Forma, Vol. 9 (No. 3), pp. 171-181, 1994

Ars Scientifica: Old and New, East and West Mirrors and Kaleidoscopes

Dénes Nagy

Institute of Applied Physics, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba 305, Japan, and Symmetrion, Budapest, P.O. Box 4, H-1361 Hungary

(Received July 12, 1994; Accepted July 27, 1994)

Keywords: Kaleidoscopes, Kaleidoscopic Groups, Periodic Table of Kaleidoscopes

Abstract. After briefly discussing the importance of ars scientifica (scientific art) in our age of overspecialization, we survey one of its earliest forms: the application of mirrorsystems, "magic mirrors", and kaleidoscopes. While the simplest kaleidoscopes remained toys, the advanced versions of kaleidoscopes are also challenging for artists and scientists. Discussing a typical misunderstanding in the literature, we make a clear distinction between mirror-systems producing kaleidoscopic effects versus actual kaleidoscopes. We also suggest a terminology how to refer to generalized kaleidoscopes, and present the "periodic table" of all of the possible plane-mirror kaleidoscopes, with full historic details. This topic is also useful in discussing the view that Eastern people had a great knowledge of ars scientifica, while Western people developed science with general laws. We obviously need both.