A Chronicle of Things I Love and Things I Make

Things I Love and Things I Make

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Afterimages with the Boys!

I didn't think I would ever write this, but I was inspired by Beyonce. Not that I have anything against her -- she seems like a nice girl, and she's amazing to watch. It's just that we don't have much in common. At all.
But then, this image made the rounds on Facebook, with instructions to stare at it and look at a blank white space to see what happens. Now, I happen to be an expert on afterimages, because I did a report on them in Mr. Poetzle's 7th grade biology class. So, I showed it to my boys. They were fascinated, but it was hard to explain how it works to 6-year olds, so I came up with a cool science experiment to help them understand. 

Here is the Wikipedia definition of an "Afterimage":

"An afterimage in general is an optical illusion that refers to an image continuing to appear after exposure to the original image has ceased. Prolonged viewing of the colored patch induces an afterimage of the complementary color (for example, yellow color induces a bluish afterimage). 

Blah, blah, blah. I'm sure I said it much better in 7th grade, but that document is lost to the ages. Depending on the age and attention span of the child, you can make this a project about human biology -- rods and cones, etc -- or about the color wheel, primary and secondary colors, or just a fun game. This is what I did with my boys...

First, I made a cool template. It's a PDF, available for you to download, compliments of moi, right here.
I cut the pages in half -- one shape per page and one blank space next to it -- to minimize distractions on the paper.
The boys colored in the shapes with different colors.

They stared at the center dot for 20 seconds.  Tell them not to let their eyes wander. Focus only on the dot, even when things start to get blurry. It's okay to blink.
(Eventually, one boy went to 10 seconds, and the other required 30.)
Next, they concentrated their gaze on the blank space.  It takes a little practice to relax your eye muscles enough to allow the image to develop, but they both got it pretty quickly and the payoff is worth the effort.
Voila! Afterimage! 

It works best if you really saturate the shape with pure color. Put some muscle into it!
When we were through, my Color Theory Kid made this self portrait. The afterimage is  true to his own coloring.
 (What a kid.)
Challenge your child to figure out which colors will create an afterimage of the shape in it's traditional color. i.e. What color do you make the heart to create a red/pink afterimage? How do you make the lightning yellow?

Good luck! Let me know how it works out for you!

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