Infinity mirror

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A classic infinity mirror used as a wall decoration Infinity Mirror.png
A classic infinity mirror used as a wall decoration

The infinity mirror (also sometimes called an infinite mirror) is a configuration of two or more parallel or nearly parallel mirrors, creating a series of smaller and smaller reflections that appear to recede to infinity. [1] [2] Often the front mirror of an infinity mirror is half-silvered (a so-called one way mirror), but this is not required to produce the effect. A similar appearance in artworks has been called the Droste effect. Infinity mirrors are sometimes used as room accents or in works of art. [3]



An infinity mirror effect viewed between paired mirrors in a public bathroom Infinity mirror in a public bathroom.jpg
An infinity mirror effect viewed between paired mirrors in a public bathroom

In a classic self-contained infinity mirror, a set of light bulbs, LEDs, or other point-source lights are placed around the periphery of a fully reflective mirror, and a second, partially reflective "one-way mirror" is placed a short distance in front of it, in a parallel alignment. When an outside observer looks into the surface of the partially reflective mirror, the lights appear to recede into infinity, creating the appearance of a tunnel of great depth that is lined with lights. [2]

If the mirrors are not precisely parallel but instead are canted at a slight angle, the "visual tunnel" will be perceived to be curved off to one side, as it recedes into infinity.

Alternatively, this effect can also be seen when an observer stands between two parallel fully reflective mirrors, as in some dressing rooms, some elevators, or a house of mirrors. [1] A weaker version of this effect can be seen by standing between any two parallel reflective surfaces, such as the glass walls of a small entry lobby into some buildings. The partially-reflective glass produces this sensation, diluted by the visual noise of the views through the glass into the surrounding environment.

Explanation of effect

Computer simulation image of repeatedly reflected shapes - note that alternating reflections are reversed - this is typical of the effect Venus in Mirrors.jpg
Computer simulation image of repeatedly reflected shapes - note that alternating reflections are reversed - this is typical of the effect

The 3D illusion mirror effect is produced whenever there are two parallel reflective surfaces which can bounce a beam of light back and forth an indefinite (theoretically infinite) number of times. The reflections appear to recede into the distance because the light actually is traversing the distance it appears to be traveling.

For example, in a two-centimeter-thick infinity mirror, with the light sources halfway between, light from the source initially travels one centimeter. The first reflection travels one centimeter to the rear mirror and then two centimeters to, and through the front mirror, a total of three centimeters. The second reflection travels two centimeters from front mirror to back mirror, and again two centimeters from the back mirror to, and through the front mirror, totaling four centimeters, plus the first reflection (three centimeters) making the second reflection seven centimeters away from the front mirror. Each successive reflection adds four more centimeters to the total (the third reflection appears 11 centimeters deep, fourth 15 centimeters, and so on). [1] [4]

Each additional reflection adds length to the path the light must travel before exiting the mirror and reaching the viewer. Each reflection of the light reduces the brightness of the image, which also fades into the distance.

Cultural references

Visual artists, especially contemporary sculptors, have made use of infinity mirrors. Yayoi Kusama, Josiah McElheny, Ivan Navarro, Taylor Davis, Anthony James, [5] and Guillaume Lachapelle [6] have all produced works that use the infinity mirror to expand the sensation of unlimited space in their artworks.

The contemporary classical composer Arvo Pärt wrote his 1978 composition Spiegel im Spiegel ("mirror in the mirror") as a musical reflection on the infinity mirror effect.

See also

Related Research Articles

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mirror</span> Object that reflects an image

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Optics</span> Branch of physics that studies light

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Refraction</span> Physical phenomenon relating to the direction of waves

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Binoculars</span> Pair of telescopes mounted side-by-side

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mirror image</span>

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Reflecting telescope</span> Telescopes which utilize curved mirrors to form an image

A reflecting telescope is a telescope that uses a single or a combination of curved mirrors that reflect light and form an image. The reflecting telescope was invented in the 17th century by Isaac Newton as an alternative to the refracting telescope which, at that time, was a design that suffered from severe chromatic aberration. Although reflecting telescopes produce other types of optical aberrations, it is a design that allows for very large diameter objectives. Almost all of the major telescopes used in astronomy research are reflectors. Reflecting telescopes come in many design variations and may employ extra optical elements to improve image quality or place the image in a mechanically advantageous position. Since reflecting telescopes use mirrors, the design is sometimes referred to as a catoptric telescope.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Prism (optics)</span> Transparent optical element with flat, polished surfaces that refract light

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Reflection (physics)</span> "Bouncing back" of waves at an interface

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Optical coating</span>

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Specular reflection</span> Mirror-like wave reflection

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Projection screen</span> Apparatus for displaying a projected image

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Front projection effect</span> In-camera visual effects process

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Curved mirror</span> Mirror with a curved reflecting surface

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Reflection (computer graphics)</span> Simulation of reflective surfaces

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Glare (vision)</span> Bright light which impairs vision

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Output coupler</span>

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">One-way mirror</span> Glass that allows people on one side to see those on the other but not vice versa

A one-way mirror, also called two-way mirror, is a reciprocal mirror that appears reflective on one side and transparent at the other. The perception of one-way transmission is achieved when one side of the mirror is brightly lit and the other side is dark. This allows viewing from the darkened side but not vice versa.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Plane mirror</span> Mirror with a flat reflecting surface

A plane mirror is a mirror with a flat (planar) reflective surface. For light rays striking a plane mirror, the angle of reflection equals the angle of incidence. The angle of the incidence is the angle between the incident ray and the surface normal. Therefore, the angle of reflection is the angle between the reflected ray and the normal and a collimated beam of light does not spread out after reflection from a plane mirror, except for diffraction effects.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Virtually imaged phased array</span> Dispersive optical device

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  1. 1 2 3 Gbur, Gregory J. (July 30, 2011). "Infinity is weird… even in infinity mirrors!". Skulls in the Stars: The intersection of physics, optics, history and pulp fiction. Retrieved 2015-06-04.
  2. 1 2 Finio, Ben. "Arduino-controlled RGB LED Infinity Mirror". Instructables. Autodesk, Inc. Retrieved 2015-06-04.
  3. Grimes, William (December 1, 2013). "Lights, Mirrors, Instagram! #ArtSensation". The New York Times . Retrieved 2015-06-04.
  4. "Look Into Infinity". Exploratorium Snacks. Exploratorium. 19 March 2015. Retrieved 2015-06-04.
  5. "Five Highlights from SOFA 2018". American Craft Council.
  6. [ bare URL ]