Because the human eye is limited in its visual capacity, man has invented many instruments to help us see objects that are either extremely small, are far away or to help us analyze the properties of various objects. These optical types of instruments are essential tools for many occupations, from medicine to computer science.
When we think of viewing instruments, telescopes and microscopes instantly spring to mind. The word scope is derived from the Greek work skeptesthai, which means to watch or look at. There are dozens of types of scopes, from the telescopes used to view the night sky to instruments used in the medical field. Many viewing instruments, particularly those used in medicine, often allow us to view the inside of an object that we ordinarily could not see. The fluoroscope, which creates moving x-ray images inside the body, is one device that allows us to look inside the human body.
While many optical instruments are used for viewing either tiny items or distant objects, some are used specifically for analysis. These devices are used to measure and then record the degree, rate or quantity of a specific object.
Because the human eye can only see certain types of light and certain colors, we have created machines to help us look at or study different types of signals, such as radio waves and electrical signals. Our eyes can view light within what is known as the visible spectrum, but for humans, there is a vast non-visible spectrum that includes everything from radio waves to x-rays to ultraviolet light and infrared light. Instruments such as oscilloscopes help diagnose malfunctions in electronic equipment, such as computers, circuitry or even automobiles.
Measuring the intensity of light is important in many different fields, such as the field of photography. This type of measurement is known as photometry, and the device used is called a photometer. But photometers also are used by engineers to determine what type of lighting needs to be installed in buildings, homes and even parking lots. Astronomers study the intensity and illumination of celestial objects, such as stars, using sophisticated types of photometers as well.
There are many more types of instruments that are used to increase our optical ability, such as the alignment telescope. The alignment telescope is used in many situations to take highly accurate measurements in multiple directions that are perpendicular to the viewer’s sight line.
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