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Anti-Gravity Mirror

Anti-Gravity Mirror
Take off and fly in a mirror that makes half your body look whole.

Here’s an exhibit where watching is at least half the fun. Positioned at one end of this large flat mirror, you can create any number of gravity-defying illusions that will amaze you and your friends: Levitate, fly, swim though the air, grow limbs (and dissolve them), crawl straight up the wall like a lizard—the sky’s the limit.

What's going on?

Standing with the edge of this large mirror bisecting your body, you appear whole to a person who’s observing from the front. To the observer, the mirror image of the visible half of your body looks exactly like the real half that is obscured behind the mirror. 

You look whole because the human body is symmetrical. The observer’s brain is tricked into believing that an image of your right side is really your left side. So just straddle the mirror, raise one leg, and you’re flying.

You can try this out anywhere where there’s a good-sized mirror that you can straddle or stand alongside—at home, in a department store, or in a dance studio with a doorway cut into a mirrored wall.

"Reflections on Anti-Gravity Mirror" (pdf) by artist Bob Miller

Exploratorium Magazine, Anti-Gravity Mirror article

Going further

The illusion of flight you see at this exhibit was used to create a low-tech, precomputer graphics special effect in the original Star Wars movie. The anti-gravity Landspeeders that floated across the desert landscape of Tatooine actually had wheels, but these were hidden by a full-length mirror attached along the vehicles’ lower edge. A camera filming a rolling Landspeeder saw a view of reflected sand and shadow in the mirror instead of wheels—so the car appeared to float above the sand.


IMLS acknowledgment

This web project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services [MA-30-16-0175-16].