Do you know what it was like before there was a movie? An eye illusion that has entertained and fascinated for nearly 200 years. It’s called the Thaumatrope. I’m going to show you how two disparate images come together and become one.
What’s a Thaumatrope?
The Thaumatrope was invented by J. A. Paris, an English physician, in 1826. He is credited with the first cinematographic device and shows us something interesting about how the eye works! But first, you’re probably wondering how the thaumatrope works.
All you have to do is take a small piece of cardboard, say about the size of a coaster, and draw two different pictures on either side. In Paris’s original version, there was an empty birdcage on one side and a bird on the other. Now attach a string to the ends so that the whole thing can be spun. Spin the thaumatrope and it becomes one picture! Inside the cage you could see the bird!
The retina of your eye sends visual information back to your brain. But the communication channels are not infinitely fast. The image produced by the retina in response to stimulation persists for one tenth to one twentieth of a second. Physiologists call this the “principle of persistence of vision”.
The thaumatrope deceives the eye by switching images faster than this tenth of a second, in effect combining two separate images into a single visual perception.
And how do you make your own Taumatrope?
- Cut out the circle with the image.
- Color the image.
- Glue a skewer between the circles so that it goes through the centre.
- Spin the thaumatrope skewer between your fingers, the eye will connect the rapidly alternating images and they will blend into one.