26 April 2016

Symmetries of Light

I was heading to Edinburgh anyway, and knew I'd be in the area of this exhibition of kaleidoscopes, so I thought I'd pop in for a look. I only expected to spend a few minutes there, thinking it would either be too childish or too boring, but in fact it was one of the best exhibitions I've been to and I spent about an hour there! It was very interactive, with most of the items being out on tables and very few behind glass.

The exhibition was held in the Playfair Library Hall off the old quad at Edinburgh University. I hadn't been in this particular building before, and discovered that it was very grand, with a large staircase with old portraits, and the hall itself was wonderful - it's not surprising it gets used for weddings!
The first thing that impressed me about the exhibition was that there was somewhere to hang your coats, bags and umbrellas (and my umbrella had been well drenched so I was glad to get it off my hands for a bit!).

The exhibition was set up along both sides of the room. It started with some simple kaleidoscopes and some background information on the science, including quite a bit about the physicist Sir David Brewster who I'd become interested in after learning about him on the Victorian photography course I took online last year.
The intricate patterns of the ceiling and carpet were fantastic for making use of these kaleidoscopes!
Then it was onto the collection of kaleidoscopes from Japan. These were visiting from a little museum in Japan, which looks really cute from the photos I saw of it (I can't remember where it is, though!). I did also discover online that there is a kaleidoscope museum in Kyoto, so that's another thing to add to the list for my next visit there!
Luckily, being an adult, I was allowed to use these (some of them are very expensive or fragile so children couldn't play with them). The staff members explained each of these - the history of them, the design of them, and how to use them. There was every shape you can imagine - ferris wheels, a lake with trees, a grandfather clock, and even some (real, preserved!) bread rolls!
There were some very large kaleidoscopes, which were great for taking selfies!
There were some demonstrations of polarisation and interference colours.
There were some very cute kaleidoscopes!
All in all it was a brilliant exhibition! Unfortunately it has finished now, but Edinburgh University did get to keep one of the bread rolls!

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