From the Super Mario Wiki, the Mario encyclopedia
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The Lens is an item in the SNES version of Mario's Time Machine. It is an old-fashioned type of lens, made of polished metal rather than glass. Several characters in the game note that that type of lens is quickly becoming obsolete with Isaac Newton's discovery that a curved mirror works like a lens. Mario receives a lens from a manufacturer of such equipment and later gives it to Edmund Halley, who had misplaced the lens from his telescope, in exchange for further information on Newton.