How does the mirror know to reverse left and right, and not reverse top and bottom?

Date: Sun, 15 Jun 03 16:52:00 -0500

From: Internet Oracle

Subject: Internet Oracularity #1324-03

           Welcome to the Mr. Wizard Show!<br />
 Where each week we explore the exciting world of Science<br />

Mr. W. - Today we're going to explore the exciting world of - Mirrors!
And, we have six-year old Timmy visiting with us today.

Mr. W. - Timmy, do you know what a mirror is?

Timmy - Yea, you look at it, and it looks back at you; plus they're fun
to break with rocks!

Mr. W. - Oh Timmy! You should NEVER break a mirror; you could get a
piece of glass in your eye and go blind. Besides, it gives you seven
years of bad luck.

Timmy - You don't actually believe that seven years of bad luck crap do

Mr. W. - Well, no. That's just folklore, and I'm a Scientist!

Timmy - A scientist? You're a dumb old fossil!

(Mr. W. bends over and whispers in to Timmy's ear so the camera can't
hear it) - I was educated at Harvard University you little smart-ass.

Timmy - So what? That don't mean nothin'. We covered mirrors in class
last year. What do you wanna' know about 'em?

Mr. W. - Look at the mirror Timmy. Do you see how every thing is

Timmy - Every thing isn't reversed.

Mr. W. - Yes it is, see how left and right are reversed? Look, you
move your right arm, and it looks like your left arm is moving in the
mirror. See?

Timmy - Yea, what about top and bottom? They're not reversed.

Mr. W. - What?

Timmy - Left and right are reversed, but top and bottom are not. How
does the mirror know to reverse left and right, and not reverse top and

Mr. W. - Hummmm... (long pause, then Mr. W. tries to change the
subject)... Now let's see what happens when we bounce a laser off a

Timmy - Hold it right there you phony. I want an answer to my
question! How does the mirror know to reverse left and right, and not
reverse top and bottom?

Mr. W. - Look kid; I've studied all of the greatest minds in Science -
Newton, Edison, Babbage, Einstein, even Steven Hawkins; they ALL say
that everything is reversed in a mirror. Here... look. (Mr.W. quickly
fumbles through an encyclopedia, then proudly pointing at an entry he
says) Here! See? It says right here that EVERYTHING is reversed in a

Timmy - I'm not arguing whether a bunch of men who died in antiquity
said that or not; or if that's what the encyclopedia says. I simply
look at the mirror and observe that everything is reversed in the
horizontal plane, NOT in the vertical plane; then I ask "WHY?"

Mr. W. - So you're saying they're all wrong? All the greatest minds of
Science - wrong?

Timmy - I didn't say that - yet. I examine the evidence and go where
it leads me. If it turns out that 1000 years of Science is wrong, then
so be it. A true Scientist doesn't come to a conclusion, then interpret
the evidence to fit that conclusion. A true Scientist takes an unbiased
look at the evidence, THEN comes to a conclusion based on the evidence.
(Timmy rotates the mirror 90 degrees to one side.) Hummm... it still
reverses left and right, and not top and bottom... must have something
to do with the molecular crystalline structure of the reflective coating
on the converse side of the glass substrate.

Mr. W. - Molec... cryst...what? (Mr. W. tries to save face and cover
his ignorance.) So then, what is your conclusion?

Timmy - That you're an idiot.

Mr. W. - No, I mean about mirrors?

Timmy - Oh. I'm coming to the conclusion that 1000 years of Science is
wrong. Mirrors do not reverse everything, only left and right. Look
Mr. Harvard educated Wizard, I'm just a six-year-old kid and you're
SUPPOSED to be so smart - HOW does a mirror know to reverse left and
right, and NOT reverse top and bottom?

Mr. W. - (pause, Mr. W. doesn't know what to do, so again he tries to
change the subject) Ughhhh... We'll be right back after this

(As soon as the camera cuts away, Mr. Wizard wipes the sweat off his
brow. He's never been stumped before, especially not by a six-year-old.
During the commercial, Mr. Wizard frantically asks the scriptwriters,
and the on-site Scientific Consultant, but they don't know the answer
either. Finally in desperation, he tries a few Scientific web Sites,
and gets some hits.)

Mr. W. - Welcome back. I was just showing little Timmy here that
mirrors don't reverse left and right, they reverse in and out. Here
Timmy, I found some Web sites that PROVE that I'm right! See, these two
pages right here explain that mirrors don't reverse left and right, they
reverse in and out. (Mr. W. knows full well that he wasn't saying that
before the commercial, but he HAS to do something to save face.)

Timmy - No they don't.

Mr. W. - Yes they do! And it says so right here in these Web pages!

Timmy - Those Web pages are wrong.

Mr. W. - No, these Web pages are right.

Timmy - No, they are wrong, and I can prove it. When you're driving
your car and you look in the rear-view mirror and see an ambulance; when
it is closer it looks closer, and when it's further away it looks
further away. How about that, you dumb old geezer! Proof that mirrors
don't reverse in and out like those Web pages claim.

Mr. W. - Ummm, well... you do have a point there.

Timmy - AND if you look in your rear-view mirror you can read the word
"A M B U L A N C E", but if you look right at it you can't read it
because it's backwards! The letters are not upside-down, just reversed
left to right. PROOF that mirrors reverse left and right, and NOT up
and down! It also proves that you and those stupid Web pages are WRONG,

(Mr. Wizard is thoroughly stumped; he's speechless. His whole
self-image has been crushed by this bratty little six-year old. Mr. W.
thinks to him self - "How can this happen? To ME of all people? I was
the Valedictorian of my graduating class! This can't be real... but it
is! What will my teachers think? What will my Mother think?!?!?! I'll
never be able to face my friends again. I'd rather die than be trumped
by a six-year old. Oh my God, it's on TV, in front of EVERYONE! I will
never be able to show my face again; anywhere!" A full minute goes by
while Mr. W. just stands there doing nothing but staring in to space.
Finally... he snaps out of it and tries to recover.)

Mr. W. - Um... Welcome back. Next we're going to see how mirrors are
used in telescopes!

Timmy - Wait! You haven't answered my question you stupid imposter!
You wanna' be. You ain't no scientist; you're not even a good actor! I
demand to know... How does the mirror know to reverse left and right,
and not reverse top and bottom?

} Mr W. - But wait! We have a special Guest Star who can answer this

} question.


} Timmy - Yeah, right.


} Mr W. - But we do and here he is - THE USENET ORACLE!!


} -camera switches to angle looking behind side-curtain, focuses on The

} Oracle talking to a pretty redheaded p.a.-


} Oracle - ...but it's not just the tongue. Sure, you get a reaction

} licking around the edges, but you have to occasionally suck at the c -

} oh, hey, the mike's gone live.


} Mr W. - And here's the Oracle.


} Oracle - Let's see, mirrors...


} Timmy - No, you can keep on with your other conversation if you want.


} Oracle - Won't help you, Timmy. You're going to die a virgin way

} before puberty. Oh, drat, I wasn't supposed to tell you that.


} Mr W. - Umm...


} Oracle - Mirrors! Ah yes! Timmy, are you cold and rigid?


} Timmy - No...


} Oracle - Well, not yet anyway. Yet your "reversed self" in the mirror

} is. Why?


} Timmy - Well, it's just an image, isn't it?


} Oracle - That's right. So you're not reversed in a mirror - the image

} the mirror shows is reversed.


} Timmy - But why?


} Oracle - Why what?


} Timmy - Why is the image reversed?


} Oracle - Timmy, which is your right arm?


} Timmy - This one.


} Oracle - And which is my right arm?


} Timmy - That one.


} Oracle - But you just pointed at different sides.


} Timmy - Yeah, but my idea of right is your idea of left because

} you're facing me.


} Oracle - Just like the image in a mirror is facing you, right?


} Timmy - Yeah! No, wait a minute.


} Oracle - Gotta go.


} Timmy - Hey, that doesn't work!


} Oracle - Places to be.


} Timmy - Hold up, you're wr-


} Oracle - Byeeeeeeee...


} -Oracle vanishes-


} Timmy - What a crock of s-


} -Oracle reappears-


} Oracle - Nearly forgot. Keisha, here's my phone number. Gimme a call

} if you want a practical demonstration.


} Oracle gives business card to pretty redheaded p.a. and vanishes while

} Timmy is still spluttering