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Optical Transmission and Reflection Basics

How Materials Cause Reflection

Every material that is transparent—everything you can see through—causes light to slow down as it passes through. This also causes some of that light to get reflected back. The more a material slows light down, the more light reflects off it. For example, air doesn’t slow down light very much, but water does, which makes water more reflective than air. Glass and plastics reflect even more light, and diamonds reflect the most—that’s why they twinkle so much.
Example: Plastic Tear-offs
When light strikes a traditional plastic tear-off, about 4% reflects off the surface. But since there are two reflective surfaces on each tear-off—one on the way in, and one on the way out—the reflection increases to about 8%. That means that the amount of light transmitted (passed through) is reduced to about 92% for a single traditional tear-off.

Understanding Visual Acuity

Visual Acuity is the product of contrast ratio and light level. A value of ten represents perfect vision, and a value of one is the equivalent of blindness, where objects cannot be identified.
Example: Plastic Tear-offs
Imagine you’re driving a race car, and your helmet has a visor layered with simple plastic tear-offs. For each tear-off on your visor, the amount of light reflected increases by 8%, which means the transmission of light (the amount of light that passes through) decreases by 8%. When six or seven tear-offs are stacked up, light transmission is less than 50% and the reflection increases to over 50%. That’s like driving at night with sunglasses on while looking into a mirror. Now imagine doing that while you’re passing other cars at 100mph. Not fun, is it?

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