Optics Fun

Here’s some fun optics demos and activities (most were developed for the 2010 Cambridge Science Festival):

Disappearing Diamonds

Refractive index matching, or how to hide a diamond in a glass of oil.

iPhone Aliasing Pictures

Aliasing – there’s an app for that. Next time you’re on an airplane, try this…

photo 2Secret screens – depolarized LCDs

 We ripped the front polarizer off a LCD monitor, so that you can only see the image through your polarized sunglasses, or a polarizer film.

Laser spirograph

Three spinning mirrors made from computer fans deflect a laser beam to make cool designs on the wall.

Moire pictures

The spatial version of FM (frequency modulation) radio.

Projector hack

Save some money by ripping apart a commercial projector and making it into a Spatial Light Moculator (SLM).

Land’s experiment

Believe it or not, these pictures contain only red, white and black!

Strobe photos

Long exposure pictures while a strobe flashes shows off moving scenes.

Rotating diffraction gratings

Laser patterns on the wall when one 2D diffraction grating is rotated on top of another one.

Sugar GRIN optics

Did you know that adding sugar to water can cause a laser beam to bend through it in an arc?

More pictures…

Fun optics-related pics. Always looking for more ideas!

Intro to optics

Description of some basic optics topics like wavelength, diffraction and polarization.


Color anaglyphs – you’ll need red/cyan glasses to view these.

Pantyhose diffraction

In a squeeze, pantyhose can be used as a diffraction grating, whose pitch is changed by stretching

Fluorescent room

Lots of everyday objects fluoresce under a blacklight: highlighters, tshirts, teeth, and laundry detergent.