Wolfgang Baur (the_monkey_king) wrote,
Wolfgang Baur

Science in the Service of Art

The first laser light show was held in Los Angeles in 1969. Last night, Shelly, Dave, Lindy, and I finally got around to seeing one at the Adobe Laser Dome at the Science Center — I am, as they say, on the trailing edge of technology here. It began with just what I imagined, the red Helium-Neon laser familiar to everyone from their cat toys and seminar pointers. Little floating dots. Cheezy pattern stuff like skulls and clocks. I got a sinking feeling that all my worst fears about laser shows were about to be realized with the lamest show ever.

Sneaky, sneaky laser people.

The red beam stuff was a total fakeout; the rest of the show was a delight. I thought of laser shows as strictly entertainment for hippy stoners and burnouts, trippy screensaver stuff. And while the choice of music clearly pointed in that direction, the show itself was far beyond expectations. The technology has advanced (100 MW lasers! splitters! diffusers! resonant scanners!), and this show used He-Ne, Argon and/or Krypton lasers for full effects. Maybe a Ytterbium Aluminum Garnet (YAG) laser? I couldn't say. Copper vapor? Ok, probably not.

It's bone-shakingly loud and completely worth your time. Some of the patterns were so textural, they resembled Japanese fabrics. Some were sheer Moire patterns and diffraction effects, others were impressively soft and diffuse, in a way I wouldn't expect lasers to be. Other patterns were the older, line-drawing stuff used in any number of pranks and hacks. For the soundtrack, I would have preferred U2, the Beatles, or Mozart, but Pink Floyd is more or less burned into my genes at the molecular level, so what the heck, worked for me.

A hell of a time for about $7.
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