Why is my reflection upside-down when I look in a spoon?

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Surfaces like mirrors, glass, and shiny silver metals are reflective – they are smooth and flat and when you look at them, they bounce an image back at you! When a reflective object has a flat surface, your image bounces straight back at you and none of the picture gets curved or bent.

Now think for a minute about a curved reflective surface, like a silver doorknob or one of those mirrors in a Fun House. Because these surfaces are curved and bent, the light of an image that is reflected by them gets curved and bent too! That’s why when you look into them, you end up with a silly balloon head or a big round belly!

The image reflected by a spoon works the same way! Because a spoon is bowl-shaped and curved, it doesn’t reflect your image straight back at you like a mirror. The reason you end up looking upside-down on the front of a spoon is that the metal bends inwards so much that bottom of the spoon ends up pointed towards your forehead and the top of the spoon ends up pointed towards your chin or your neck! This means the image you see reflected is bent and unusual too – your chin or neck is reflected at the bottom and your forehead is reflected at the top: You’re upside down!

by   (whyzz writer)
  • Further information

    If you get close enough to the bowl-shaped front of a spoon, you can actually manage to flip your reflection right-side up! That’s because getting close enough to the spoon no longer allows the top of the spoon to points towards your chin and the bottom to point towards your forehead. When you’re so very close, the curvy metal can only reflect what is directly in front of it. This means your image is right-side up, although still very silly and bent!

  • Exploration

    Reflecting on reflections

    Try to find some other shiny, curvy things in your house, and inspect what they do to your reflection.

    Some items that might work would be round metal doorknobs, shiny silver bowls, the face of a watch, the side of a metal cookie-cutter, and more! Make sure you ask before you take or use any items.

    What do you notice about your reflection in these bent, shiny objects? Is it bigger? Smaller? Right-side up? Upside-down? Think about which objects reflect your image in which ways, and why!


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