Ancient Greek and Roman historians recorded that during the siege of Syracuse in 212 BC, Archimedes constructed a burning glass to set the Roman warships, anchored within bow and arrow range, afire. In Fall of 2005, MIT Product Design class 2.009 led by Professor David Wallace attempted to recreate this ancient death ray using square mirrors. This first attempt was unsuccessful as the sky was rather cloudy. A second attempt a few months later in full sunlight atop a parking garage at MIT proved successful.
For this test, we used 127 1-foot square mirrors. There were five people aligning mirrors onto a wooden boat. We had open flame within 10 minutes of clear sky. The complete details are posted here.
After this experiment, our team was invited to join the Mythbusters to test the Death Ray on an actual boat afloat using polished copper mirrors.
The details of this experiment are found here. We did set the boat on fire, but this took much long than we had anticipated as the boat had been underwater for three months prior to filming.
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