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Change in the direction of propagation of a wave that strikes a boundary between different media through which it cannot pass. When a wave strikes such a boundary it bounces back, or is reflected, just as a ball bounces off the floor. The angle of incidence is the angle between the path of the wave and a line perpendicular to the boundary. The angle of reflection is the angle between the same line and the path of the reflected wave. All reflected waves obey the law of reflection, which states that the angle of reflection is equal to the angle of incidence. The reflectivity of a material is the fraction of energy of the oncoming wave that is reflected by it.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on reflection, visit Britannica.com.