Mirror Images

Try some simple hands-on science to learn about mirror images.

Left Palm Right Palm
Put your hands in front of you, facing palm up. Are they the same?

Not exactly. The order of your fingers and thumb are different. On your left hand you have a thumb and then four fingers (looking from left to right), but on your right hand you have four fingers and then a thumb. The order is reversed.


Left Palm Right back
If you turn your right hand over, your thumb and fingers will be in the same order as on your left hand, but you'll be looking at the front of one hand and the back of the other.

So we can now see that they are not the same. They are called mirror images of one another.


Let's try another activity to see why they are called mirror images. (You'll need a mirror for this activity. Almost any small mirror will do, but you can use a wall mirror, too. Ask your parents or another adult if you need help.)


Put your right hand in front of the mirror with your palm facing the mirror and the back facing you.

Now look at the order of the fingers and thumb. They are in the same order. But you're looking at the back of your hand, and the mirror image shows your palm. Does this sound like something we just did when we compared the right and left hands?

Left Palm
Now keep your right hand where it is and bring your left hand up with the palm facing you.
See? The image of your right hand in the mirror looks just like your left hand! The fingers and thumb are in the same order and both palms are facing you. So your left hand looks just like the mirror image of your right. That's why your right and left hand are called mirror images of each other.

What do molecules look like? What does handedness look like in molecules?