COLOR MAGIC WITH POLARIZED LIGHT (May, 1939)

By E. W. MURTFELDT @ Modern Mechanix

BLAZING with brilliant, ever-changing colors that rival the hues of the rainbow, the illuminated face of a giant electric clock is attracting crowds to an exhibit of timepieces at the San Francisco World’s Fair. Visitors, curious to know how this spectacular effect is obtained, are amazed to learn that this gleaming disk of light, sparkling with an intricate, moving pattern of colorful stars and concentric circles, is produced not by any complicated arrangement of colored bulbs, projectors, and revolving niters, but merely by plain white light, and strips of transparent cellulose mending tape sandwiched between two practically colorless disks.

What, they ask, is the magic element that transforms these simple materials into a myriad of whirling rainbows? Polaroid, the crystalline substance invented by Edwin H. Land, Boston scientist, that produces and controls polarized light (P.S.M., Apr. ’36, p. 20), provides the key to the mystery. First placed on the market only a few years ago, this polarizing material is already well known through its extensive use in sun glasses, camera-lens filters, desk lamps, train windows, and microscopes. In industry, it is used to spot invisible strains in glass and other transparent materials, much as X-ray apparatus is employed to track down hidden defects in metal parts.

But few people today know that polarizing disks can be made to create vivid colors such as those that shimmer on the face of this mammoth clock. Yet Fford Burchell, New York City expert who built this magic dial, predicts that “polarized color” will soon sweep the country, creating startling and revolutionary lighting effects for outdoor signs, advertising displays, interior decoration, and theater stage sets, to name only a few applications […]

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