In a distant future our robot will be setting their tracks on another hospitable planet, I believe we are not alone and there must be other intelligence beings out there in these billions upon billions of galaxies and stars. Suppose our robot touched down on a lively terrestrial planet with liquid water everywhere, would it be a good idea for our robot to don a mirror everywhere it goes for safety as well as have a better understanding of the alien ecosystem? I imagine when an alien predator saw its own reflection they will be started for a moment but our robot multiple array of sensors can then pick up as much readings off it's behavior before engaging it further.

P.S: it can also be curved mirror which makes the subject appears larger, this way one of the other objective is met to collect excretion and fluid sample in-situ.

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    $\begingroup$ "don a mirror" - meaning cover itself in mirrors? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 1:36
  • $\begingroup$ @Alexander: yes. objective is to observe complex behavior in subject. $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 1:40
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure it would add much safety, because many animals can be enraged by their reflection. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 1:45
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    $\begingroup$ disguising yourself as a rock will work better, a someone once put it animals tend to classify things in the environment as things to A eat, B run away from, C have sex with, D rocks. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 4:31
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    $\begingroup$ Just be sure your disguise does not place you in the (c) category. $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 21:01

3 Answers 3


Bad idea.

bad, BAD idea.

Many animals ignore mirror.
Many animals violently attack mirror.
Some animals stop to adjust their makeup.

NONE of them display natural behaviour when facing a mirror!

Is this what you want?

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    $\begingroup$ Also, how do you tell if an alien is startled? And that they use light to see $\endgroup$
    – Martijn
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 11:50
  • $\begingroup$ "Use light to see" is a rather safe assumption. $\endgroup$
    – fraxinus
    Commented Jan 27, 2021 at 10:52

If you want to study an environment without influencing it you better want to disguise yourself as much as possible.

First of all, you are assuming that the sensory capabilities of the creatures you want to investigate are exactly the same as in our world. If that's not the case, your disguise won't work. If some of those animals can detect varying electric fields, your circuits will scream out loud.

Even under the assumption that the sensory capabilities are exactly the same, a shiny mirror goes in the exact opposite direction. It's like someone wearing a glittering dress to study an animal. Remember that standing out appearances are a clear way for the bearer to indicate "stay away, I am dangerous".

If you want to go unnoticed it's way better to disguise with the background: a rock in a barren landscape, a dead tree in a forest and so on. At worst some animal might use you to scratch its back.

  • $\begingroup$ "At worst some animal might use you to scratch its back" - I suspect that that's not the worst option. If a dog thinks you're in a good spot to be scented from a distance... is your scout drone waterproof, for no particular reason at all? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 27, 2021 at 11:58

Mirrors? No. Even adaptive camouflage is unlikely to work in this scenario.

If you're stranded on a desert island and theres a passing ship or plane, and you have a small mirror, how do you get its attention? You manipulate the mirror so that the sun is reflected as a bright light, drawing attention. Your robot will equally draw attention, especially if theres subtle movement - even the wind may be enough.

Mirrors are not camouflage, they reflect light and stand out like a giant sign saying "look here".

There is adaptive camouflage prototypes - basically an LCD screen and a camera. This may work, however for totally alien eyes this isnt guaranteed, as we wont know what frequencies their eyes can see until after we've studied them from a bit.

I'd suggest scan the surroundings, 3d print some fake rocks that match, stick sensors in them, then scatter them all over the area the predator frequents. The robot can then retreat and receive information from far away.

  • $\begingroup$ to be fair, there are very effective ways to use mirrors for camouflage but they all require you to stay put and not move. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 4:29
  • $\begingroup$ @John not just the subject being hidden, the audience remain in a frustum of view. When David Copperfield makes the space shuttle disappear using smoke and mirrors, it only works if your sitting in your seats, it doesnt work if your anywhere else on the rocket range. $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 4:33
  • $\begingroup$ actually there are ways to use mirrors assuming the observer is moving, one stupidly simple one is yo just is a slightly downward facing mirror so anyone looking at it just sees more ground. its not perfect but it works surprisingly well. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 4:39
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    $\begingroup$ @John that still only works if you don't move towards or away from the mirror. Unless you control your audience tightly, using a mirror is not very useful to deceive them. $\endgroup$
    – VLAZ
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 6:12
  • $\begingroup$ @vlad actually it works quite well unless you get very close, Look up something called a "mirror blind" for hunting. like anything its not perfect if you set it up like an idiot (say on a ridge) it won't work but nothing is foolproof. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 14:56

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