A kaleidoscope may look like a simple children’s toy, but throughout history, the inner workings of a kaleidoscope have been marveled by many scientists and curious wonderers. A kaleidoscope is made using a cylinder with two or more mirrors. Enclosed in the cylinder are loose, colored objects such as beads, pebbles or tiny pieces of glass.
Every kaleidoscope design is based upon the principles of multiple reflections, which basically means that when two or more mirrors are angled towards one another, light with reflect off of the mirrors and bounce in different directions. When two mirrors are placed in a kaleidoscopes cylinder the light from the mirrors bounces back and forth off the colored objects thousands and thousands of times, creating the beautiful and mesmerizing patterns that we see when we look through the lens of a kaleidoscope.
Whether you’re looking through a handcrafted wooden kaleidoscope or a plastic children’s kaleidoscope, you’re guaranteed to see a beautiful display of colors and patterns that people of all ages enjoy. Next time you find yourself peering through the looking glass think about all of the handwork and physics that has gone into creating these mesmerizing devices.