The Hill Where Gravity Reverses - Magnetic Hill Debunked
The Hill Where Gravity Reverses - Magnetic Hill Debunked

The Hill Where Gravity Reverses - Magnetic Hill Debunked

In remote Australia there’s a point where you can park your car and roll up hill. Here’s how the weird and wonderful phenomena of Magnetic Hill, South Australia actually works.


I'm in Magnetic Hill in remote Outback, Australia. And this is a point where gravity seemingly goes the other way. People come here to experience what it's like to roll up a hill. I'm gonna dive into the phenomenon, explain how magnetic and gravity hills work.

To get to Magnetic Hill, you have to travel to Orroroo, which is around three hours North of Adelaide. It's on a dirt track and marked by a large magnet. The sign says, "To turn off your ignition, "put the car into neutral and take off the brakes." It also says that plastic and aluminium cars would go downhill or steel vehicles will roll up the hill with warnings for those with hip and knee replacements.

And the story goes, that this was discovered when someone had a flat tire here. They put a rock in front of the wheels so they could Jack up the car, but instead of rolling down the hill, it rolled up.

Okay, let's do this. So, I am at Magnetic Hill in remote South Australia. There is a car full of blowflies to tell me that I'm in the Outback. We've got a cameraman there. We have the sign right there. Now, the car is going. I'm gonna turn it off and put it into neutral. Okay, the car is now in neutral. I've got my foot on the brake. The parking brake is off. And does I take off my foot, let's see what happens. Now that's doing it. That actually does feel weird. It genuinely looks like the hill goes down right in front. Now, I'm not rolling very fast so it's not as steep uphill, but that is a bit of a weird feeling. Yeah, that's genuinely weird. Yeah, I'm not going very fast, but it is definitely headed what feels up the hill. That's kind of cool actually. Yeah, I would like this.

Gonna do this again from my perspective. So you can now see what I can see. Turn the car on, put it into neutral. There it is, brake is off. Now my foot is on the brake, but if we take that off, let's see what happens. There guys, rolling up, down, up Magnetic Hill.

All right, so how does it work? Magnetic rocks, some kind of gravitational phenomenon, that large magnet up the hill? Well, it's none of those things. It's actually happening inside the mind of the viewer because this is an optical illusion cause while it might appear that the car is rolling uphill, this isn't actually the case. A part of the explanation of the illusion is the fact that there's no horizon reference points. Everything behind us is a hill, it is in close distance. So you can't see what a true flat area looks like. This is something that cyclists often experience where something looks like a flat, but may actually be a gentle uphill.

And to show this, I brought along a spirit level, something you should pack on all good road trips to find a true horizon. And you can see behind it, the difference in angles between the hill and the horizontal plane.

Okay, so this is the place where the cars park, where they start in testing Magnetic Hill. So, I've got a spirit level on my phone and let's see what the degrees and percent actually is. So look here, the grade's very slight. It's minus one, minus two, 0% in different places, depending on where the rocks are. So it's a pretty modest grade.

And you can see the steeper angles in the distance. When you combine that with the very gentle angle of the road, that's where the illusion comes together.

Magicians say there should only be one possible way to do a trick. What that means is, if for example, you get someone to draw a card and you do a grand reveal showing what that card was. The only possible way this could have worked is if you force the card on the person. And that can take some of the magic out of it. And this is something I think that Magnetic Hill in Australia has done so well. By calling it for example, Magnetic Hill, by showing magnets on the signs and by implying that different cars will do something different, tries to add to the mystery. It's not just an optical illusion.

So despite the name and the imagery, there's nothing magnetic about Magnetic Hill. It's all just an illusion.

And if you enjoyed this, you can visit Magnetic Hill. It's just a six-hour return drive from Adelaide. If that sounds too hard, just press the Subscribe button and I'll bring you more interesting content soon. I'm Julian O'Shea, that's it for me.