've read some of Feynman's written lectures before, but I haven't seen this video... it's so refreshing to hear explanations that aren't dumbed-down and aren't intellectually pretentious. Just a normal guy doing his best to explain something clearly -- no wonder he won a Nobel prize.



posted on Sep, 18 2010 @ 03:22 AM
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www.explainthatstuff.com...

That link is pretty useful. And yes, photons are absorbed by the silver atoms, causing them to become exited and release a photon, however I'm not completely sure how they get released back at the same angle. And you need to look into quantum mechanics a little bit to understand how an electron can absorb and release photons. I actually made a thread about QM not too long ago which explains it a little bit: Quantum Mechanics will blow your mind - the peculiar features of quantum theory!



posted on Sep, 18 2010 @ 03:33 AM
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Originally posted by SaturnFX
I remember reading something long ago saying we live in a creation universe...and that things are basically created on the fly from our own consciousness...


How am I able to trip over a broken paving stone when I have no consciousness of it being there then?



posted on Sep, 18 2010 @ 03:40 AM
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Originally posted by Ian McLean
reply to post by EnlightenUp
 


Lol, looks like you followed the same "WHY does a mirror work?" path as I did...


Our arrows were pointing in roughly the same direction.



Just a normal guy doing his best to explain something clearly -- no wonder he won a Nobel prize.


Quite a character. I didn't know that about him actually. He was born in Queens, New York and could imagine him giving me this talk in his cab on the way to the airport, if I lived there, that is.



posted on Sep, 18 2010 @ 03:52 AM
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I agree with the OP that there are certainly a lot of things that people don't understand.
What I find hard to digest is talking about "Science" not understanding things. "Science" doesn't understand anything, it's simply a process of investigation.
Or to quote the wiki



Scientific method refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on gathering observable, empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.[2] A scientific method consists of the collection of data through observation and experimentation, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.


I simply don't understand what you would have us replace "Science" with, as the only alternatives seem to be "Faith" and "guesswork"

You know full well that no one on this forum can answer the question posed in your Original post, the answer isn't known, so the only reason I can imagine for you asking it is to try an prove a point that you believe that the scientific method is wrong, so what should we do about it?

People have only been working on these problems for the last few hundred years, give the human race a chance.

"Science" of course does not know everything, but in the past few thousand years people using the scientific method have taken the human race from cold hunted creatures stumbling around in the dark, cowering in corners lest we were struck down by the god of the volcano, to me sitting at this PC typing about the Large Hadron Collider and peoples attempts at creating a grand unification theory. I think that's pretty good progress to tell you the truth



posted on Sep, 18 2010 @ 03:55 AM
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Originally posted by Ian McLean
Here is a fascinating lecture from Richard Feynman:
www.vega.org.uk...

He starts explaining how a mirror works at about 28:30.



edit on September 18th 2010 by Ian McLean because: To also mention that the "Principle of Least Time" is amazing, and well-worth groking.



A very interesting lecture ... and a very interesting person.

Unfortunately, at no point in the lecture does he actually get into the (sub)atomic "physical explanation" involving absorption/re-emmission of photons by electrons and completely sidesteps this component of photon reflection ... which is what I've been saying all along ... that we seem to have no understanding of whats really happening during the process of reflection at the atomic level.

Feynman spent a significant portion of this lecture talking about the "gross" physical observations pertaining to the concept of reflection e.g. amplitudes, probabilities, angles of relection, path directions, etc ... but not once did he attempt to explain reflection at the atomic level. He essentially was just repeating the standard physics explanation for reflection based on what we "see" happening at the macro level. This oversimplifies the reflection issue and pretends to offer an "explanation" but unfortunately does not.



posted on Sep, 18 2010 @ 04:26 AM
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Originally posted by davespanners

People have only been working on these problems for the last few hundred years, give the human race a chance.

"Science" of course does not know everything, but in the past few thousand years people using the scientific method have taken the human race from cold hunted creatures stumbling around in the dark, cowering in corners lest we were struck down by the god of the volcano, to me sitting at this PC typing about the Large Hadron Collider and peoples attempts at creating a grand unification theory. I think that's pretty good progress to tell you the truth


Please don't misunderstand the point I'm trying to make here.
I'm totally in favour of scientific research as a means for us to unravel the secrets of the universe and to understand exactly how nature has accomplished what it has. The more we search and investigate ... the more we will know.

Unfortunately, at least from my perspective, scientific research while answering many current questions regarding the nature of the universe, seems to be in the process of self-generating an ever increasing number of questions. And in trying to answer these questions, we have to resort to coming up with more and more complex and sophisticated answers. The further and deeper that we delve into this universe of ours, the more and more complex it seems to be becoming.

Here's an example taken from the Brazilian Journal of Physics:
Rotating and counterrotating relativistic thin disks as sources of stationary electrovacuum spacetimes

Keep in mind that the following is just a sample of the mathematics in that article !




Perhaps the point I'm making is that if we still have no complete and understandable explanation for something as commonplace as a mirror and how it works, then how can we hope to comprehend fully much more complex aspects of the universes nature ?




I simply don't understand what you would have us replace "Science" with, as the only alternatives seem to be "Faith" and "guesswork"

You know full well that no one on this forum can answer the question posed in your Original post, the answer isn't known, so the only reason I can imagine for you asking it is to try an prove a point that you believe that the scientific method is wrong, so what should we do about it?

I'm not in the slightest suggesting that the "scientific method" is wrong or flawed and that it should perhaps be replaced ... most certainly not by magic or faith or guesswork. I'm simply making an observation that the direction that scientific research is taking us is showing us that the universe seems to have a tendency to become increasingly (and rapidly) more and more complex and that this complexity is increasing at an accelerating rate.



edit on 18/9/10 by tauristercus because: (no reason given)



posted on Sep, 18 2010 @ 04:40 AM
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reply to post by tauristercus
 


Ohh. Ok, Sorry.

I thought you were building up to some kind of veiled point about religion
That will teach me to post before I've had my first cup of coffee



posted on Sep, 18 2010 @ 04:41 AM
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reply to post by tauristercus
 




The further and deeper that we delve into this universe of ours, the more and more complex it seems to be becoming.
That's because the universe and fabric of reality is so much more complex than you could ever fathom. We literally know next to nothing in the grand scheme of things. And yes, the physics involved in explaining a simple mirror will get quite complex because it involves looking at processes which take place on an atomic level. As I said, if you want a better understanding of how photons interact with electrons check out my Quantum Mechanics thread. My guess is, the nature of silver atoms some how help the electrons re-emit photons on an angle corresponding to the angle of incidence.


edit on 18/9/10 by CHA0S because: spelling



posted on Sep, 18 2010 @ 04:53 AM
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Originally posted by davespanners
reply to post by tauristercus
 


Ohh. Ok, Sorry.

I thought you were building up to some kind of veiled point about religion
That will teach me to post before I've had my first cup of coffee


Hahahaha ... no probs at all ... the world doesn't come into focus for me either until I've had a sufficient dose of caffeine


As for religion, I'll keep my mouth closed on the subject and not incur the wrath of other ATS members who have a very strong and pro-religion leaning



posted on Sep, 18 2010 @ 04:54 AM
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The question i have is why mirrors flip left to right, so we have the "mirror image", but does not flip top to bottom...this makes no sense to me



posted on Sep, 18 2010 @ 04:58 AM
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Originally posted by ariel bender

The question i have is why mirrors flip left to right, so we have the "mirror image", but does not flip top to bottom...this makes no sense to me


It flips front-to-back, not left-to-right. You might notice your left is still to your left and your right is still to your right in a mirror, but you're facing your own image and your image is facing you.



posted on Sep, 18 2010 @ 05:23 AM
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reply to post by tauristercus
 


I'm beginning to see the point that you're trying to make. How are we ever going to really understand and explain the increasingly complex structure of the universe if we can't even come to grips with explaining how something as deceptively simple as reflection works at the atomic level.


Great topic S&F for you !



posted on Sep, 18 2010 @ 05:47 AM
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reply to post by afoolbyanyothername
 


You said it, "deceptively simple". Yet, conceptually it's not that complicated. There's some links above if you actually want to know something about it. The greatest ignorance I see here is the display of ravenous contempt towards scientists and the assumption that none have worked out the details in the quantum of these "everyday" phenomena and verified them experimentally.

The depth of their thought and knowledge is beyond the grasp of the vast majority of people. In this relationship, it all too often true that the ignorant that don't get it declare the knowledgable as the one ignorant. The one who does not understand is gripped by fear and confusion and responds by condemnation of the one who does. Heck, Feynman even covers that topic quite briefly.

Basically, wave behavior as we normally understand it is an emergent statistical phenomenon. Light comes in packets (aka. corpuscles, photons), always. It's not the outmoded concept of wave-particle duality. Feynman made that clear about the synthesis of that dialectic in his lecture at the given address in the posts above.



posted on Sep, 18 2010 @ 05:59 AM
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With a mirror you are not looking at a reversed image. You are looking at your own image from behind.

Think about this. With a flat mirror, you see an upright image but reverse handed.

In a concave mirror (like the inside of a polished spoon) you see a right handed image that is upside down.....



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