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The process of reflection occurs when a wave strikes an obstacle or boundary, such as a wall or other surface. The wavefront is then scattered and redirected by the obstacle or boundary. When this redirecting occurs, some of the energy is lost while some of it continues forward in another direction. This change in direction is known as reflection. Reflection can also occur when two identical waves meet each other and combine together, producing what is known as standing waves.
Types of Reflection
There are three types of reflections specular (or regular), diffuse (or irregular), and retroreflection (or retro). Specular reflection occurs when light hits a smooth surface like a mirror and reflects off in one direction only; diffuse reflection occurs when light hits a rough surface like paper and scatters off in many directions, and retro reflection happens when light reflects off a special reflective material like highway signs that reflect back directly to its source.
Applications of Reflection
Reflections play an important role in our everyday lives from seeing our own image in mirrors to hearing echoes to watching waves crash against rocks on the shoreline. In addition, reflections can be used for navigation purposes sailors use them to determine their location using buoys that reflect soundwaves back to their source. Furthermore, reflections are used extensively in machines such as lasers where they enable extremely precise measurements and calculations to be made quickly and accurately.