On June 21st, Cool Science set up a booth during the Manitou Spring's Community Market in Soda Springs Park to teach the shoppers about optical illusions. The most exciting of these illusions were the ambiguous solids. These funky shapes are three dimensional solid objects that appear to be completely different shapes when viewed from different angles. The simplest of these ambiguous solids is the squircle, a portmanteau of the words “square” and “circle”. It looks like a simple round cylinder from one side, but when turned around (or viewed in a mirror as in the photo on the right), it appears to have a square cross-section! Kids could even make their very own squircle from a toilet paper roll. An even more amazing illusion was an arrow that always points the same direction, as shown in the video below.
Other optical illusions included a Pyrex rod which completely disappeared in ordinary vegetable oil (demonstrating how the speed of light changes in different materials), and Ping-Pong ball which appeared to pass through a solid wall (thanks to polarized light). For adults and kids alike, it was a great way to learn a little science while casually strolling through Manitou Springs.
-posted by Joshua