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This creates a kaleidoscopic image
Movement in a kaleidoscope

The kaleidoscope is an optical device that is widely used as a children's toy .

The kaleidoscope was originally known to the ancient Greeks, but was not rediscovered until 1816 by the Scottish physicist David Brewster and a patent was applied for in 1817 . Brewster came across this while studying the polarization of birefringent crystals while looking at such crystals in a reflective metal tube.


The word kaleidoscope comes from the Greek and means: to see beautiful shapes . Specifically, the three words are: καλός kalós “beautiful”, εἴδος eidos “form, shape” and σκοπεῖν skopéin “look, see, contemplate”.


Antiquarian kaleidoscope

A kaleidoscope is usually a 12 to 15 cm long tube with small, colored objects loosely inserted between a smooth and a frosted glass plate at one end. Often the objects are bodies made of colored glass . The other end of the kaleidoscope has a round window to look through. In the pipe itself there are three (sometimes four) mirror strips that touch each other on their long edges. The objects are reflected in it several times, so that a symmetrical colored pattern becomes visible that changes when turned.

There are also kaleidoscopes, which instead of glass plates have a container filled with a transparent liquid (mostly oil) in which all kinds of objects float. Due to the high viscosity of the liquid, the objects sink slowly downwards and change the pattern continuously, without having to constantly rotate.

Another form are open kaleidoscopes (also called teleidoscopes), which have a permanently installed lens instead of the glass plate with the objects. If you look through this, a section of the environment forms the pattern, which changes instead of rotating through horizontal and vertical movement.

Biggest kaleidoscope

the earth tower

The largest kaleidoscope in the world, the "Earth Tower" ( Japanese : 大地 の 塔 daichi no tō ), was on display during Expo 2005 in Japan. It was a 47 meter high tower, on whose spherical ceiling there was a play of colors with a diameter of more than 40 meters. The sunlight falling into the glass dome of the tower was reflected by a complicated arrangement of mirrors after multiple diversions onto three rotating glass panes. The constantly changing and merging symmetrical patterns typical of kaleidoscopes were created , which could be viewed from the entrance hall.


Kaleidoscopes can also be simulated on computers using software.

Other meanings

See also


  • Hannelore Dittmar-Ilgen: Why do soap bubbles burst? Physics for the curious. 4th revised edition. S. Hirzel Verlag, Stuttgart et al. 2003, ISBN 3-7776-1149-2 , p. 139: On the physics of kaleidoscopes and corner mirrors.

Individual evidence

  1. Colorful patterns in record size. The world's largest kaleidoscope is at the World Expo 2005 ( Memento from April 18, 2005 in the Internet Archive )
  2. Make Your Own Kaleidoscope! (Online simulator), krazydad.com

Web links

Commons : Kaleidoscope  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Kaleidoscope  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations