I’ve Got X-Ray Eyes

70s,80s,Ads,Comics 5 October 2010 | Comments Off

Today io9 ran a post about Nick Veasey’s x-ray photography.  I had seen his work highlighted on other sites in the past, and it is always amazing.  I had always assumed that he was using live people for his shots and just using special techniques to polish the images.  Not the case, as it turns out:

Veasey needs to bombard his subjects with ionizing radiation for as long as 12 minutes to get crisp shots.  So to capture human forms, Veasey works with either skeletons in rubber suits (normally used to train radiologists) or cadavers that have been donated to science.  When a corpse becomes available, he has at most eight hours to pose and shoot before rigor mortis sets in. (via Wired)

All this got me thinking about the X-Ray Specs you would see advertised in comic books years ago.  I wonder how much money those guys made off of gullible kids who thought they could buy a working  (and safe) x-ray device for $1.98?

Probably a lot. I understood back then it was some kind of trick – heck, in the ad itself it mentions that it’s an optical illusion – but I always wondered what people were seeing, what the effect was. Thanks to Google, I had my answer quickly (in 0.65 seconds, to be exact.) It has to do with tricking your eyes into seeing two offset images:

The lenses consist of two layers of cardboard with a small hole about 6 mm (.25 inch) in diameter punched through both layers. The user views objects through the holes. A feather is embedded between the layers of each lens. The vanes of the feathers are so close together that light is diffracted, causing the user to receive two slightly offset images. For instance, one would see two offset images of the pencil. Where the images overlap, a darker image is obtained, supposedly giving the illusion that one is seeing the graphite embedded within the body of the pencil. As may be imagined, the illusion is not particularly sustainable.
(via Wikipedia)

Here is an image of what you might expect to see if you looked at your hand wearing the glasses:

Wow – one single hand-shaped bone!  Those biology textbooks were way off.

Thrilling, huh?  Glad I saved my money (and by ‘saved my money’, I mean ‘invested in more G.I. Joes.’)  Here’s another interesting factoid: the X-Ray Specs were invented by Harold von Braunhut, who also invented the Amazing Sea Monkeys.

“You must be wearing a lead dress, I can’t see a thing.”


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