Fun Things to Do With a Laser Pointer
Fun and Safe Things to Do With Laser Pointers
I remember when I was a kid I thought that laser pointers were the coolest thing in the world. Things change, but my love for lasers hasn't subsided, and I think they're way cool to this day. But what can you do with them? There are lots of fun 'outside of the box' things to do with a laser pointer.
The laser pointer, or laser pen, has been around for a number of years. It includes a small power source and a laser diode that emits a coherent beam of light in a single direction. Unlike a flashlight, a laser can cast a beam for a great distance without dissipating too much, and that makes them useful in science and communications.
I've written this piece in order to help you find some creative outlets for that fancy new laser pointer you've got. Hopefully I'll cover some stuff you haven't though of yet and you'll be able to have some safe fun with it. Let's get started!
PS. If I've missed any cool things to do with a laser pointer, please feel free to post a suggestion in the comments section below!
Laser Pointers & Long Exposure Photography
Want to create some stunning images, such as the shoes photo posted at the start of this article? You don't need Industrial Light & Magic at your beck and call, all you need is a decent quality camera and a laser pointer!
The concept here is pretty simple: place your camera on a tripod or stand, or some other stable surface, set a long exposure time, and go crazy with your laser pointer. The camera will capture all that light and create some amazing effects.
Because a laser pointer is capable of throwing light without you getting into the shot, you can create some crazy laser effects and wow your friends.
It's a neat concept for a professional photographer doing photo shoots too, since you can literally draw an image on your subjects using the light (if you're careful)!
Just be sure to avoid shining the beam in someone's eyes, that can be harmful to their vision.
Cats Love 'Em!
A fun thing you can do with laser pointers is drive your pet cat crazy! They particularly seem to love the higher powered ones, such as the 'green light' lasers and so forth.
It seems to bring out that predatory instinct in a cat when they see that little dot zipping across the floor. It must resemble a bug or something to them, but whatever the case, most felines love chasing a laser pointer light around the room. You can even make them do flips and such.
I've heard people refer to it as cruel because they can't catch it, but all the cats I know seem to love it and they pester you to bring out the light so they can play, that seems pretty clear to me! Just be certain not to direct the light into their eyes, as it's as damaging for them as it is for humans!
Many dogs will love chasing a laser pointer light too!
Study Light Patterns, Shine Through Glass:
One of the coolest things to do with a laser pointer light is to shine it through various glass surfaces and see how the light reflects and refracts.
Some of my favorite subjects for this kind of fun are geometrically shaped crystals (just be careful that your eyes are protected), or a cool shaped drinking glass. A wine goblet works wonderfully well for this sort of experiment! Quartz or other reflective rocks can have a cool effect.
It's a fun thing to do with children, because it's educational! You can show how the light changes direction when it interacts with a hard or reflective surface, and you can change the patterns by moving the crystal or the light source!
Check out the photo to the right as an example of what light can do when it interacts with glass or crystal.
How Light Reacts with Sound Vibration:
Here's a cool one! Take a tin can or something similar (a Pringles can can work well). Cut the end off the can so it's a hollow cylinder. Then wrap a balloon or similar piece of rubber over one end (surgical gloves can work too).
Attach a mirror or reflective surface to the rubber covering on the end of the tin can, and then aim the laser pointer at the mirror. Have someone shout or talk into one end of the can, and see what the light does when the mirror vibrates.
You'll see the laser light dance and move as the person talks. If you've done it right, it should create some crazy patterns as the vibration subsides. It's a cool thing to do with a laser pointer, and it's a fun experiment for kids to play with.
Alternatively, you can attach a mirror to the front of a speaker, and aim the laser pointer's beam at the mirror as music plays. It should have a similar effect.
Be sure to avoid any laser-eye contact with the person shouting into the tube!
Fog Machine Fun with a Laser Pointer:
A great way to take full advantage of the 'cool factor' of your laser pen is to invest in a fog machine! They use these things for events, performances and plays, but you can find some fairly inexpensive machines out there these days.
It's pretty simple: let the fog machine fill the room with haze, and then go nuts with the laser lights! You'll be able to see the full length of the coherent light beam, not just the point at the end. It's really cool to see just how amazingly fast a beam of light will cross the room.
I wouldn't breathe in the fog from one of those machines all day, so be sure to limit this activity to a few minutes at a time.
This will also work on a foggy evening outdoors, or when there's a significant amount of dust in the air. In any event, fog beaming is a fun thing to do with your laser pen light.
Laser Sight on your BB Gun?
Another cool thing to do with a laser pointer is to attach it to a BB Gun or airsoft, much like a laser sight.
Obviously this won't be 100% accurate (the BB will probably hit the target an inch or so below where the laser pointer is aiming, depending on how you rig it), but seeing as BB guns aren't terribly precise anyway, it's probably not a big deal.
It's a great way to work on your marksmanship, and it's fun to feel like a SWAT team member every once in a while!
I must reiterate, never aim your laser pointer into someone's eyes, it's very dangerous!
Green Laser Pointer for Astronomy
A green laser pointer is powerful enough to be used as an effective astronomy tool. You can use it to direct people's attention to constellations, nebulae and other distant objects in space with incredible accuracy.
The beam will be visible because it usually picks up small particulates in the atmosphere, so it's pretty easy to follow. It's a great addition to a star-gazing party because you can make sure everyone is on the same page and seeing the same stuff.
Do be cautious where you shine a green laser pointer. They're very powerful, and for that reason most countries will levy serious fines against you if you shine it into a plane, helicopter or other vehicle. Be sure to check into your local bylaws regarding green laser pointers and do it in an area where you won't be a nuisance.
This is one of my favourite laser pointers. It comes with a battery and charger, and it goes for at least two hours before needing a charge. That's a lot longer than the dinky ones you'll find at the dollar store.
It has a very strong green beam, but fortunately it has a lock to prevent children from misusing it.
What NOT to do with it:
I've stated several times that eyes and laser pointers don't go well together. They can burn your retina and cause serious, permanent vision impairment and full on blindness, so be very careful and don't mess around with it.
- Don't shine your laser pen at vehicles or aircraft. It's against the law in most countries and can actually land you with a huge fine or put you in jail, so it's really not worth doing. The laser is distracting enough to cause major accidents, and police take it very seriously.
- Don't shine your laser pointer light at someone you don't know, or into someone's home. It may seem funny to you, but a pointer can be pretty scary to see in your home if you have no idea where it's coming from. It's an intrusion on their privacy, and not a nice or funny thing to do.
Any other no-nos that I've missed? Please let me know and I'll add them to the list.