6J11.30 - Persistence of Vision - Stroboscopic Disks, Praxinoscope, Thaumatrope, Phenakistoscope, and Zoetrope

Code Number:
Demo Title:
Persistence of Vision - Stroboscopic Disks, Praxinoscope, Thaumatrope, Phenakistoscope, and Zoetrope
Integration of Light Pulses by the Eye
Area of Study:
Optics, Human Biology
Stroboscopic Disks, Strobe Light, Variable Speed Motor/Rotator or Record Player, Flip Books, and Zoetrope.

Attach the desired disk to the rotator of record player.  Illuminate the disk with the stroboscope.  When the speed of the disk and the rate of the strobe are adjusted properly a variety of effects can be seen.  Disk 1 will show a swinging pendulum.  Disks 2 and 3 will demonstrate simple methods of calculating the speed of the stroboscopic interrupter.  Disk 5 will have readable word and logo's.

The chicken and cage illusions are meant to be spun by hand.  Although they are separate images, when spun, they will appear as one image of the chicken inside the cage.

The illusion of the multi-sectored disk is one where you move the disk in very fast and small circles for another viewer.  Flipping the disk 180 degrees will make it seem that the spot which is on one side disappears.

NOTE: Much practice and dexterity are required.

The flip books are successive still images or cartoons that when flipped very fast seem to give continual motion.

The Zoetrope is another example of persistence of vision.  It is basically a hand held film projector with a short continuous loop film.  Just view the film through the slits as it is rotating and the object will appear to move.

A set of optics tops are with the Zoetrope and can be used for demonstrations in 6J11.11 and 6J11.55.

  • Norihiro Sugimoto ( Stray Cats ), "Let's make "24:27:30:32:36:40:45:48" and Play Music", TPT, Vol. 58, #4, April 2020, p. 280.
  • Iain MacInnes and Stuart Smith, "A Simple Demonstration for Estimating the Persistence of Vision", TPT, Vol. 48, #6, Sept. 2010, p. 394.
  • Martin Gardner, "The Twirled Ring", TPT, Vol. 40, #1, Jan. 2002, p. 51.
  • Martin Gardner, "Match Penetration", TPT, Vol. 37, #6, Sept. 1999, p. 382.
  • Jeffrey W. Rylander, "Welcome to Physics", TPT, Vol. 37, #5, May 1999, p. 312.
  • Anthony M.-H. Ho, LeeAnne H. Contardi, Peter W. Dion and Erik Griffioen, "Rotating Wheels as Seen on Television", TPT, Vol. 36, #6, Sept. 1998, p. 367.
  • Loren M. Winters, "Observations Through a Moving Slot", TPT, Vol. 32, #6, Sept. 1994, p. 376.
  • Thomas B. Greenslade Jr., "Stroboscopic Effect", TPT, Vol. 30, #2, Feb. 1992, p. 123.
  • Brion Patterson, "Angular Momentum", TPT, Vol. 27, #7, Oct. 1989, p. 566.
  • D. P. Jax Mulder, "Children's Toys", TPT, Vol. 18, #2, Feb. 1980, p. 134.
  • J. S. Faughn and S. W. Slade, "An Acoustics Demonstration for Students Interested in Music", TPT, Vol. 11, #3, Mar. 1973, p. 171, also A Potpourri of Physics Teaching Ideas - Sounds, p. 256.
  • James L. Hunt, "The Roget Illusion, the Anorthoscope and the Persistence of Vision", AJP, Vol. 71, #8, Aug. 2003, p. 774.
  • Jearl Walker, "The Amateur Scientist: Bidwell's Ghost and Other Phenomena Associated with the Positive Afterimage", Scientific
  • American, Vol. 252, #2, Feb. 1985, p. 122.
  • Jearl Walker, "The Amateur Scientist: How to Stop a Spinning Object By Humming and Perceive Curious Blue Arcs Around the Light", Scientific American, Vol. 250, #2, Feb. 1984, p. 136.
  • G. D. Freier and F. J. Anderson, "Oi-9", A Demonstration Handbook for Physics.
  • Tik Liem, "17.13. Put the Bird in the Cage", Investigation to Science Inquiry, p. 443.
  • Tik Liem, "17.12. The Hand is Quicker than the Eye", Investigation to Science Inquiry, p. 442.
  • George M. Hopkins', "Interesting Optical Illusions, Experimental Science, Volume Two, p. 233.
  • George M. Hopkins, "Irradiation", Experimental Science, p. 220.
  • John Henry Pepper, "Persistence of Vision", Cyclopadic Science Simplified, p. 73.
  • Carson I. A. Ritchie, "Praxinoscope", Making Scientific Toys, p. 44.
  • Carson I. A. Ritchie, "Zoetrope", Making Scientific Toys, p. 41.
  • Carson I. A. Ritchie, "Phenakistoscope", Making Scientific Toys, p. 38.
  • Carson I. A. Ritchie, "Thaumatrope", Making Scientific Toys, p. 36.
  • Jodi and Roy McCullough, "Persistence of Vision with a Zoetrope", The Role of Toys in Teaching Physics, p. 4.164.
  • Jodi and Roy McCullough, "Persistence of Vision with a Flip Book", The Role of Toys in Teaching Physics, p. 4.144.
  • Paul Doherty and Don Rathjen, "Whirling Watcher", The Cheshire Cat, p. 107.
  • Martin Gardner, "Make A Stroboscope", Entertaining Science Experiments with Everyday Objects, p. 73.
  • Martin Gardner, "Twirl A Thaumatrope", Entertaining Science Experiments with Everyday Objects, p. 39.
  • Martin Gardner, "Paper Movies", Entertaining Science Experiments with Everyday Objects, p. 38.
  • Borislaw Bilash II and David Maiullo, "Freeze!", A Demo a Day: A Year of Physics Demonstrations, p. 4.
  • "A Simple Motion-Picture Machine", The Boy Mechanic Makes Toys, p. 65.
  • Jearl Walker, "7.8, Humming Becomes a Stroboscope", The Flying Circus of Physics Ed. 2, p. 308.
  • Isaac Asimov, "The Illusion of Motion", Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine, p. 127.
  • Janice VanCleave, "Blinking", 201 Awesome Magical, Bizarre, and Incredible Experiments, p. 37.
  • Janice VanCleave, "Retainer" and "Winker", 200 Gooey, Slippery, Slimy, Weird, and Run Experiments, p. 42.
  • Raymond Bruman, "Moving Stripes", Exploratorium CookBook I, p. 40.1.
  • Raymond Bruman, "Persistence of Vision", Exploratorium CookBook I, p. 46.1.
  • Ron Hipschman, "Whirling Watcher", Exploratorium Cookbook III, 159.1 - 159.5.
  • "Whirling Watcher", Exploratorium Science Snackbook, 107.1 - 107.3.
  • Neil A. Downie, "Moving Messages", Ink Sandwiches, Electric Worms and 37 Other Experiments for Saturday Science, p. 276.
  • R. D. Edge, "String & Sticky Tape Experiments".
  • Martin Keen, "Experiments With Human Senses", Let's Experiment, 1968, p. 153 - 155.
  • Brenda Walpole, 175 Science Experiments to Amuse and Amaze Your Friends, p. 148 - 151.
  • Robert J. Brown, "Chapter 5: Biology and Psychology", 333 Science Tricks and Experiments, p. 47 - 48.
  • Bobby Mercer, "Capture the Cross", Junk Drawer Physics, p. 109.
  • Tik L. Liem, "The Hand Is Quicker Than The Eye", Invitations to Science Inquiry - Supplement to 1st and 2nd Ed. p. 153.
  • Joseph Frick, "#177 - The Phantoscope", Physical Technics: Or Practical Instructions for Making Experiments in Physics and the Construction of Physical Apparatus with the Most Limmited Means, p. 205.
  • The Queen Catalogues Vol. I, Catalogue of Microscopes Accessories and Sundries, No. 1744, p. 3.
  • The Queen Catalogues Vol. I, Catalogue of Meteorological Instruments, No. 1745, p. 48. 

Disclaimer: These demonstrations are provided only for illustrative use by persons affiliated with The University of Iowa and only under the direction of a trained instructor or physicist.  The University of Iowa is not responsible for demonstrations performed by those using their own equipment or who choose to use this reference material for their own purpose.  The demonstrations included here are within the public domain and can be found in materials contained in libraries, bookstores, and through electronic sources.  Performing all or any portion of any of these demonstrations, with or without revisions not depicted here entails inherent risks.  These risks include, without limitation, bodily injury (and possibly death), including risks to health that may be temporary or permanent and that may exacerbate a pre-existing medical condition; and property loss or damage.  Anyone performing any part of these demonstrations, even with revisions, knowingly and voluntarily assumes all risks associated with them.