The magic mirror – an impossible optical illusion

The magic mirror - an impossible optical illusion
The back of this Japanese magic mirror 
can also be seen from the front.

Magic mirrors are metal mirrors that work as mirrors, with a polished metal surface that reflects an image just as any ordinary mirror would.

But they also have special properties. When lit by a bright light, such as sunlight, these mirrors will reflect a shadowy image of whatever image had been cast in the metal in the back of the mirror.

Magic mirrors were historically found in China and Japan. Some examples are over 2,000 years old.

How do they work?

The method used to construct the mirror creates imperfections in the mirrored surface, and these imperfections match the image on the back. When bright light hits the mirror, these imperfections reflect that image.

There are also mirrors where the back image does not match the front, but a secret image can still be reflected.

These magic mirrors might have been used when the owner wanted to secretly hide a religious symbol within the mirror.

How does that work?

The mirrors have been made the same way, but another layer of metal has been placed over the back, on top of the image to be hidden.

What the Ancients Knew: The Magic Mirror

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