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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/537

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OPTICAL ILLUSIONS OF MOTION.

ster's hypothesis is, indeed, extremely vague, and is neither physical nor psychological in any exact sense. If understood physically, it means that there is actually motion in the retina itself, which is hardly conceivable, since the structure of the rods and cones almost precludes even any idea of vibration, or of propagation of waves of motion by vibration, much less any movements of them as a whole. And, if the explanation is intended as a psychological one, something further is needful before the principle of compensation here laid down could become intelligible.

The first experiments made by the writer of this article upon illusions of motion arose from a casual observation in 1876. He had been preparing, for the purpose of testing astigmatism, a set of concentric circles in black and white, such as those shown in Fig. 1. Happening

Fig. 1.
PSM V18 D537 Concentric circle test for astigmatism.jpg

to shake the sheet on which the circles were drawn, he noticed an apparent motion of rotation to be set up. The illusion is easily produced by imparting to the pattern a slight motion of the same character as that adopted in rinsing out a pail, but with a very minute radius of motion. All the circles will appear to rotate with the same angular velocity as that imparted. Now, undoubtedly the persistence of visual impressions has a good deal to do with the production of this illusion, which, by the way, succeeds best when the circles make from two to four turns in a second, and when the radius of the imparted motion is equal to the thickness of one ring, so that each black or white band is displaced through a distance equal to its own width in all directions successively. Nevertheless, the persistence of visual impressions will