Why are curved mirrors often spherical in form? What disadvantages do such mirrors have if they are of wide aperture?

2 Answers | Add Yours

ophelious's profile pic

ophelious | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted on

That is an interesting question.

First, we are all familiar with a flat mirror.  Light hits a mirror and bounces back so that we can see the "reflection."  A flat mirror will do this fairly accurately, depending on the quality of the mirror.

A concave mirror is not flat; it bulges away from the light (kind of like if you nailed a bowl to the wall with the part you'd put your soup in facing you.)  These types of mirrors tend to focus light toward the inner center.  The image shown, then, is very different depending on where you are standing in proximity to the mirror.   Common uses are in automobile headlights and searchlights, which can focus light in one direction.

A convex mirror is the opposite.  It is the bowl nailed to the wall so that the part that holds the soup is not facing you.  These types of mirrors tend to spread out light instead of concentrating it.  They are sometimes called "fish eyes" and can give the person looking into the mirror a wide field of vision.  An example of the use of such a mirror would be on ATM machines that allow the person punching in their password to see all the nefarious individuals behind them ready to pounce on them once the $20 comes out.

Both, by construction, are spherical in form (would turn into a ball if the mirror were "finished".)  Most of these mirrors are "cut in half" for our use (besides the ubiquitous disco ball, but I don't know if that really counts as a mirror.)

The major disadvantage is the distortion of the image.  The wider the "aperture" of the mirror the more distorting it is going to be on the image.

krishna-agrawala's profile pic

krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

Posted on

Mirrors used for obtaining undistorted images of objects use only spherical curved mirrors at these mirrors provide equal magnification of images in all directions. Use of curved mirrors other than spherical will result in images that are distorted, like the images obtained in different types of curved mirrors used for fun.

Of course there are many uses of  curved mirrors other than for obtaining images. Such mirrors may use other shape suitable for specific uses. For example, headlamps of automobiles are fitted with parabola shaped reflecting mirrors to produce a parallel beam of light.

The question about apertures is not very clear. Not all devices with curved mirrors have apertures, and not all devices with aperture have curved mirrors. Also, a narrower aperture is not necessarily always better than a wider aperture. For example, a camera gives best result with different apertures depending on variables such as available light condition and shutter time.

We’ve answered 317,487 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question