Lasers and mirrors and fog, oh my!
November 24, 2009 7:45 AM   Subscribe

I have a pretty wicked laser, and I just bought a bunch of mirrors. Help me have fun!

Yesterday, I received a veritable treasure chest from American Science & Surplus: 20 3"x7" first-surface mirrors, a couple of diffraction mirrors and gratings, and a 90-degree beam splitter. As you can tell from my previous postings about lasers: OH BOY!

So what I want to do is set up a temporary network of mirrors in a bunch of trees and bounce laser beams around when it's foggy outside. But I don't know of a good way to mount the mirrors. They're heavy glass things with beautiful optics, but no metal backing or frame or anything. How can I put them up in trees so that they're both adjustable and stable?

Pew Pew!
posted by MrMoonPie to Media & Arts (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
you'll ruin them by putting them outside. the surface will corrode under moisture, if you don't scratch them with the tree branches.

can't you do this inside, smoky room or whatever?

and you probably know this, but take care of your eyes and the eyes of those around you. put up a warning sign where your playing around, make sure there's no stray beams in the neighbor's yard etc

as for the mounting thing: does AS&S not sell the optomechanics as well? I mount my mirrors (at work) on two-axis mounts with a threaded hole, but one of those has the price of half your treasure trove.
posted by gijsvs at 8:09 AM on November 24, 2009

You should build an interferometer.

Also, if you are unaware you can do a ton of cool things with optics and a webcam by removing the lens from the camera. You'll be able to take a decent picture of your diffraction patterns and such. Decent enough that you can do analysis or if you do anything with Fourier optics, decent enough to recover the original images.
posted by Loto at 8:42 AM on November 24, 2009

The first thing that comes to my mind is the Gabe from Penny Arcade made for his D&D group...
posted by Tesseractive at 9:43 AM on November 24, 2009

Regarding mirror mounts, maybe a hot melt glue gun.

The artist Nam June Paik did some amazing things with mirrors and lasers. My quick search didn't turn up any good images (and I can't access video now), but if you can lay your eyes on some of that work it might be inspirational. The exhibit I saw had lots of movement from oscillating/rotating mirrors and prisms.
posted by exogenous at 10:37 AM on November 24, 2009

One thing I'll try is to see how closely the kerf from my circular saw matches the mirror thickness. Then I could cut small lengths of 2x4, cut a slot in them, then just slide in the mirror. That then opens up all sorts of mounting possibilities--screws, little rods stuck in the ground, etc. The site is uneven, but I'm thinking very simple stakes with the mirrors on top would work, and be easily adjustable.

This would be for an outdoor festival-type thing--I'd set them up over the course of the evening, play around with them and my spinner thingie, then put it all away before bedtime. The mirrors were $2 each, so it's not a problem if I get only a few uses out of them. And it doesn't have to be at all fancy.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:06 AM on November 24, 2009

Good plan with the 2x4 blocks, though adjusting the pointing won't be as easy as you think. Very small changes to the mirror swing the beam all over the place, and having a block on a stake coming out of the ground means that any settling/swaying of the stake will affect your vertical tilt. The issue is that mounting something securely (so it doesn't move at random or with the wind or other natural jostling) doesn't mesh well with mounting something such that you can tweak it into place in a very exact position.

Thinking about ways to fairly smoothly adjust the angle consider this: Take a sphere, and slightly smaller bowl (think grapefruit + coffee mug sizes, for example) Skewer the sphere through the middle. Thread an elastic through that hole, or maybe just wrap around the ends of your skewer, and elastic the sphere against the bowl. You should be able to tilt the sphere around and have it stick at all sorts of rotations relative to the bowl. So, you can mount the bowl against a tree/post/whatever, so long as the opening is facing roughly the direction you want, aand it's as secure as possible. Cut a flat on the sphere and glue the mirror to that. Combine, and adjust the mirror steering. It's all held in place by the friction of the ball against the lip of the bowl.

Another note - 5-minute epoxy is a great way to hold a mirror on a flat surface. When you want it off again, heat it with a blow dryer up close, then just pry (wear gloves, it'll be hot) .
posted by aimedwander at 11:53 AM on November 24, 2009

Sooo...styrofoam balls plus typical red-plastic drink cups filled with sand? I could see that working, andit'd be easily portable. Probably a good idea for safety to have the whole network at ankle level, too. Hmmm....

What's the best glue for glass-to-styrofoam?
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:07 PM on November 24, 2009

How about incorporating an acoustic element to add some motion, like mounting a mirror (hinged?) on a woofer?
posted by NortonDC at 9:12 AM on November 26, 2009

Oh, yeah, Norton, I'm already planning on building one of these sweetnesses, maybe combining it with diffraction grating.

posted by MrMoonPie at 6:02 PM on November 26, 2009

Oh, man, my wife gave me a fog machine. I live a good life.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:45 PM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

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