COOL IMAGES: Do a Double Take

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Science  31 Mar 2000:
Vol. 287, Issue 5462, pp. 2371
DOI: 10.1126/science.287.5462.2371a

If you're going to rob a bank, wear a wig. That bit of practical advice comes courtesy of an online exhibit on face recognition from the Exploratorium, a San Francisco science museum. When identifying faces, people rely more on cues from the top half of the face, particularly hair, than the bottom half—so a good Elvis toupee might keep you out of jail. Other exhibits feature classic perceptual illusions, such as afterimages from staring at a strange-colored flag, funhouse 3D distortions, and the old “is it a vase or a face?” illusion. Try to spot the animals in a camouflage sideshow, decide which dot is darkest, and play duck calls that turn into vowel sounds. The exhibits aren't just parlor tricks; each one explains a property of the visual or auditory system that allows it to be fooled.

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