The thaumatrope is a good warm up for the movie wheel and it only takes a minute to make. The mysterious message written on the thaumatrope pattern will appear when you spin it. Interestingly, the thaumatrope preceded --and led to the invention of-- the movie wheel.

What you need.

thread, tape and scissors

The thread could be dental floss or even a couple of very thin rubber band cut open and tied together.


Cut out the thaumatrope pattern and fold in half.

Click here and print out the pattern. Check the printed paper to make sure it did not re-scale the size of the pattern. If it says something like, "Scaled-60%" try another browser. Netscape seems to be the worst at re-scaling. Cut on the solid lines. Fold carefully right on the dashed line so the printed part is on the outside. Using a strait edge or a table corner will help make the fold straight.


Tape in the string and tape halves together.

Tape a string onto the non-print side so it splits one of the halves, as shown. Then tape the halves shut. You should now have a two-dimensional rectangle with letters on both sides a string splitting it right through the middle.


Try it out

Twirl the thaumatrope by rolling the string between thumb and forefinger of each hand as fast as you can. If you are using dental floss, sometimes you have to roll it awhile before it works smoothly. If using a thin rubber band, pull it slightly as you spin it. You should see "PERSISTENCE OF VISION." That expression was used to explain how we perceived animation. It is being superceded by the expression, "phi phenomenon."


For explanations, activities and cool links related to visual perception click here or on the picture.

Back to the movie wheel introduction page.

Back to the science toymaker home page.

I'd like to know how this project goes for you. I'm happy to answer questions about it. Feedback from you is an important way for me to know what works and what needs clarification.
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