Use Your Illusion

June 25, 2010

Rheanna Sand

Science is serious business lately. An environmental disaster with little hope of ending in the next few months. Volcanoes, floods and earthquakes. How quickly we forget how entertaining science can be! That is, if you look in the right places… or at the right pictures!

To give yourself a break from thinking about the oil spill, or the dilemma of nuclear energy, why not look at some trippy optical illusions? Here are a select few Science in Seconds favorites from around the internets.

Stare at the black dot and watch all the other colours disappear:


Explanation? The cones in your retina get tired of you staring in one spot and stop responding to that colour. Soon, an afterimage is made in the complementary colour, which cancels out the main colour, making it blend into the background. This is an example of a physiological illusion, which depends on the eyes and brain being over-stimulated to achieve the desired effect.

This next one is a cognitive illusion, which exploits the useful tendency of our brains to compensate for shadows in determining colour, in this case, grey:



The coloured squares A and B are the same shade, as evidenced by my simple cut and paste of the squares to the right (if you still don't believe it, there is more evidence and detailed explanations on the Adelson Lab website at MIT).

This snapshot is an installation by the artist Felice Varini, who paints rooms and large outdoor scenes to make stark, unnatural shapes appear from a certain vantage point:



And if you can explain how these last ones work, put it in the comments below!




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