How Do Kaleidoscopes Work?


Quick Answer

A kaleidoscope utilizes multiple mirrors, beads, pebbles, bits of glass and the principle of reflection to create beautiful images that captivate the spectator. Kaleidoscopes can rely on either a two- or three-mirror system. The angle of the interior mirrors affects the pattern viewed. Because the observed image depends on a combination of angles, light and randomly placed small objects, what is seen through the eyehole is never the same twice.

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Full Answer

Within a kaleidoscope, multiple mirrors are placed at angles to one another. This is called the principle of multiple reflection. There is a collection of objects at one end of the mirror. At the other end is an eyehole. The mirrors create a tunnel; they are placed in a triangular configuration, usually 60 degrees of one another.

Two-mirror kaleidoscopes create patterns against a solid black background. A three-mirror kaleidoscope creates a full quilt of color that fills the entire field. Ultimately, the degree of the mirrors determines how many points are visible in the image.

Modern kaleidoscopes are made of a variety of materials, brass tubes, stained glass, wood and even steel. A similar device, the teleidoscope, replaces the object chamber with a lens that reflects and manipulates the appearance of objects it is pointed at.

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