Why do mirrors reverse but not invert things?

05 September 2013

Question

If one looks in the mirror, the left and right side is reversed, so we see a "mirror image". However, the top and bottom is not. Why do we see left and right swapped around but not top and bottom?

Regards
Mark

Answer

Dominic - Well, in fact, it's a bit of a myth that mirrors reverse things because if you look in the mirror, you wave your left hand, you look in the mirror, the waving hand it's actually on the left. It's exactly the right side it should be. But if, let's say, I'm looking at Ginny and if I was sitting behind Ginny in a car and we stuck out our left hand, our right hand, we'd agree as to which side was which. But of course, to face me, Ginny is sitting on a swivel chair. She's turning around to see me. She has inverted her sense of left and right when she's turned around to look at me. Another that Ginny could turn around to face me will be to stand on her head. She is now trying to do that in the studio. I'm not sure that's going to end well, but of course, rather than inverting her sense of left and right, she's then inverted her sense of up and down. So, the inverse is in fact, when she turns around to look at me, rather than when I look in the mirror.

Chris - And so, the answer is.

Dominic - The answer is, that nothing is actually inverted when you look in the mirror, but things are inverted when we face each other in the studio.

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