Kaleidoscope - Application & Uses

As an optical instrument, a kaleidoscope contains two or more reflecting surfaces tilted towards each other at a certain angle for obtaining symmetrical pattern when viewed from the other end. This happens due to the phenomenon of repeated reflection. The tube, which has reflecting surfaces, contains coloured pieces of glass, and if we rotate the tube, we see that symmetrical images are created.

The term 'kaleidoscope' is derived from the Ancient Greek words known as 'kalos' which means beauty, 'eidos' means something that is seen and 'skopeo' which means to look. A Scottish inventor, David Brewster, invented the kaleidoscope in 1817.

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Underlying Principle of a Kaleidoscope  

The laws of reflection and the fact that white light is a combination of VIBGYOR (Violet Indigo Blue Green Yellow Orange Red) form the basis of the underlying principle of a kaleidoscope. When the light falls on the surface of a mirror, it gets reflected in a way that the angle of incidence is equivalent to the angle of reflection. According to the second principle, the white light, a combination of seven colours, passes through the coloured objects in a kaleidoscope. Due to this most of the light gets absorbed by these objects. As a result of the multiple reflections of light, there is a creation of beautiful and innovative patterns. 

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Applications and Uses of a Kaleidoscope 

Most of the kaleidoscopes are mass-produced from several inexpensive materials and intended as an optical toy for children consisting of two mirrors placed at a particular angle. The handmade pieces of a kaleidoscope display fine craftsmanship and artistic skills and are often available at craft galleries and also at the enterprises specializing in them. Furthermore, fashion designers use the beautiful patterns created by a kaleidoscope.


Experiment - How to Make a Kaleidoscope 

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For making a kaleidoscope, and enjoying its various patterns of different colours, you need to keep in mind that it works on the principle of reflection. 


Things Required - See-through and coloured plastic, one roll of masking or duct tape, overhead transparency paper, pencil, and three pieces of mirror perspex. 



  1. Start by using the three pieces of mirror perspex and roll them in the shape of a triangle with a tape. It is necessary to make sure that it is solid and taped well on the outside of the triangle. 

  2. Sketch the small triangle at the kaleidoscope's edge to the overhead transparency paper. 

  3. Now, place the transparency paper at the edge of the kaleidoscope and cut corners' narrow openings to facilitate the easy folding of the corners. 

  4. In this step, you have to attach the paper into a separate place. 

  5. Next, make another triangle by drawing, and it should be 2cm larger than the previous one. 

  6. Select the colour of the plastic that you would like to place inside the kaleidoscope and take off the small paper cuttings that would be placed adequately on the transparency paper. 

  7. Now, place the coloured plastic at that end of the kaleidoscope, which has the transparency paper, and add the other transparency paper, which is the triangle (larger size). Keep the second triangle upside down so that there is sufficient space between the two transparencies for the plastic to fit in. 

  8. As you have finished making the kaleidoscope, add colours and glitters to make it appear even more beautiful.



After making the kaleidoscope, you can notice that it works on white light composed of seven colours, shifting through the mirrors placed inside. When a person shall look through the mirror, he or she can come across different coloured patterns owning to the symmetrical designs, which are formed by the mirrors placed in the right places.