Light box keychain, and further explorations

sketchpad
29
Jul/10
Light box keychain
Light box keychain

After making my own Japanese-style mylar light box, I thought it would be neat to have a small portable version of it, something small enough to be worn as a keychain. How cool would it be to have a tool always at hand that can create pixellation effects and beautiful caustics? So I set out to make my own light box keychain.

The first step was coming up with a design for a small box that I could cut in acrylic on the laser cutter. This is what I came up with:

The laser cutter design
The laser cutter design

This allows me to bond together the four sides of the box while keeping the straight, and has two holes for a string to go through.

Painfully filling with small mylar bits
Painfully filling with small mylar bits

Then, I had the tedious task of making lots of tiny cilinders of mylar and filling the box with them, making sure that they each were trimmed to fit just under the top of the box.

The first version I made did not work very well. I soon discovered that I had made the box too shallow, and it was too easy for the light to pass straight through the cilinders without having to bounce around and create the wonderful caustics that give it its delightful effect. So I realized that there is an ideal minimum relationship between the cylinders' diameter and their length that creates a nice effect. For my next try, I doubled the height of the box, and I like the results much better. Here are some photos from a sprawling light box exploration on the museum floor.

Against a monitor
Against a monitor
A detail
A detail
keychain at colored shadows
keychain at colored shadows
More colored shadows goodness
More colored shadows goodness
Nicole playing with an iPhone behind the light box window
Nicole playing with an iPhone behind the light box window
Keychain on Aurora
Keychain on Aurora
The little light box next to its two bigger siblings
The little light box next to its two bigger siblings
Aurora just looks phenomenal
Aurora just looks phenomenal
One more comparison between small and big version
One more comparison between small and big version
All exhibits look better through this!
All exhibits look better through this!
Walter and Nicole exploring at colored shadows
Walter and Nicole exploring at colored shadows
You can get many different effects with the smallest change in angle
You can get many different effects with the smallest change in angle
All red
All red
All blue
All blue
You know you have something good when Paul D. makes this face while playing with it...
You know you have something good when Paul D. makes this face while playing with it...
One more baby light box photo
One more baby light box photo
A bunch of teachers from TI came by and became enthralled. They're all going to make one of these...
A bunch of teachers from TI came by and became enthralled. They're all going to make one of these...

You mentioned there is an ideal relationship between the cylinder diameter and length. Could you tell us what that is, please.

@ Joyce: I shouldn't have said "ideal", that implies that there is only one length at which it will work... But essentially, if the cylinders are too short, the light can just pass straight through them without bouncing around being reflected, and so you get en effect for like the photo above called "all blue". As you increase the length on the cylinders, you more easily get effects like the photo above it, with multiple caustics and rainbow effects.

Just experiment with it!

That is too cool!!

Add your voice

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

Note: all comments are moderated. After you save, your comment will not appear until approved.