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While the word prism occurs mostly commonly in

tandem with descriptions of light reflecting and
refracting glass pieces, a prism technically
constitutes any three-dimensional shape with two
faces of the same size and shape and parallelogram
sides. The uses of prisms run a large gamut, though
the use of light reflecting and refracting prisms
relate almost exclusively to optical concerns. In a
general sense, prisms figure in all manner of fields,
including architecture.
Ophthalmology is the science dedicated to the study and
treatment of eye diseases. Ophthalmologists have used prisms
since the 19th century to diagnose and treat a number of
diseases of the eye, including esotropia, exotropia, nystagmus
and amblyopia. When diagnosing eye diseases or deficiencies,
ophthalmologists use the light reflected and refracted by
prisms to exam different parts of the eye for problems. Prisms
used to treat disease help redirect light entering the eye to
enhance the vision of the patient. Prisms also figure in the
construction of corrective vision lenses for individuals suffering
from certain diseases of the eye or specific types of vision
Prisms figure prominently in the construction of a number of
optical instruments for their ability to bend and manipulate
light. Binoculars often use Porro prisms, a single unit built from
two prisms that pushes light back in the direction from which it
came while vertically and horizontally inverting it. Other optical
instruments that use prisms include telescopes, cameras,
microscopes and even submarine periscopes. Telescopes in
particular use a number of prisms in a single unit as a means of
manipulating light traveling great distances to meet the eye.
Light manipulating prisms figure in architectural projects only in
so far as they appear in optical instruments used during
construction and design. Prisms as a shape, however, appear
commonly in architecture. Architects in Sweden, for instance,
use triangular prisms as a common construction design as the
slopes of the shape cause snow to run off rather than
accumulate. The first skyscrapers were nothing more than giant
rectangular prisms while rectangular, triangular and even
hexagonal prisms figure into contemporary architecture
projects such as the Petronas Towers in Malaysia.
Prisms figure prominently in scientific experiments regarding
the nature of light and human perception of light. Scientists use
prisms when studying the human eye, connections between
the eye and the brain, and the general physics of light
movement, speed and qualities. Science teachers use prisms in
such experiments to teach children about the properties of
light. Isaac Newton, the man who discovered gravity, used a
prism and the light of the sun when concluding that white light
is comprised of all colors in the visible spectrum.
Prism Binoculars
Ordinary binoculars or opera glasses consist of two Galilean
telescopes mounted side by side for observation with both the
eyes and operated by one focusing screw.
The prism binoculars are a double field astronomical telescope
using two sets of totally reflecting prisms. These prisms are
interposed between the objective and the eyepiece, the edges
of the prisms being at right angles to each other. The prisms
not only erect the image horizontally and vertically, but also
effectively fold the optical path ABCDEF, thus increasing the
effective length of the telescope. High magnification is possible
with a small actual length.
Direct Vision Spectroscope
In a direct vision spectroscope, a number of thin prisms of
crown and flint glasses are alternately placed in a small tube
with refracting edges turned opposite to each other. The angles
are such that they produce dispersion without any deviation for
the mean yellow ray.

Generally three crown glass and two flint glass prisms are
connected together with a transparent adhesive called Canada
balsam and prisms are mounted in the tube. At one end of the
tube a slit (S) of adjustable width and an achromatic lens L are
provided. The distance between S and L is equal to the focal
length of L. A narrow parallel of light from the lens through the
prism assembly.
A spectrum is obtained in which the mean (yellow) colour is in
the same direction as the incident beam. The spectrum can be
observed through an eyepiece E. This spectroscope is a pocket
sized instrument used for quick examination of various parts of
a spectrum.
Determination of m Material of a Prism
The prism is placed over the table such that parallel rays from
collimator falls on the sides AB and AC. Move the telescope in
the position T1 to catch the brightest image of the slit formed
by reflection of light at faces AB and AC. The cross wire is made
to coincide with image and reading on the circular scale is
noted. The telescope is turned to position T2 and the same
procedure is repeated. If q is the difference between the two
readings through which the telescope is turned then
Determination of Angle of Minimum Deviation
To determine the angle of minimum deviation the side AB of
the prism is made to face the ray of light. On looking through
the face AC and rotating the prism table, the image of slit also
turns. For a particular position of the prism, the slit becomes
stationary. On further rotating the prism table, image of slit
turns in the opposite direction. Fix the prism when the image of
the slit is stationary. This is the position of minimum deviation.
Coincide the cross wires of the telescope in this position and
note the reading. Remove the prism and catch the direct ray
and once again note the reading. The difference between the
two readings gives the angle of minimum position.

Knowing dm and A, the refractive index (m) of the material of

the prism can be calculated using the prism formula