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01/18/13 - Lissajou Figures

If you ever watched any science fiction movies from back in the 1950s or 1960s, before modern computer generated special effects, you almost certainly have seen a Lissajou figure, a strangely wobbly figure traced on an oscilloscope screen. They were one of the weirdest things you could make appear on an oscilloscope screen without a great deal of trouble. All you needed were two signal generators, and there you were, in science fiction land.

There are a number of Lissajou figure generators on the internet, but most of them require Java. Right now Java is having its own special effects crisis as a security risk, so it is time for a replacement. This generator uses HTML5, so it will run in most newer browsers, though it may not run in some older ones. Click this link and go play. There are two parameters, generally small integers, you can adjust, and you can drag your cursor across the phase shift rectangle to make the figure "rotate". It's a spacey effect. Sometimes it will appear to be rotating horizontally, but if you tilt your head you will see that it is rotating vertically as well. (Try 5, 4 for that.)

Click the image to generate your own Lissjou figures.

Keywords: science, art