Necker Cube

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The Necker cube is an optical illusion showing a two-dimensional line drawing of a cube in which it is ambiguous which of the two squares represents the front and back surfaces from the perspective of the viewer. Alternatively, it is ambiguous which of the two rhombi represents the top or bottom of the cube. An observer staring at the figure will usually experience a sensory oscillation between the two viewpoints. The figure was first published in 1832 by the Swiss crystallographer Louis Albert Necker.

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In this Demonstration, the cube is assumed to be made of a translucent medium. Either of the two viewpoints can be made explicit by changes in color intensity. Moving the slider to its center position shows the original ambiguous figure. To most observers, the darker color appears to be in the foreground. Also shown is a stack of cubes that exhibits analogous behavior.

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Contributed by: S. M. Blinder (August 2011)
Open content licensed under CC BY-NC-SA


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