In 1988 I was playing with some 12" squares of mirror while
looking for interesting decorative effects to use in a museum exhibit on
electronics. I found that a trio of mirrors placed together on edge upon a
tabletop would cause a "kalidoscope" effect. Even better, the view inside
this 3-sided mirror-chamber revealed infinite vistas of three-dimensional
polished wood, stretching off into the distant horizon. And if I tilted
the mirrors slightly outwards, the flat tabletop became a sphere. Cool!
This was different than a regular kaleidoscope because the effect was 3D.
In a normal kaleidoscope we look at colorful patterns inside a triangular
mirror-tube, but we use just one eye. If the end of the kaleidoscope tube
was enlarged so that both eyes could look into the end, then the scene
would become 3-dimensional. The 3D scene within the mirrors is eerie,
since it stretches off into the distance in all directions. Reminds me of
childhood, and looking into the tilted world within those mirrors at the
I used this idea and built the kaleidoscope below. By placing it against
any textured surface, it would convert the surface into a spherical
geodesic dome, where little triangular facets are all made from the
original textured surface. Quite beautiful.
Unfortunately the esthetic history of this device immediately was
diverted from "wow!", and became "feh!"
I placed the device against the
table and made a beautiful
wooden sphere. I stuck it on paper and made a "Japanese lantern."
Shadows on the paper created animated, symmetric geometrical patterns. I
moved it in and out, and the "lantern" would change size. I stuck it
against my arm and... YEESH! A FLESHY BALL OF SKIN, COVERED
WITH SWEATY HAIR!
I moved my arm up and down. The ball of flesh throbbed. I put the palm
my hand on the end of the mirror device, and made a nice clean smooth
sphere of skin. I cupped my hand to fold the skin, and this produced an
obscenely pulsing wrinkled flesh-ball. I shoved some fingers into the
end, and saw a spiny sphere of waving fleshy pseudopods. I placed it
against the side of my fist, clenched and unclenched it, and created
throbbing organic orifices. I grabbed coworkers, placed my mouth against
the end, made biting and tongue movements, and said "Look into this
thing." They recoiled in revulsion and/or hilarity.
Thus was born THE DISGUSTOSCOPE.
Obtain some mirror material. Glass mirror works best, although acrylic
mirror is very easy to cut with a saw and is much safer for kids.
(Glass looks better though. The 3D
images in the glass mirror are clearer because it's flat, and the acrylic
mirror is always very slightly wavy.) I used a package of 12" glass
mirror tiles bought from a large hardware store, and cut them with a
glasscutter-scribe and a straightedge. The 1/16 inch mirror works fine,
although it is easily broken, therefor young children shouldn't use a
Disgustoscope made from glass. For a plastic disgustoscope, use 1/8"
Make three mirrors in the above shapes. Use duct tape to fasten the shapes together edge to edge, with the mirror facing inwards. If you use glass, then either use emery sandpaper to grind down the sharp glass edges, or cover them with more tape.
Note: to make a much smaller Disgustoscope, cut your mirrors so they are 8.5 inches long, so the narrow end is 2.5 inches across, and the wide end is 6.5 inches.
Try it out. Place yourself under a ceiling light. Put the smaller end of the Disgustoscope flat against a wooden tabletop, and look down into the wider end. You'll see the wooden geodesic sphere. (Note that it isn't a real geodesic shape, since lots of the triangles overlap strangely.) Place your hand there instead, and you'll see the throbbing ball of skin. Place the smaller hole upon your eye, then have a friend look into the larger hole while you glance from side to side. They will see a spherical glob-monster covered with eyes, and the eyes will be swerving about crazily. WARNING, your victim may become overly amused, and experience a sudden need to collapse onto the floor with uncontrollable giggling.
IlluminationWith your face on the big hole and your hand upon the small, both ends are plugged and it gets dark inside. To solve this problem, I cut pieces off the corners of the mirrors on the larger end. This leaves holes through which outside light can shine. If you've made your Disgustoscope of plastic, you can scrape off some of the mirror material near the sides of the larger hole. This leaves translucent patches. Or, rather than taping the three mirrors together, you could glue an acrylic half-round rod between two or more of the acrylic mirrors. (Orient the rod so the rounded part faces inwards.) This would produce a transparent slot for illumination.
Spoiling the funIt's possible to convert your Disgustoscope into a non-Disgust-oscope. Cut out a triangle of clear acrylic plastic to match the size of the small opening in the device. Sandpaper one surface of the plastic to give a frosted finish. Glue the triangle permanently into the end of your nonDisgustoscope. This gives a "Japanese Lantern" effect, and all sorts of moving colorful patterns may be placed upon the sanded plexiglas. But those 3-D... uh... "organic" shapes... are no longer possible.
Am I insane? I could get rich!The original Kaleidoscope was invented in 1816 by Sir David Brewster, a Scottish physicist. He demonstrated it during a lecture, and soon the streets were full of Kaleidoscope-sellers. Brewster did patent his idea the next year, but he was far too late. The cat was out of the bag, the light had escaped from the mirrored box! Word is that he never made any money from it at all.
So in the grand tradition, I put Disgustoscope on the internet. If it
gets really really popular, then I can go and get a worthless patent.
Just like Sir David! :)
OK, now go and
DRAW YOUR OWN HOLOGRAM. Man, if I was alive in 1930, I could have
founded holography. But with my luck, I would end up in 1500, and
after taking a look at the images inside the d-scope, I'd be burned
at the stake...
Want books? Try searching amazon.com:
Help Support the Science Club,
use the above form to order books.