Wonder Vision


Huntsville Art League’s Panoply 2015 Interactive presented by

256 Magazine (all access removed)






It’s a fun trick of the eye!

Wonder Vision is an optical illusion based on a toy from the 19th century called a thaumatrope.  It was a disk with a picture on each side attached to two pieces of string. When the strings were twirled quickly between the fingers the two pictures appear to blend into one.

wonder vision 1









The secret behind Wonder Vision is the same magic that animators use to make your favorite cartoons. When images flash in rapid succession, like when you spin the stick, your brain cannot process them as individual images any longer. Instead, your brain takes the two images and combines them into one “hybrid” image. When animators use this principle, they use sequential images, for example of a person running, and flash them in rapid succession to create the impression that the person is actually running. In reality, it’s hundreds or even thousands of individual images being blurred into one moving image. The images are moving faster than the human eye can process them individually.

Although the thaumatrope does not produce animated scenes, it relies on the same persistence of vision principle.  Persistence of vision is the eye’s ability to retain an image for roughly 1/20 of a second after the object is gone. In this case, the eye continues to see the two images on either side of the thaumatrope shortly after each has disappeared.  As the thaumatrope spins, the series of quick flashes is interpreted as one continuous image.

You can also blend colors when making a thaumatrope. For example, you could color one side red and the other side yellow. When you spin the thaumatrope, you will see orange!

What are some images you could make on a thaumatrope at home? The possibilities are endless!!