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Monday, June 29, 2009

You can't trust your eyes

This absolutely delightful optical illusion has been doing the rounds on the Internet the last couple of days, so we felt like commenting on it too, as well as sharing some of our other favorites.

If you haven't seen it before, prepare to have your mind blown: What you see as green and as blue, are the exact same color! Go ahead, open it up in your image editor application and see for yourself.

When confronted with an image like this, our eyes do not analyze every "pixel" as a computer screen would. Instead, it tries to make the best it can of it, to try and understand the pattern, to understand and interpret the image instead of just seeing it. Since it looks like the orange stripes are passing through the whole picture, the colors simply must be different, says our brain. How wrong it is.

Similarly with this one. We see an object casting a shadow, we know that the square B is shadowed, therefore it must be really lighter than it is. Again, your brain overcompensates for something, and it gets confused.

Here, all the lines are in fact straight and parallel. They do not curve, nor do the boxes change shapes.

The purpose of these three images is to demonstrate that our eyes are quite easily fooled. This is not even a tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the different tricks our eyes can pull on us. We think we see patterns in noise. We see faces in everyday objects. Don't trust your eyes.

They are not digital cameras performing perfect representations of the real world. They provide a mess of information to your brain, which then tries its darndest to make sense of it all. It tries to interpret. It tries to understand. And when faced with something as confusing as these, it fails quite spectacularily.

Always aspire to try to confirm what your eyes tell you in some way. Impressive as the biology and technology in them is, they have their faults and there are plenty of things out there in the world that try to exploit those flaws. Don't get fooled. Always question what you see.

I will finish this article with the same words The Bad Astronomer used when describing the first picture: "So the next time someone swears they saw Jesus, or a UFO, or a ghost, show them this picture. What you see in life is absolutely and provably not what you get."

Link from: Bad Astronomy and about half the rest of the Internet.

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