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Like a microscope or telescope, the optics in a
kaleidoscope are used to enhance our vision in some way. Vision depends on light, and optics are used to control light by reflecting or bending it so that we can see in different ways.
Kaleidoscopes use mirrors to reflect light into beautiful shapes and patterns.
- Three small mirrors
that are approximately the same size.
- Thin cardboard
transparency or plastic page protector
- Candy sprinkles or colored paper
What to do:
- Tape the long edges of the mirrors together
so that they form a pyramid shape, with the reflecting sides of the mirrors all
- Next, cut out a triangle of thin cardboard to fit one end of the
kaleidoscope and tape it on. Use a sharp pencil to poke a hole in the center of
the cardboard, to serve as a peephole.
- Cut two triangles of a transparent
substance, like a plastic overhead transparency, to fit the other end; tape up
two of the edges to form a three-sided envelope, and put candy sprinkles and/or
bits of colored paper inside. Tape the third side closed, then use tape to
attach the envelope to the end of the kaleidoscope.
- Now, look through the end
that has the peephole and aim the kaleidoscope at a light source. The colored
objects on the other end will reflect off of the mirrors into star-shaped
You can also study reflection using two small square glass mirrors taped together on one side. Stand them upright and spread them apart like an open book, so that a small object can be placed between them without touching on either side. How many reflections do you see? Now, lay a pencil in front of the mirrors so that it touches on each side. How many pencils are reflected? Experiment with moving the mirrors closer to and further from each other; how does the number of reflected objects change in relation to the angle of the mirrors?