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Sunday Science: Alice in Wonderland - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Sunday Science: Alice in Wonderland

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Reporter: I'm Cat Viglienzoni here with Bill Elliston at ECHO, and we're here at their Alice exhibit, and I think both of us are feeling pretty tall right now. Why is that?

Bill Elliston, ECHO Public Education Manager: Well Cat, that's because this room is what's called a forced perspective room. So the room actually gets smaller and smaller, even though people expect doors to be a certain height, when you stand next to one that's drawn a bit unusual, you feel like a giant.

Reporter: So if we start walking this way towards the camera, we're going to start looking smaller because our height in relation to the doors is smaller. Is that correct?

Elliston: That's right. So people judge the size of objects based on things that surround the object. So if you have a picture of a rock, you don't know if that rock is a boulder or a pebble until you have something to compare it to, so that's what's happening in this room.

Reporter: And so right here, if we give this one a spin, what is our human eye seeing that might look a little different?

Elliston: So what's happening here is that there are a series of images that are each slightly different than the other. And our eye can only perceive about a tenth of a second. So anything shorter than that that you're exposed to, your brain doesn't perceive as separate. So what's happening here is it looks like Alice's head or neck is getting longer and shorter and longer and shorter because the mirrors that are reflecting that image are spinning around so quickly.

Reporter: And so is this the basis for something like animation?

Elliston: Yeah, that's exactly right. So animation or film kind-of relies on the brain's ability to only perceive a certain amount of time when it looks at an image.

Elliston: Whereever you move this, you should be able to land a hole-in-one.

Reporter: And so why is that?

Elliston: A parabola focuses light or energy or golf balls into one specific spot. So in this case, it's the hole for the golf balls. We have another one over there that actually has essentially two parabolas stuck together, or an oval. And that has two loci and if you drop a ball in one loci, no matter where it bounces off the sides, it should go in the other one. The idea behind this exhibit is actually that when Alice fell into that rabbit hole, she found a lot of things that she didn't understand. But this exhibit is founded on the principle that the more you know about science and math and STEM activities, the less you're confused, the less you're tricked. So if Alice had gone to this exhibit before she fell down the rabbit hole, she might not have been so confused.

Reporter: Right.

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