Strange things with reflections

This is a little tricky for me to explain, so bear with me.

I take the train to work every day, and I always sit next to the window. Generally, as I’m dozing off, I find myself staring at the window (not out of it) and examining the reflection. But there’s this one reflection phenomena that I can’t seem to wrap my mind around.

The seats of the train are laid out something like so:

<<<<< >>>X><<<<< >>>>> (“right” row)
<Y<<< >>>>><<<<< >>>>> (“left” row)

That is, the seats at the ends of the car point towards the center, and the seats in the center of the car point towards their respective ends. I generally sit in the left-center, on the right side of the car (indicated by the bold X).

By looking at my window, I can see a reflection of the person sitting in the spot indicated by the Bold Y. But what’s really odd is, it’s not in backwards-reflection form, it’s as if I’m looking directly at him (ie, even in the reflection, he’s on the left side of the car; the person to his right is also to his right in the reflection). The only thing I can think of is, that I am somehow seeing a reflection of another reflection - off the opposite windows, maybe - but no matter how I scrutinize, I can’t seem to work this out logically. What really, really gets me is, I have noticed that if he looks at HIS window, we can actually make eye contact in our reflections.

Bonus question: how can a person make eye contact with another person in a reflection?

Hopefully once someone explains it, it will all make sense. I blame the idiocy of the question on the impending long weekend.

Your username is rather appropriate :smiley:

I can’t understand how you’re seeing a non-reversed reflection. Unless you are seeing a reflection of his window, and not of him. But if that were the case you should be able to ‘find’ him.

Wait now, I never said I couldn’t find him! I mean, I know where to look in order to actually see him directly.

I promise, I’m not seeing the reflections of imaginary people!

Or am I? :stuck_out_tongue:

" have noticed that if he looks at HIS window, we can actually make eye contact in our reflections. "

This is the key phrase. It proves it’s a double reflection. He’d have to not be looking at his window for it to be a single reflection, and the fact that it’s a double reflection reverses the reverse.
I was looking at a double reflection of myself the other day. It felt weird because when I lifted an arm, the ‘wrong’ arm lifted in the reflection.
For the bonus question - It’s hard to explain. I couldn’t make eye contact with myself in my double reflection situation because I’d have to look away from the morror alltogether, but I suppose in a train there’s enough room to make it possible.


I mean find the single reflection of him. The one where, if he’s looking at his window, he’s looking away from you.

Wait a minute. I couldn’t possibly ever make eye contact with myself in a double-reflection.
How it works in your situation. You’ve found the double reflection of him, so you can look at him, and at his eyes. All that needs to happen for eye contact is for him to do the same.

OK I think I understand this now.

But my head hurts now.

I’m gonna investigate tonight on the way home using this knowledge. :smiley:

No, that is a correct mirror image. Say the subject it facing the front of the train, so is his reflection. If it wasn’t a mirror image the reflection would be facing the back of the train. Try this experiment. Look at the subject and take a photograph. For this purpose you can just make a stick figure paper sketch that shows what way he’s facing. Now tape it on the window over his reflection. Notice that the drawing is facing the opposite end of the train.

Now I’m confused. I thought the direction he’s facing wasn’t the issue. In the way I understand it Tel and the guy are facing eachother, and looking at… waaaaaiiit.

Yes, he and I are facing each other.

And I’m hitting submit by accident.

He and I are facing each other, but on opposite sides of the aisle. I look at a window directly to my right, he looks at a window directly to his right. When I look at my window, I see basically the same exact thing that I would see if I were to look directly at him.

Padeye Unless I am wrong, you are wrong (sorry). A person’s reflection shows them facing the same way as they are actually facing. I have much experience of train reflections too.

Is it dark outside? If so it’s quite possible you are looking at a relfection of a reflection. If it’s dark you may see three trains. The real one, the reflective one right next to the real one, and the reflected reflected one stuck to the side of the reflected one. Is the guy you are looking at in the third train?

I’ll let you know after tonight’s commute.

This is correct. Have you ever noticed your reflection in your car window as you are driving? The reflection doesn’t face backwards. Everything about you is oriented exactly the same, in that respect.

Also, the OP asked:

I don’t know why this surprises you. Light rays which are incident upon a mirror will bounce off (like a billiard ball) with a reflected angle of the same value. So, eyes looking at 30 degrees to the right of some imaginary centerline will trace light rays “bouncing into” the eyes of someone standing 30 degrees to the left of that same imaginary center line. In brief, yes, two sets of eyes can stare into each other - even if the path is “bounced” off a mirror helping to make the connection.

In your case on the train, the light rays may even bounce off your window and then off a window on the opposite side of the train into some stranger’s eyes…much like how a periscope bends light around corners.

If this is part of what puzzles you, I hope this helps…

  • Jinx

Ok. Let’s see if this works:

|               | 
| Him           | 
|               | 
| L  R          | 
|/  /           | 
|\ /            | 
| \             | 
|/ \            | 
|\  \           | 
| \  \          | 
|  R  L         | 
|   \  \        | 
|    \  \       | 
|     \  \      | 
|      \  \     | 
|       \  \    | 
|        R  L   | 
|         \  \  | 
|          \  \ | 
|           \  \| 
|            \ /| 
|             \ | 
|            / \| 
|           /  /| 
|          L  R | 
|               | 
|          You  | 
|               | 

Notice how the reflection is reversed for someone standing in the middle of the car between you and the fellow looking along the same line of sight.

Given the set-up of the windows, the person on the opposite side should be able to make eye contact with you in one of four ways (discounting anything higher than two refections):

  1. You look left towards the center aisle directly at him and he looks left towards the center aisle directly at you.

  2. You look right towards your window and see his reflection and he looks left towards the center aisle at the reflection of you in your window.

  3. He looks right towards his window and sees your reflection and you look left towards the center aisle at his reflection in his window.

  4. You look right towards your window and see the reflection of his reflection in his window and he looks right towards his window and sees the reflection of your reflection in your window.
    Basically, you should be able to look into your window and see this guy and also see his reflection in his window in front of him. When you look at him in the reflection in your window, he (and not his reflection in his window) should be reversed left-right. You should ‘see him’ as now being on the right side of the train (from your point of view facing what you call forward) instead of the left side of the train. If he parts his hair on the right, you should see it parted on the left.

The same would be true if you looked leftwards at his reflection in his window-- everything reversed.

However, if you looked rightwards at the reflection in your window of his reflection in his window, then everything would be doubly reversed and made right… it would be like looking at him directly. His part on the right would be on the right.

That’s the way it’s supposed to be. But, if I read you correctly, you’re saying that in situation #2 above, where you are looking at him through one reflection, that everything is not reversed. I proffer two explanations:

  1. Somehow, someway, there is really two reflections happening. Is your window double paned perhaps? Try this. Look at yourself in the window: is everything reversed? If yes, look at the person next to you in your window: still reversed? Move on to the person next to that person, keep going until you cross the aisle, and work your way to Mr. Y. in the reflection. At some point, something must double reverse in order for you to see Mr Y. unreversed. What point is that? (And if you look at yourself in the window and you are unreversed… call the Amazing Randi.)

  2. You are looking at a reversed image and are mentally unreversing in your mind. IOW, you’re confused.