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Help seeing a laser's beam

Help seeing a laser's beam!

Please take note: This is NOT MY GUIDE but is a straight re-format and re-post of VillageIdiot’s guide! All credits go to him. I’m just reposting this because it hasn’t survived the transition to vB very well, didn’t read very nicely, and needed some tender loving care. Help seeing a laser’s beam, by VillageIdiot So you have your 5mW green laser.

It’s nice, it points at far-away trees and all, but what you really want is to see the beam! Now, to see the beam of your laser you need to have either: A nicely powerful laser or… Something to visualize the beam with! Of course, number 1 is out. Sorry mate, but 5mW ain’t much. But wait! Something to visualize the beam with? What could that possibly be? The basic theory behind using a visualiser, is that it provides something for the laser to shine on, and reflect the light to your eye.

This can take the form of molecules of gas (Rayleigh scattering), or particulates in the air. A sample of the best visualisers, and where to get them, follows. It’s important to remember that, no matter how much visualiser you use, you WILL NOT be able to see the beam of an IR or UV laser, and other factors can greatly affect the visibility of your beam. For example, the power of a beam, the wavelength, and the angle of viewing can all affect visibility! For the best effect, your angle of viewing should be nearly parallel to the beam (Obviously, don’t look INTO it, but along the length of your laser instead!). The wavelength affects the visibility in two ways. Firstly, your eye is most sensitive to wavelengths near green, and as such, in identical conditions a green beam will be more visible than, say, red or violet. However, the shorter wavelengths, such as violet, are increasingly affected by rayleigh scattering, and so, at the same sensitivity level, a violet beam will be more visible than a red one. Enough of the science, and onto the visualisers!

Dense and Foggy Air (free) Where?: Outside! Why? : The weather conditions around where you live can affect the visibility of your laser’s beam. Things such as cold dense air, moist air or foggy air are all factors that work in your favour, however DPSS lasers don’t like the cold. The temperature causes the diode to change wavelength and the crystals to move around. You might experience a loss of power or mode hopping. Pros: Easy, cheap, lots of space to shine your laser Cons: Depends on the weather so it’s totally out of your control, you might get busted by the cops if you get frisky with your laserbeam! Vaporizer (Cheap: Up to $50) Where?:

Electronics and health stores. Use inside. Why? : Vaporizers (or steam generators) are generally used either by potheads, people who have breathing problems, or people who snore at night. It basically works off a water tank which is lightly pumped and heated to produce a plume of steam. It works nicely in a small room. A similar effect is generated after a hot shower. Pros: Fairly cheap, works well, very quiet, no mess, fuel is cheap Cons: Water particles can settle on your lens if you stick around too long, excessive usage might create mould growth on your walls or ceiling Burning Stuff (Cheap: Up to $10) Where?: Depends. Use inside for maximum effect. Why?: Burning stuff makes smoke. Smoke hangs nice and heavy in a room, so it works well to block your laser’s beam (this is good, unless you have solid smoke, then maybe you should ease up on the burning ) THINGS YOU CAN BURN: -Incense sticks: Cheap and easy. Makes good smoke and smells ok too. -Matches: Especially Lightake matches. Light them, let them sit for a while, then blow them out. They make the most smoke when they’re blown out, I find. Watch out for burning match stick bits falling on your carpet… -Campfires: Speaks for itself, really. If you have a chimney, a good amount of smoke goes out there, too. You need to go outside for this. (shock! horror!) -Fireworks and Explosives: Come 4th of July, there’ll be lovely smoke from fireworks absolutely everywhere. Awesome. Not cheap, though. Note: If you want to burn things on a wooden desk, take heed: it’s very difficult to set fire to a treated wooden desk. However, it’s very easily scorched.

If, for example, a burning incense stick burns out and flops over, pick it up immediately. I learned this the hard way, I was too busy having fun with a blu-ray and a line generator. Pros: Cheap (fireworks aside) Easy (if you have a lighter of course) Effective. Cons: Obvious fire hazard (not a con if you’re careful) Smells bad and since it hangs in the air (also a con) you’re going to be smelling it for a while. It gets in your clothes too. My jacket smells like matches. :3 Fog Machine (Medium: $20-200) Where?: They sell them at lighting/disco stores and electronics places. You can probably pick one up for reasonable price on eBay. Why?: Fog machines emit a dense vapor similar to fog or smoke. Their actual purpose is to look great, so you know it’s going to work great. They use a special fog juice you can buy, not just water unlike vaporizers. Caution!: Glycol-based fog is associated with headaches, dizziness, drowsiness and tiredness in those exposed. This is because glycol has similarities to alcohol. Inhaling artificial fog can have long-term respiratory effects. Pros: Works awesomely, can use outside and it still works good Cons: Not cheap, possible health risks Haze Machine (Expensive: $300+) Where?:

Will be difficult to find locally. Try stagecraft websites. Why?: Haze Machines (or hazers) produce tiny droplets in the air which make your ray of light (be it a laser or whatever) visible. Haze is very thin and isn’t very noticeable in normal conditions. They are superior to fog machines in the fact that: -Hazers use compression instead of heat, so there’s no warm-up time -Haze hangs in the air much longer than fog -The haze is less visible but works just as well Pros: Works epically, fantastically awesomely well (for the reasons above), better for your health Cons: Both the unit and the juice are not widely available and rather expensive. Aerosol Spray (Cheap: $20) Where?: On eBay (Smoke detector test spray), from here, anywhere they sell deodorant. Use indoors. Why?:

Certain sprays are useful as beam visualizers. These include spray formulated to visualize beams (ala nova spray) deodorant (any spray kind will do) and smoke detector spray, designed to test how well your smoke detectors work. These are relatively inexpensive and work fairly well, though don’t inhale too much of the stuff. Deodorant is a favourite among smelly, lazy people who already have the stuff. Pros: You have to be very dim to fail at using it. Works nicely. Cons: Deodorant causes odors of its own. That’s some great product design there, folks. And don’t let the smoke detector spray set off, well, your smoke detectors. ;D So now you have a lovely visible beam with whatever you chose to use. You happy now?

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