Fun: Our Lying Eyes

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Science  15 Oct 2004:
Vol. 306, Issue 5695, pp. 383
DOI: 10.1126/science.306.5695.383b

Being fooled once is supposed to protect against further deceit, but we often fall for the same visual illusions time after time. A visit to this collection of optical tricks might not make you immune to them, but it could help you understand why your eyes and brain get duped. Neuroscientist Michael Bach of the University of Freiburg in Germany has animated 46 common and not-so-common visual illusions that skew our perceptions of motion, color, size, contrast, and other variables. The site's explanations take some of the mystery out of puzzles such as the café wall illusion. The horizontal strips of mortar between the tiles are straight, but for poorly understood reasons, interactions between orientation-sensing cells in the brain's striate cortex cause us to misread the lines as sloped. If you're hungry for more about such tricks of the light, Bach serves up plenty of references and links. The explanations are easier to grasp if you have some neuroscience background.

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