This is the season of Hollywood's unrestrained id: the brainless summer blockbuster, the air-conditioned multiplex, the bottomless popcorn refills, the avalanche of kids emerging blinking into bright sunlight, waiting for their parental pickup. But August is also the anniversary of the movies themselves! It was on August 31, 1897 that Thomas Edison patented his first movie camera, the Kinetograph. In honor of 119 years of cinematic glitz and glamour, we've asked movie buff and Jeopardy! tough Ken Jennings to give us the "reel" truth on all kinds of old-movie misinformation.
The Debunker: Do Movies Work Through "Persistence of Vision"?
Nearly every work on film theory begins with one starting principle: that the illusion of motion in motion pictures is only possible through a phenomenon called "persistence of vision." This was a turn-of-the-century attempt to explain the miracle that makes cinema possible: images flash on a screen, and even though they don't move, our brain believes they do. Psychologists decided that something called "persistence of vision" must be involved: some kind of retinal after-image in the eye itself weaves the still images together into a moving whole.