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Science LOVES questions: just like kids do.

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Benham's Top version #1 | Benham's Top #2 | Benham's Top #3 - YOU make the pattern!

benham's diskBenham's top, or Benhams' disk, is an optical illusion.

See more optical illusions here.

Optical (OP-tuh-kull) means something to do with your sense of sight. An illusion (ih-LOO-jun) is something you observe that's not really what it seems to be - like a magic trick, for instance.

So an optical illusion is something you look at that can fool your eye.

Your eyes can be fooled much easier than you think. Why? Because your eyes are basically just information gatherers. It's your brain that takes the information and tries to make sense of what your eyes have brought to that brain.

So, for instance, if the brain gets a hold of information that it's used to having - but it gets that information in a whole new way - the brain - and your eyes - can be fooled.

For over one hundred years now, scientists have been stumped by how, exactly, our brains are fooled into seeing color by the Benham disk. Maybe YOU wil be the one to figure it out!

In the case of Benham's disk, even though it's only black and white, you may actually see colors. Different people see different colors. The faster the top spins, the easier it is to see the colors.

The top is called "Benham's" because in 1895, about one hundred years ago, a toymaker in England named Charles Benham (pronounced BEN-um) created what he called the "Artificial Spectrum Top."


All material © Elizabeth Bushey, except where indicated.

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