It’s hard not to look at the news every day and wonder if your life has somehow forked into an alternate reality or dimension than the one you were familiar with. Not helping the matter are the recently revealed best illusions of the year, including Frank Force’s winning Dual Axis Illusion which can look like it’s spinning in four different directions if you stare at it long enough.
First Prize: Dual Axis Illusion (Frank Force)
This one starts off as a simple, deceptively innocent illustration of the Greek ichthys fish symbol. But as it spins it reveals a more complex structure that can not only appear to be rotating along either its vertical or horizontal axis, but also in both directions as well: left to right, right to left, top to bottom, or bottom to top. As visual cues are introduced it locks your brain into a very specific perception, but when they’re removed again it doesn’t take long for your eyes to start to question what they’re seeing.
Second Prize: Change the Colour (Haruaki Fukuda)
Of all the incomprehensible things our brains do, altering the perception of an object’s colour based on how it’s moving might be the most perplexing. But as Haruaki Fukuda from the University of Tokyo demonstrates, what initially appears to be rows of alternating red and green dots moving from top to bottom can also be perceived as yellow dots moving from left to right if you stare at this animation long enough. It might take a bit of focusing and refocusing for your eyes to see the yellow version, but when it happens it’s startling. And a great example of how the millions of pixels on LCD screens are used to fool the eye.
Third Prize: The Rotating Circles Illusion (Ryan E.B. Mruczek and Gideon Paul Caplovitz)
You’ve probably seen lots of optical illusions where moving objects appear to alter or influence the movements of another when in reality nothing’s actually changing aside from your brain getting a little confused. Ryan E.B. Mruczek and Gideon Paul Caplovitz’s Rotating Circles Illusion just happens to be a very dramatic and effective example of them.
A small circle moves along a perfectly circular path, but as other moving circles are introduced in the various animations, the original circle appears to alter its path, either moving up or down, side to side, or even along the three sides of an invisible triangle that doesn’t actually exist. If you’re like us you’ll find yourself partially covering your screen with your hands to see for certain if the original circle has actually changed its path, but the only thing lying to you here is your brain.
This article has been updated since its original publication.