I remember as a child, looking into my little kaleidoscope and watching the colors move around and change shape, and I couldn’t figure out how this mystical device worked. I would shake the kaleidoscope and look into the other end so I could see the little colored balls, and wonder how they made different shapes and colors when you turned the kaleidoscope.
It would be later on in life when I learned how a kaleidoscope works – using mirrors, set in a particular angle to one another, which reflect the colors of the little objects at the end. These objects are generally acrylic balls, sand, or pieces of glass.
But then I recalled a few memories from the same period, in which I clearly remember looking through my kaleidoscope at a specific object in the room, and watching it change shape as I moved. It’s then that I realized I was mesmerized by a teleidoscope, which is commonly mistaken for its more popular counterpart.
Invented a hundred years after the kaleidoscope, the teleidoscope is open at the end, so you can aim it at any object and watch the object turn into geometric patterns. It uses mirrors and reflections to create the patterns, just like a kaleidoscope, but you can ultimately turn any object you wish into a rotating geometric image. Oh, the possibilities!
We all love looking into a kaleidoscope and seeing a variety of different colors and shapes. We never get exactly the same experience each time, and it’s likely that no two people have ever seen the same kaleidoscopic images. So how do kaleidoscopes work, and what makes them so interesting?
Kaleidoscopes, at their simplest, are two or more mirrors placed inside a long telescope-like body. These mirrors are angled to highlight and reflect a number of objects, which are also placed in the scope. An eye hole is added to one of the ends of the scope for the user to look through. Shaking or rotating the kaleidoscope’s body changes the position of the items inside. The kaleidoscope image you see is a fraction of the entire reflection of these items, so that their mutual symmetry is reflected in the mirrors. This produces the endless diversity of geometric patterns that give kaleidoscopes their intrigue.
The objects in a kaleidoscope could be ordinary items. Colored glass is the most common, but beads, buttons, glitter, ribbon, and confetti can be used inside a kaleidoscope. Some kaleidoscopes also utilize objects from nature like feathers and flowers, or colored backgrounds which add to the existing shapes. These can sometimes be interchangeable, allowing for different viewing experiences in the same kaleidoscope. If you’re using a teleidoscope, the reflections of the items around you take the place of the objects that would normally reside inside the body of the scope.
Even if you know how a kaleidoscope works, the viewing experience inside it is always interesting and fun. You can impress your friends with knowledge about how kaleidoscopes work, but they’ll probably still find a bit of magic inside.
January always brings me back to the basics. Kids are back in school after the holidays and the house looks back to basics without the Christmas decorations. So here’s a lesson in kaleidsocopes that takes it back to the basics. What is a teleidoscope and how is it different than a kaleidoscope?
All kaleidoscopes are optical instruments that consist of mirrors configured to multiply the image of the object. The mirrors create the symmetry and the object creates the color.
Mirror systems are usually configured like a triangular tunnel. Object is where the definition of kaleidoscope versus teleidoscope comes into play.
One type of object on a kaleidoscope is wheels of color.
Here is the N&J 8 inch double wheel kaleidoscope.
N&J 8 Inch Double Wheel Kaleidoscope
8 Inch Double Wheel Kaleidoscope Interior Image
Now the Teleidoscope design uses simply a clear marble at the end of the mirrors. This creates a multiplied image of whatever you see in the world. Here is the same tube and mirror system as a
N&J 7 Inch Teleidoscope