A colleague from another department stopped by my office this morning with a question about parabolas and parabolic mirrors. In the simplest terms, his question was the following:
When parallel rays reflect off a parabola, do they always converge to a focal point?
As we can see in the diagram below, rays that are parallel to the axis of symmetry of the parabola reflect and converge on a focal point. What about parallel rays with a different slope?
The answer is “no,” and to convince him of this fact I turned to my new favorite application: GeoGebra. In a matter of minutes I whipped up an applet illustrating this fact and posted the applet online. I thought you all might like to see it too.
(By the way, does anyone know if it is possible to embed applets in WordPress.com blogs?)