This is what happens when you frustrate a laser! In physics, the term “geometric frustration” refers to a situation where some ordered system can’t settle in to one single ground state. Scientists want to find out more about frustration because they think it may contribute to several unexplained phenomena, including high-temperature superconductivity.
To create a model for this type of system, physicists set up 1500 different lasers in set patterns. As an APS Physics Synopsis explains,
By changing the position of the laser cavity output mirror, the authors could couple the lasers together by allowing light to leak from one laser to its neighbors. As the lasers go in and out of phase, patterns of optical interference change in the laser output.
This creates the lovely images seen above. If you have a subscription, you can read more about the study in Physical Review Letters. Or just check out the full Physics Synopsis.