Chus Martinez On X-Ray Spex!Posted: October 29, 2012
X-Ray Spex are an American novelty item, purported to allow the user to see through or into solid objects. In reality the glasses merely create an optical illusion; no X-rays are involved. The current version is sold under the name X-Ray Spex; an essentially identical product is sold under the name X-Ray Gogs. X-Ray Spex consist of an outsized pair of glasses with plastic frames and white cardboard “lenses” printed with concentric red circles, and emblazoned with the legend “X-RAY VISION”.
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. The illusion is not sustainable.
X-Ray Spex were long advertised with the slogan “See the bones in your hand, see through clothes!” Some versions of the advertisement featured an illustration of a young man using the X-Ray Spex to examine the bones in his hand while a voluptuous woman stood in the background, as though awaiting her turn to be “X-rayed.”
The claim is untrue, of course; besides the unlikelihood of a safe and functional X-ray device selling for about a dollar, X-ray detectors require an X-ray source. Part or even most of the novelty value lies in provoking the object of the wearer’s attentions. These subjects, if convinced the device worked, or at least unsure whether or not it allowed the wearer to see them nude, might respond in an amusing way.
There is now an app that claims to do the same thing X-Ray Spex were alleged to do, but with a mobile phone camera.