About Laser Light Math

The images contained on this site are the product of research by Professor Merrill Lessley (Department of Theatre and Dance, University of Colorado at Boulder), and Professor Paul Beale (Department of Physics, University of Colorado at Boulder).

In our work, we are intererested in creating laser images in motion that represent specific mathematical curves (epicycloids, hypocycloids, roses, epitrochoids, hypotrochoids, and other special sine/cosine cases). These image “sequences” were created by using a computer-controlled laser projection system designed by Professor Lessley. For more information on that system, go to the Hardware and Software sections of this site. To read more about the math needed to create these images, link to the Math section of the site.

Graphing such curves in multiple laser colors produces a wide variety of appealing images. Unlike drawing them with a pencil on paper, however, projecting such curves with a laser poses a particularly challenging problem: while a laser is often referred to as a kind of “pencil” in light, it can only be used to generate a complete picture by moving its projected “dot” rapidly and repeatedly over a reflective surface. These images were scanned at rates between 15 and 600 times per second.