Working Principle of Kaleidoscope


A kaleidoscope is an optical device that creates creative picture patterns when light falls on its surface and the observer peeks into the device through a small opening created on one of its ends. A kaleidoscope is generally used to create a symmetrical image of the objects that are present inside the structure of the device. Usually, kaleidoscopes are used as toys for entertainment purposes; however, a kaleidoscope can also be used by fashion designers to form unique designs for clothes. The word kaleidoscope is a combination of three Ancient Greek words, i.e., ‘Kalos’, ‘eidos’, and ‘skopeo’. Here, ‘Kalos’ means ‘beautiful or beauty’, ‘eidos’ means ‘that which is seen’, and ‘skopeo’ means ‘to look’. Kaleidoscope was invented by a Scottish inventor, David Brewster on July 10, 1817.

Working Principle of Kaleidoscope

A kaleidoscope typically works on the principle of multiple reflections. The basic property of a mirror is to reflect the image of any object that is placed in front of it. This property of mirrors can be utilized to obtain more than one reflection of an object. This phenomenon is known as multiple reflections. One can easily observe the phenomenon of multiple reflections in real life by using more than one mirror to obtain the reflections of an object. The number of reflections or the number of images formed as a result can be easily determined by observing the angle at which the mirrors are aligned. The angle between the mirrors serves to be the prime criterion that decides the number of resultant complete and composite or partial images of the object. The exact number of images of an object formed when it is placed in front of two plane mirrors placed at a particular angle can be easily determined with the help of the formula, (360/X)┬░-1. Here, ‘X’ denotes the angle of inclination between the two mirrors.

Working Principle of Kaleidoscope

Construction of a Kaleidoscope

The materials required for the construction of a kaleidoscope include a hollow cardboard cylinder, three or more rectangular pieces of plain mirror, a cardboard piece, adhesive tape or glue, a pair of scissors, and a piece of transparent glass. The first step to constructing a kaleidoscope is to join the rectangular pieces of mirrors or reflective surfaces edge to edge with the help of adhesive tape or glue and form a prism shape. Typically, a kaleidoscope usually makes use of three or five rectangle-shaped mirrors. These mirrors are attached to each other in the shape of a triangular or a pentagonal prism. The prism structure made up of mirrors is then fixed inside the hollow cylindrical tube. The length of the cylindrical tube is preferred to be longer than the length of the mirror prism. The next step is to cut a circular piece from the cardboard sheet and drill a small hole at its centre. It should be noted that the diameter of the circular cardboard cut out should be equal to the diameter of the cylindrical tube. Now, attach the cardboard circular piece to the top of the tube with the help of glue or tape. Attach another circular piece of transparent glass that has the same dimensions as that of the cardboard circular cut out to the base of the tube. The final step is to pour small colourful glass, crystal, or sparkle pieces into the tube.

Construction of Kaleidoscope

Working of Kaleidoscope

To observe the working of a kaleidoscope, one should shake the instrument and peek in through the small hole. When the user peeks inside the kaleidoscope through the hole drilled on one side of the tube, he/she can easily observe the multiple reflections of the crystal and glitter particles formed on the inner side of the kaleidoscope walls. These reflections lead to the formation of a pattern that is unique and tends to vary every time the arrangement of the crystals is changed by shaking the instrument. In simple words, the working of a kaleidoscope primarily depends on the alignment of the mirrors. The mirrors placed inside the structure of the kaleidoscope are aligned to each other in such a way that the reflection of the objects created by one of the mirrors gets reflected by the second mirror, the image formed on the surface of the second mirror gets reflected on the third mirror and so on. This means that the more be the number of mirrors, the more creative and dense will be the pattern formed as a result.

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