There are two types of curved mirrors, convex and concave. These mirrors either curve toward or away from you. It's easy to remember which is which. A concave mirror "caves in" at the centre and forms a bowl-like appearance. On the other hand, the bowl of a convex mirror pushes out at the centre, while the edges recede. Both mirrors provide distorted images because of the way light reflects off the curved surface, but that distortion can benefit us in many practical ways.
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The speciality mirrors you may use to get a better look at your face while shaving or applying make-up are concave mirrors. Light that bounces off that curved surface is reflected back at an angle toward a central focal point. As the light is concentrated toward the focal point, you get the magnifying effect. These magnification mirrors can be useful in the bathroom or on a vanity to help you look your best.
Those little mirrors with handles that dentists and hygienists stick in your mouth are also concave. The curved surface of the mirror magnifies your teeth and gums to give dental health practitioners a better look at what's going on in your mouth. The mirrors also provide them a better view as they perform their work.
Car headlights also incorporate concave mirrors. When a light bulb is placed in front of the concave mirror, the light is reflected toward the middle, rather than straight out. The result is a strong beam that can help you better navigate a road at night.
Some microscopes have a concave mirror at their base, beneath a mounted slide, that can be rotated to focus light. The mirror collects light from a bulb and reflects it onto a specimen on the slide, making tiny organisms visible to the human eye.
The type of telescope that looks like a large drainpipe makes use of concave mirrors, too. The concave mirror is located at one end of the telescope and collects light from the cosmos. The images are then projected onto a flat mirror. Astronomers look through lenses in the eyepiece to see magnified images of the stars and other celestial bodies.
People enjoy seeing distorted images of themselves, and owners of funhouses and amusement parks have profiting from that enjoyment for decades. A funhouse may use both concave and convex mirrors to make people look fat or skinny, short or tall, and to distort features in other ways.
While spoons aren't technically considered mirrors, many people get their first experience learning about concave and convex mirrors by looking at their own reflection in a spoon. Depending on which side you look into, spoons can mimic the effects of either concave or convex mirrors.
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