Magnetic Hill (India)

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Magnetic Hill in Ladakh, India.
A sign near the Magnetic Hill in Ladakh, India

Magnet Hill is a so called "gravity hill" located near Leh in Ladakh, India. The hill is mistakenly characterized as having extreme magnetic properties which are strong enough to pull cars uphill and force passing aircraft to increase their altitude in order to escape magnetic interference. This is likely based on the illusion that some people see of objects which appear to roll up a hill. In reality, this is purely an optical effect caused by the specific layout of hills.

The layout of the surrounding land produces the optical illusion that a very slight downhill slope appears to be an uphill slope. Thus, a car left out of gear will appear to be rolling uphill. There are hundreds of gravity hill locations around the world.

The slope of gravity hills is an optical illusion, although tour guides may claim natural or even supernatural forces are at work. The most important factor contributing to the illusion is a completely or mostly obstructed horizon; without a horizon, judging the slope of a surface is difficult as a reliable reference is missing. Objects one would normally assume to be more-or-less perpendicular to the ground (such as trees) may actually be leaning, offsetting the visual reference. The illusion is similar to the well-known Ames room, in which balls can also appear to roll against gravity. This is a remarkably common illusion that is found in numerous locations around the world. Usually it is a stretch of road in a hilly area where the level horizon is obscured. Objects such as trees and walls that normally provide visual clues to the true vertical, may be leaning slightly. This creates an optical illusion making a slight downhill look like an uphill slope. Objects may appear to roll uphill. Sometimes rivers even seem to flow against gravity.

There are several things that enable us to sense which way is up. The balance mechanism in our inner ears is one system we have, but visual clues are also important and can be overriding. If the horizon cannot be seen or is not level, then we may be fooled by objects that we expect to be vertical but that really are not. False perspective might also play a role. If a line of trees get larger or smaller with distance away, our sense of perspective is thrown off. Objects far away may seem smaller or larger than they really are.

The “magnet Hill” is located on the Leh-Kargil-Srinagar national highway, about 30 km from Leh, at a height of 11,000 feet above sea level. On its south side flows the Indus, which originates in Tibet and goes to Pakistan. The magnetic hill has become a popular stop for domestic tourists on car journeys.[1][2]

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