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The Kid Should See This

The Magical, Mystical, Mind-Boggling Ames Window

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What’s going on with The Magical, Mystical, Mind-boggling Ames Window? What are we seeing? And once we know what we’re seeing, can our minds beat the illusion and truly see it for what it is?

Test your brain’s perceptive skills with this classic optical illusion from The Curiosity Show. Host Dr. Deane Hutton demonstrates how this extremely mind-boggling illusion works, as well as how to make one. From Wikipedia:

“The Ames trapezoid or Ames window is an image on, for example, a flat piece of cardboard that seems to be a rectangular window but is, in fact, a trapezoid. Both sides of the piece of cardboard have the same image. The cardboard is hung vertically from a wire so it can rotate around continuously, or is attached to a vertical mechanically rotating axis for continuous rotation.”

“When the rotation of the window is observed, the window appears to rotate through less than 180 degrees, though the exact amount of travel that is perceived varies with the dimensions of the trapezoid. It seems that the rotation stops momentarily and reverses its direction. It is therefore not perceived to be rotating continuously in one direction but instead is misperceived to be oscillating. This phenomenon was discovered by Adelbert Ames, Jr. in 1947.”

drawing the ames window
The Curiosity Show is an award-winning national science program for kids in Australia that ran from 1972 to 1990. It was hosted by Dr. Deane Hutton and Dr Rob Morrison.

Hutton originally demonstrated the Ames Window illusion in the video below. Behold the magic made possible by that trapezoid shape, those hand-colored shadows, and our minds’ expectations.

make a mini ames window

Related reading: The Ames Room.

See more Curiosity Show and more optical illusions, including these gems:
3D Schröder Staircase, 2020’s Best Illusion of the Year
Professor Kokichi Sugihara creates his mind-blowing illusions with math
• How to draw a cubetacular hole in your paper
• Draw a Penrose Rectangle & other impossible objects
• Matchstick Triangle Puzzle
The mysterious isochronous curve

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