Physics Club fixes penny melting mirror

    Based on the designs of the famous ancient Greek inventor Archimedes, Physics Club is fixing their large parabolic mirror that can reflect and concentrate light to melt pennies.

    The story goes that Archimedes used a large parabolic mirror, one that has an inwardly curved surface rather than a flat one, to set fire to Roman ships that were attacking Greece. This story has been largely debated and argued upon its reliability. Physics club created their own mirror to test its destructive power.

    The physics of it is much simpler than you would imagine, all we do is align a mirror so that it points in a certain direction, a couple hundred times, and then you have a giant death ray.”

    — Max Piela

    Earlier in the year, Physics club attempted to use their 70 inch diameter mirror, but found that it did not work properly. So they leapt into action in order to realign it.

    Junior Max Piela, the physics club Vice President said, “We have been working on the Archimedes mirror. It is a convex mirror where you align multiple mirrors, all pointing at the exact same focal point, so that the sun’s rays will bounce into a center point and create enough heat to most likely melt a penny. It is at around 800 mirrors and we are aiming to get around 1200. It took around two years to put the initial 800 on, so we are hoping to get the final 400 on by the end of this year.”

    Although the process for repairing the mirror is seemingly complicated, it is far easier to understand when it is broken down.

    “The physics of it is much simpler than you would imagine, all we do is align a mirror so that it points in a certain direction, a couple hundred times, and then you have a giant death ray,” Piela said.

    The mirror itself, when being operated on a sunny day, is hardly a “death ray”, but it could definitely burn hands and requires very hardy eye protection when operating it. Safety is always number one concern for the Physics Club.

    Aligning and adjusting the mirror is a tedious task and requires a high level of patience to put together correctly. If it is not adjusted perfectly, then there will not be enough concentrated heat in order to melt the pennies.

    Senior Matt Erickson said, “In order to adjust the mirrors, we have to shoot a laser at them. So what we do is we put the mirror on its side, put it on a table, and then the laser is hanging down from the ceiling. Then we adjust the mirror so the laser hits one of the small mirrors and it will bounce off and in order to know if it is correct or not. There is a stick going from the middle of the mirror and if the laser hits the stick on a certain spot then it is accurate and adjusted correctly. But if the laser veers off in a completely different direction then we have to take off the mirror and glue on another one and adjust it so it is in the right place.”

    Mythbusters, by request of President Barack Obama, made their recreation of Archimedes “Sun Laser” and found it to be less than satisfactory to burn down ships. Physics club is going for a much smaller scale and has successfully melted pennies in the past.

    Erickson added, “We are hoping for at the end of the year, once the mirror is all finished, we might do a physics club picnic where we barbecue hot dogs with the mirror.”