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Magic Pumpkin

Move over Charlie Brown, this is the kids’ science magic pumpkin!

Many people have wondered exactly how a Magic Pumpkin is created. Well, sorry to burst your bubble, but the secret is animation. It’s a cartoon. Want to create your own illustrated Magic Pumpkin? Check out the amazing Magic Pumpkin designed by our team of scientists. It’s an activity that will have you spinning… literally!

Experiment Materials

  • School glue
  • Scissors
  • Wooden skewer
  • Halloween template (download below)
  • Adult supervision

Experiment

  1. Download the Halloween template.
  2. Cut out all four section from the template.
  3. Fold each section in half.
  4. Glue the back of two half-sections together.
  5. Glue the third section to the backs of the others.
  6. Carefully glue the skewer in the middle of the three sections.
  7. Finally, glue the last section on top of the skewer.
  8. When the glue has dried, straighten the sections into a “plus sign.”
  9. Quickly spin the skewer by rolling it between your hands.

How Does It Work?

Unveiling the secret to why only one image appears when you spin the Magic Pumpkin means understanding how slow your eyes are. You may have heard the phrase “faster than the eye can see.” Well, that’s exactly what’s happening here! In fact, the method used to create 1 Magic Pumpkin image is very similar to how animation and cartoons work!

When images flash in rapid succession, like when you roll the skewer of the Magic Pumpkin between your hands, your eyes and brain lose their ability to process them as individual images. Instead, your brain takes a short cut and combines the rapidly changing images into 1 “hybrid” image. Since each section of the Magic Pumpkin represents a different section of the image, the hybrid image complete the Magic Pumpkin.

Animation differs from the Magic Pumpkin because, instead of portions of a single image, animation uses sequential images. This means that each image is the next image of someone running, talking, or playing. The sequential images make the hybrid image appear to be actually running, talking, or playing, but what’s actually happening? It’s HUNDREDS OR THOUSANDS of individual images being played in rapid succession to create the illusion of motion!