Mirrors are everywhere in modern society! They decorate our homes for both function and style, they allow professionals like dentists to do their jobs efficiently and safely, and they play a part in the expansion of our species into space by sitting in stellar telescopes. Most don’t know just how far back into our history the use and development of mirrors stretches! Here are a few fun facts about mirrors and their history:
The first mirrors were simply water
In ancient times, humans noticed that water carried their reflection and adopted this to create the world’s first mirror created for purpose! These earliest mirrors in human history would have simply been a dark container filled with water, to be placed on a flat surface to use as a reflecting pool.
Polished glass and metal followed
After the first era of mirrors being simply pots of water, the use of polished volcanic glass as mirrors became popular amongst ancient humans! This practice can be traced back to around 6000BC and replaced the primitive liquid-based mirrors completely. Not long after, in the Ancient Mesopotamian culture, polished copper took off in popularity and edged-out polished volcanic glass, laying the foundations for polished metals to take over as the predominant form of mirrors!
Mirrors can also reflect sound or matter
Yes! Believe it or not, mirrors can reflect sound as well as light. These types of mirrors are known as acoustic mirrors and were utilised by the British Navy during World War Two to detect soundwaves from enemy vessels. Interestingly, some mirrors can also reflect matter itself! These are called atomic mirrors and are used by physicists to reflect neutral atoms.
There are mirrors on the moon
The Laser Ranging Retroreflector was left on the moon by Apollo Astronauts to allow us to measure the distance between the earth and the moon, with lasers! This is vital because the moon’s orbit is elliptical, which means it changes distance. At its closest the moon lies just 225,622 miles away, but at its farthest it can reach 252,277 miles away! The Laser Ranging Retroreflector has allowed us to keep studying the properties of the moon without landing there again, and helped us to discover that the moon is moving away from the earth by roughly 4cm a year!