Law of Reflection

A light ray incident upon a reflective surface will be reflected at an angle equal to the incident angle. Both angles are typically measured with respect to the normal to the surface. This law of reflection can be derived from Fermat's principle.

The law of reflection gives the familiar reflected image in a planemirror where the image distancebehind the mirror is the same as the object distance in front of themirror.

Index

Reflection concepts

Mirror concepts
 
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Fermat's Principle:Reflection

Fermat's Principle: Light follows the path of least time. The law of reflection can be derived from this principle as follows:

The pathlength L from A to B is

Since the speed is constant, theminimum time path is simply the minimum distance path. This may be found by setting the derivative of L with respect to x equal to zero.

This derivation makes use of the calculus of maximum-minimum determination, the derivative of a square root, and the definitions of the triangle trig functions.

Fermat's Principle for Refraction
Index

Reflection concepts

Mirror concepts
 
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Fermat's Principle and Refraction

Fermat's Principle: Light follows the path of least time. Snell's Law can be derived from this by setting the derivative of the time =0. It shows how the refraction of light at an interface depends upon the indices of refraction.

This derivation makes use of the calculus of maximum-minimum determination and the definitions of the triangle trig functions.

Fermat's Principle for Reflection
Index

Reference
Meyer-Arendt
 
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