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(kəlī`dəskōp), optical instrument that uses mirrors to produce changing symmetrical patterns. Invented by the Scottish physicist Sir David BrewsterBrewster, Sir David,
1781–1868, Scottish physicist and natural philosopher. He is noted especially for his research into the polarization of light (the invention of the kaleidoscope was one result of his studies).
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 in 1816, the device is usually a hand-held tube, a few inches to as much as twelve feet in length, and looks like a small telescope. At one end of the tube is an eyepiece; at the other end colored chips of glass are loosely sandwiched between two glass disks. Between the ends of the tube are two rectangular plane mirrors. The long edge of one of the two mirrors lies against the long edge of the other at an angle, their intersection lying close to the axis of the tube. The glass chips form patterns where they lie, and these patterns change as the chips fall into new positions when the tube rotates. Each pattern undergoes multiple reflections in the mirrors in such a way as to produce a resulting symmetrical pattern as seen through the eyepiece.

The world's largest kaleidoscope, located in Mt. Tremper, N.Y., is 64 ft (19.5 m) tall. There is no eyepiece; people stand inside the base to view the image, which is projected downward onto three reflective panels to produce a spherical cluster of 254 hexagonal facets that appears to be 50 feet across. For Expo 2005 in Aichi, Japan, a 130-ft-high (40-m) kaleidoscope was constructed in the three-sided Earth Tower; three enormous, oil-filled revolving disks filtered incoming light that was reflected by huge mirrors to produce a spherical image some 118 ft (36 m) in diameter; the image was viewed by standing inside the tower.


See C. Baker, Kaleidorama (1990); G. Newlin, Simple Kaleidoscopes: 24 Spectacular Scopes to Make (1996).



a tube containing three longitudinally arranged reflecting plates that are mounted at an angle of 60° to one another. At one end, the tube is closed by a piece of frosted glass on which are scattered fragments of multicolored glass that are separated from the remaining tube space by a piece of clear glass; at the other end there is a cap with a round viewing hole. Upon rotation of the tube, which is held horizontally, the fragments are scattered around, forming colored patterns in the triangular central portion of the field of view bordered by the three mirrors. The reflections of the patterns in the mirror plates create a colored, triradially symmetrical design, which is repeated three more times along the edges of the field of view. The kaleidoscope was invented in 1817 by the English physicist D. Brewster; it subsequently became a child’s toy.

The word “kaleidoscope” is frequently used in a figurative sense to emphasize a rapid change of events, phenomena, or persons.

What does it mean when you dream about a kaleidoscope?

The kaleidoscope signifies the fragments that come together to form a whole, perhaps indicating something diverse, such as a situation with varied aspects, or piecing together the parts of a symbolic puzzle.


An optical toy consisting of a tube containing two plane mirrors placed at an angle of 60° and mounted so that a symmetrical pattern produced by multiple reflection is observed through a peephole at one end when objects (such as pieces of colored glass) at the other end are suitably illuminated.


an optical toy for producing symmetrical patterns by multiple reflections in inclined mirrors enclosed in a tube. Loose pieces of coloured glass, paper, etc., are placed between transparent plates at the far end of the tube, which is rotated to change the pattern


An object-oriented language which mixes imperative programming and constraint-oriented features. Kaleidoscope was written by Freeman-Benson of the University of Washington, Universite de Nantes, 1989; University of Victoria, 1992. It is similar to Siri and vaguely related to Prose.

Versions: Kaleidoscope '90 and Kaleidoscope '91.

["Kaleidoscope: Mixing Objects, Constraints and Imperative Programming", B.N. Freeman-Benson, SIGPLAN Notices 25(10):77-88 (OOPSLA/ECOOP '90) (Oct 1990)].

["Constraint Imperative Programming", B.N. Freeman-Benson, Ph.D. Thesis, TR 91-07-02, U Wash (1991)].

["Constraint Imperative Programming", Freeman-Benson et al, IEEE Conf on Comp Lang, Apr 1992].