‘When will my reflection show who I am inside?’

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Will Sieracki, Reporter

     What color is a mirror? It’s one of the most confusing questions that a lot of people can’t answer. Some people say it’s white, and others say a mirror is whatever color it’s reflecting. But there is an actual answer, and it may surprise you.

     Mirrors, contrary to popular belief, are actually green. It’s a very faint, light green, but still green. Consider the fact that most people are familiar with the way humans see color. Colors are on the electromagnetic spectrum, which has a range of wavelengths that humans can and cannot see. The part of the spectrum that’s visible to humans spans different wavelengths from 400 nM to 700 nM, with colors including blue, green, red, orange, purple, and yellow. When light comes into contact with an object, the object absorbs specific wavelengths from the spectrum. Any visible wavelengths that aren’t absorbed are reflected, and reflected wavelengths that come into contact with your eyes are viewed as colors. Objects that absorb all visible wavelengths are seen as black, and objects that reflect all visible wavelengths are seen as white. That is the basic concept of how people see color.

    But back to the question: what color is a mirror? Mirrors reflect all visible wavelengths, exactly like objects that we perceive as white. So why aren’t mirrors white? And if this were the case, you would be able to see your reflection on a piece of paper, which you obviously can’t. In this situation, the answer is that there are different ways to reflect light. A sheet of paper has something called “diffuse reflection” because the object reflects light diffusely, so as to say scattered and in random directions. On the other hand, mirrors have something called “specular reflection.” The wavelengths that leave the surface of the mirror are organized according to the angle at which they arrived.

     So most mirrors you encounter on a daily basis are green. For example, the mirror over your bathroom sink is made out of a silver backing and soda-lime silica glass substrate. The combination of these two materials is what gives a mirror its green color. It’s extremely rare for the human eye to pick it up, though. It’s a very long, complicated answer for what seems to be an easy question to answer.