A simple question: If you want to see more of yourself in a mirror at once, do you:

A) Hold it farther away
B) Hold it closer
C) It doesn’t matter

Got your answer?  Now try it!

Surprised by your result?  So are most of us.Picture1

My best guess is that we transfer our experience with windows to mirrors, and never look back.  (See what I did there?)

Picture4You can probably remember a time you were excited to see snow, or something awesome outside your window.  What do you do?  You run over and get close to it!

Why?  Because you can get close to the window, while everything outside stays about the same distance away.

Now imagine looking at a tree close to your window.  The closer that tree was planted, the less of it you’d see, without getting closer to the window.  Close enough, and you would only see part of the trunk. (Too close, and there’d be no more window to block your view.)

So what happens when you get closer to a mirror?  You get closer, and so does your reflection.  

So you go from this:Stretch

To this:

Picture3

 

Which doesn’t change how much you see.  Surprise!

The much bigger surprise is how many of us guess wrong.  A group at the Annenberg Foundation asked this question to Harvard students on graduation day (makes for good TV).  Check out the video from the Private Universe Project.

Start at 5:20 and enjoy the responses.

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