The problem is called the billiard problem because it corresponds to finding the point on the edge of a circular "billiard"
table at which a cue ball at a given point must be aimed
in order to carom once off the edge of the table and strike another ball at a second
The problem is equivalent to the determination of the point on a spherical mirror where a ray of light will reflect in order to pass from a given source to an observer.
It is also equivalent to the problem of finding, given two points and a circle
such that the points are both inside or outside the circle,
the ellipse whose foci are
the two points and which is tangent to the given circle.
The problem was first formulated by Ptolemy in 150 AD, and was named after the Arab scholar Alhazen, who discussed it in his work on optics. The problem is insoluble
using a compass and ruler construction
because the solution requires extraction of a cube root
(Elkin 1965, Reide 1989, Neumann 1998). This is the same reason that the cube
duplication problem is insoluble.
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J. A. "Alhazens Spiegelproblem." Nordisk Mat. Tidskr.18,
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H. "Reflexion am Kugelspiegel. Oder: das Problem des Alhazen." Praxis
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