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What is Kaleidoscope?

What is Kaleidoscope?

Your physics tuition could never be boring. Today, let us talk about an interesting toy we all played with that simply uses the properties of light to make you happy. We are talking about the kaleidoscope. The kaleidoscope is an optical toy consisting of colored paper or glass that on rotation reflects to produce symmetrical geometric designs while rotating it. It was invented by a Scottish physicist, Sir David Brewster in 1816.

The kaleidoscope demonstrates the physics properties of forming images through successive reflections with the help of combined mirrors placed in an inclined position. In the scenario where one object is positioned between two plane mirrors, at right angles to each other, three images are produced by consecutive reflections. In the same way, if the inclination of the mirrors is kept at 60o, five symmetrical images are formed.

A kaleidoscope consists of three strips of mirrors inclined at an angle of 60° to one another. They are enclosed in a cylindrical tube. One end of the tube is closed by means of a piece of ground glass while the other is closed by a piece of cardboard with a hole at its center. Several multicolored glass-pieces and beads are loosely enclosed between the three inclined mirrors with the help of a disc made of plane glass. Now when viewed through the hole in the cardboard, along the axis of the tube, an asymmetrical pattern of images of the colored glass pieces is seen.

When a person turns the kaleidoscope, the colored glass pieces and beads change positions thereby new pattern is produced.

The Kaleidoscope was invented by Sir David Brewster in 1815 who was experimenting on light polarization and this led to the invention of the kaleidoscope. It was patented 2 years later. His first design was a tube with pairs of mirrors at one end, pairs of translucent disks at the other end and beads between the two. In 1817, Brewster chose a well-known lens developer named Philip Carpenter as the manufacturer of the kaleidoscope and within just three months two hundred thousand kaleidoscopes were sold in London and Paris.

The tubes used in most of the kaleidoscope are usually 25 cm in length and 5 – 8 cm in diameter. It is a very interesting toy for children, but also a useful instrument for the designers. Hope you have applied the physics concepts from your physics tuition class.

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