A smoke ring, or vortex, is a beguiling
thing to watch: a coherent, moving
structure made out of thin air. Here
are 3 cannons that can throw these
“chunks of air” across a room.
I’d been aware of vortex cannons for quite some time,
mostly as an interesting toy, and after I kept stumbling on
the concept while touring the web, I decided I had to build
my own. There’s something fascinating about taking a
substance as ubiquitous and amorphous as air and transforming it into a coherent and persistent structure, almost
like a crystal. I also hoped to find some use for my cannon,
perhaps to propel scents or give the touch of a ghost in
a haunted house.
An extreme example of the vortex’s “reach out and touch
someone” power is the military vortex gun, which uses
explosives to drive air rings that can knock people over, or
at least generate enough sound pressure to render an area
uninhabitable. And the Shockwave Cannon created by Survival Research Labs delivers an invisible boot to the head.
Photograph by Michael Thad Carter
This project doesn’t go that far, but it will show you how to
make 3 different cannons: a 5-minute version, a computer-controlled version driven by a subwoofer, and a powerful
one based on my Boom Stick project (MAKE, Volume 13,
Set up: p. 117 Make it: p. 118 Use it: p. 121
Edwin Wise is a software engineer with more than 25 years of professional experience developing software by day
and exploring the edges of mad science by night. He can be found at simreal.com.