4+
Gallery 7

Disgustoscope

blue and white lights running into the centre mirror area, where their are reflections of worms

Peer into a tunnel of mirrors to see both an ‘infinity mirror’ effect, and a ‘Disgustoscope’ illusion of writhing flesh.

How it works

Look down into the tunnel of mirrors or place your hand in front of the camera mounted above the triangle’s apex and see what kind of ‘gross’ imagery you can create.

Things to try or ask around the exhibit

  • Wave your hand in front of the camera. What do you see inside the tunnel?
  • Can you work out the shape of the tunnel and how the mirrors are angled against each other? (The mirrors are connected at approx 60° angles.)
  • Try placing a piece of coloured plastic in front of the camera to create traditional kaleidoscope effects.
  • Do you think that reflections change as they reflect through the tunnel?
  • Are some people more disgusted than others by what they see inside the tunnel? Why?

Background

A camera is mounted above the front/widest end of the Disgustoscope mirror tunnel. The camera streams live footage onto an LCD screen at the internal, narrowest end of the mirrored tunnel, so images on the LCD screen are reflected through the tunnel of mirrors.

Light bounces off a mirror’s reflective surface much like a ball bouncing off a hard surface. The angle at which it approaches is the angle at which it leaves. Because light (especially light from the LED strips), keeps reflecting back and forth between the mirrors, human perception is distorted, so that the LED strip lighting seems to disappear into infinity.

Reflections in the ‘distance’ may appear duller, because as light reflects back and forth between the three mirrors, a tiny bit of light is absorbed by each mirror surface. This is why the strips of LED lights and your ‘fleshy’ reflection towards the outer reflections in ‘tunnel’ appear a little dull.

Finding the science in your world

In a normal, flat bathroom mirror, your image appears to be reversed. When you wink your right eye, your image seems to wink its left eye. The three mirrors at roughly 60 degree angles that create the tunnel, reverse your image three times to make your reflection appear as you see yourself in a mirror. Multiple mirrors are often used in dressing rooms so you can see your reflection from many angles, but are you seeing yourself as others see you!

Toy kaleidoscopes use mirrors similar to this exhibit's structure, with small feathers and beads at one end, so colourful patterns are reflected throughout the tunnel.