What is the difference between scattering and reflection?

1 Answer

The difference is in the direction the light ends up going after bouncing off an object - is it all going in the same direction (reflection) or different ones (scattering).


Let's answer that question with a thought experiment.

First, I'm going to ask you to remember the last time you were in a car and the sunlight reflecting off the glass of a car or a building was blindingly bright. That's reflection - where a vast majority of the light striking a surface is bouncing off that surface and heading in the same direction - such as right into your eye on that bright day.


Now let's think of a mirror broken into a thousand pieces and they are all scattered around, each pointing in a different direction. When light hits the pieces, the light bounces and reflects in a thousand different directions. The light in this case is scattered - it is reflecting off pieces but the light is not going in the same direction, instead it scatters in different directions.