Why do I see two reflections?

10 April 2011



Hello Chris. Really like the show! My question. When I look closely in the mirror I notice that my reflection has a transparent reflection surrounding my own.Best way to accomplish this is to hold your hand up at the bathroom mirror and observe in close proximity,your hands reflection in the mirror. I don't understand why there is a transparent reflection outlining  the reflection of my hand.I thought maybe this was because of stereo vision but then when I closed one eye it is still visible? What is this reflection? Phil Arbez

Manitoba, Canada


Dave - This probably means that you're using a standard back-silvered mirror...

So, a normal mirror is made up of a sheet of glass and then they deposit aluminium onto the back of it, which is shiny. So the main reflection you see is from the layer of aluminium at the back of the mirror. But the front of a sheet of glass also has a weak reflection. If you look at any window, especially if it's darker on the other side, you will see a reflection of yourself in that. And so, there will be a second reflection there. Because of the thickness of the glass, it won't be in exactly the same place, so there are two reflections, the main one from the silvering at the back, and a front one from the sheet of glass in the front.

Chris - I think the other place where you see this manifest is if you had one of those car rear-view mirrors that you can flick down to stop the person who's got very bright headlights behind from dazzling you at night time. You flick the mirror down and, bizarrely, although the mirror is now pointing downwards and out of your line of view, you can still see an impression of the headlights of the car behind in that mirror - and that will be that reflection off of the glass surface rather than the silver one?

Dave - They actually put a second piece of glass at a different angle, so then you're seeing the reflection in the glass, not in the mirror itself.


I was surfing the internet when I saw this website. I had this question in my mind for long and after reading the explanations, all that was crystal clear.
By the way, I am a student of class 10th from India. Where are you all from ?

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