I’ve been having a fun time at home with a DIY squaring the circle project. (Okay, for the 3-D purists, you’re actually turning a cylindrical tube into a rectangular tube.) There are no camera tricks in the image you see above. What you see in the mirror is the actual reflection of the object in the foreground on my desk.
As our minds begin to play tricks on us during the ongoing unpleasantness, perhaps we might take solace in realizing that our minds were always playing tricks on us anyway.
Above, the Shepard Table illusion, brought to my attention by Bill Mullins of the Genii forum. The table tops (not the thicknesses, just the top surfaces) are identical parallelograms. If you’re like me, you’ll say, WTF, no way–the horizontal table top has a smaller length and a greater width than the vertical table top.
What’s happening is that the table legs and their angles induce a false sense of perspective, altering our perception of the length and width of the objects. Instead of treating the parallelograms as 2-dimensional objects we are interpreting them as 3-dimensional objects.
When the legs are re-aligned, the distorting effect is lessened:
But again, if you’re anything like me, you’ll nod your head, and think, yeah, but I still don’t really believe they’re the same.
So what your intrepid reporter did (and you can do it too!) is take a screen shot of the initial picture of the two tables up above and print it out. I cut the picture in two, separating the tables, and then carefully cut out only the tabletop of the horizontal table. I rotated the piece and placed it on top of the vertical table top.
Here’s a video I made of doing that:
It was a perfect duplicate. The situation was the same. Only the perspective had changed.
The picture above is one of my favorite optical illusions because it looks so simple. I don’t remember where I first encountered it, but the question it poses is not complicated: which of the two figures representing roads above are identical?
We’ll give you a bit of space here to consider before we continue
Most people say that the two figures on the left are identical, and the figure on the right is the odd one. But that is incorrect. The two end figures are alike and the middle picture is different. It’s difficult to believe, but I did a little experiment with Photoshop that will help to convince you.
Using Photoshop, I cut the figure on the right, leaving only its outline behind, and moved the figure over to the left, overlapping the leftmost figure. Here’s what it looks like:
You can see that the two figures are identical, and surprisingly even the road division lines line up, something not so apparent in the top picture.
Now let’s try the same thing, only this time we’ll cut the leftmost figure, and let it overlap the middle figure:
You can immediately see that the middle figure does not match the leftmost figure as it appeared to do so in the top picture.
Now that you know what’s going on, go back to the top picture. Does it change your perception? Not mine. It’s one of the most disheartening things to me about optical illusions—even though we know exactly what is going on, our perceptual apparatus is still fooled.
Magicians like to summarize this kind of realization by the simple statement: “Misdirection works.”
Apply to advertising and propaganda at your leisure. It works even when you know what they are doing.
This is a truly amazing optical illusion invented by Kokichi Sugihara. A seemingly rectangular object has a cylindrical reflection. It really makes it clear how a change in perspective changes what we see. You can find out more about this illusion here.