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Cylindrical Mirror and Anamorphic Art

The distorted (anamorphic) images grab everyone's attention. In the cylindrical mirror example, hidden pictures are drawn on a POLAR GRID and they only come to life when viewed through a cylindrical mirror.

The original art requires a mirroring paper, but nowadays, unwrinkled aluminum foil can be used as well (But because the images are fuzzier, the observations may not be as clear.) A soda can or any cylindrical object that you can cover with aluminum foil is ok.


After creating the cylindrical mirror, you may either color an already distorted image or print the polar grid below and create your own anamorphic art.

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Images are taken from the book " The Magic Mirror: An Antique Optical Toy

How it works - MATH CONNECTION
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Phaeno Science Center,

Wolfsburg /Germany


San Francisco /United States

Making anamorphic drawings involves mechanically distorting an image by transferring the image from the square grid (the original image) onto a polar grid (distorted grid).

It is basically done by transforming each cartesian coordinate to the corresponding polar coordinate.

You can use any polar grid by printing to make your own drawings. For this example, after you complete your image on the polar grid, place your cylindrical mirror on the circle and look into the mirror to see the image restored.

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One might wonder what happens if we use a conical mirror instead of a cylindrical one!

With a conical mirror, the image is spread out in a circular region all around the mirror creating a perfectly circular image.

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Did you hear about the mirror pillar?

The Mirror Pillar is a giant 2m high cylindrical mirror, which reflects and distorts images from the ground around it to create beautiful anamorphic artworks. It provides a chance to interact with anamorphic images by drawing part of one, and discover the mathematics and geometry behind projected and distorted images. The Mirror Pillar is a math outreach project by mathematicians Matt Parker and Katie Steckles.

They also have an image converter where you can upload your original image and it converts to the distorted image on the polar grid.

Do not forget to check out the Mirror Pillar activities.

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