Mirrors are everywhere in modern society – from deep space telescopes to dental equipment. But the most common use for a mirror remains true reflection, a mirror with a perfectly flat surface will reflect light back to you evenly, representing your image perfectly, although mirrored, back at you. But we have reached a point in modern times where function sometimes takes a back seat to fun, and mirrors are no exception! Sometimes we put intentionally distorted mirrors in place purely for the whimsy of seeing our reflections elongated or crushed, bloated, or stick thin. Let’s take a quick look at funhouse mirrors and how they work.
Funhouse mirrors work almost entirely on concave and convex sections. Concave mirrors curve inwards away from the viewer, squashing the reflection by forcing the light to reflect backwards at an inwards angle. Concave mirrors can be used vertically or horizontally, the former of which would return a an incredibly slim, lanky reflection reminiscent of Slenderman, while the latter would result in a short, squat reflection that looks like you’re just waiting for Gandalf to rock up for your latest adventure. If you curve a concave mirror too far, you would barely be able to see your reflection at all!
Convex mirrors are the opposite of concave ones. These mirrors curve outwards toward the viewer, which forces light to reflect back at a widespread angle and elongates or stretches the corresponding reflection. Horizontally convex mirrors would make you appear far taller than usual, giving you a glimpse of yourself as an NBA player. Meanwhile convex mirrors done vertically would stretch your reflection to be a much broader, stockier version of yourself, perfect for rugby! If you curve a convex mirror far enough, your image will eventually flip upside down. This actually mirrors (pun not intended) what happens in the back of your eye when it receives images, which are flipped upside down by the lens of your eye and corrected back to the right way up by your brain.
Most mirror funhouses will have some mirrors of each of these varieties, along with some mirrors which contain a combination of concave and convex sections for a truly chaotic reflection.