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Thaumatrope Optical Illusions

Optical illusions based on movement can be constructed in a variety of ways. Here we explore thaumatropes by substituting Java applets for the classical spinning disks. Thaumatropes first appeared in the 1820s as a simple toy disk with different images on each side. Holes punched into two edges of the disk allowed them to be strung with string or rubber bands. When wound tightly and then released, the disks spin so fast that the images on each side of the disk merge into one.

Bird in a Cage - A thaumatrope with two birds on one image and an empty bird cage on the other is alternated so fast that the birds appear to be inside the cage.

Birds in a Ring - This thaumatrope contains three birds sitting on a branch on one image and an empty ring on the other. The two images are alternated so fast that the birds appear in the ring.

Cool Cat - A thaumatrope that has a pair of sunglasses on one image and a cat on the other. When alternated at high speed, the cat appears to be wearing the sunglasses.

Words in a Book - Another thaumatrope that has words on one image and the blank pages of a book on the other. When alternated, the words appear on the pages of the book.

Olive in a Martini Glass - An alternating olive/martini glass thaumatrope generates the illusion of the olive sitting in the glass.

Puppy in a Television - An alternating television/puppy thaumatrope generates the illusion of the puppy on television.

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