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Science corner

Sophie Duncan looks into the kaleidoscope.

The kaleidoscope has been a popular toy since it was invented by David Brewster in 1812. It provides a fun way to explore how light is reflected in mirrors.

The kaleidoscope is made up of a tube containing at least two, and usually three, mirrors and a clear container of coloured bits to be viewed. A very easy design to make uses a clear film container. Make a hole 0.5cm wide in the middle of the bottom of the container. Take a piece of mirror card (about 4.5cm by 7.5cm) and draw a line along the length of it, 2.5cm from each edge. Use these lines to fold the card into a triangle shape, with the mirror side facing inward. Tape along the join and place it in the film canister.

Put a few coloured sequins in the lid and cover with a small piece of clear plastic. Place the canister on top of the lid and click into position. Look through the hole, while directing the other end of the kaleidoscope towards the light. Twist the lid to see the patterns move.

Another way of making a kaleidoscope is to use an overhead projector acetate as the reflecting surface. Take a piece of A4 white paper and an acetate. Lay the acetate on the paper and carefully roll it into a tube, with the acetate on the inside. Secure by pushing it into a cardboard tube.

Now look through the tube at brightly coloured objects.

You can also put small pieces of coloured tissue between two plastic sheets and laminate them. Cut this into pieces about 5cm square and turn them as you view them through the tube.

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