You won’t believe what your eyes are telling you when you watch this video. But don’t look for an explanation in the wonders of video editing or special effects – this illusion literally tricks your eyes.
Did you watch it? Even after the secret is revealed, your usually-reliable peepers will still have you believe that the balls and marbles are rolling up the slope, as if pulled by a magnetic force.
So why do our eyes see the balls rolling up? You can see in the video that the ramps are at all different angles. But from one very specific spot, where the gravity-defying balls are filmed, our brain organizes the way we see the ramps as neat, uniform angles and slopes. The side-effect of our involuntary organization skills is that we see the balls rolling up.
Optical illusions like this one play with the way our brain processes what’s perceived by our eyes. We’re seeing a discrepancy between what we perceive to be reality, and physical reality. But these illusions don’t exist just for the fun of fooling us. Scientists use them to understand the underlying mechanisms of human perception.
The rolling ball illusion was created by Dr. Kokichi Sugihara, an engineer at the Meiji Institute for Advanced Study of Mathematical Science in Japan. It won first prize in 2010’s Best Illusion of the Year contest, a competition that recognizes visual illusion research, not magic tricks. The next illusion contest is on May 5, 2011, in Florida. You can check out more of Koukichi Sugihara’s amazing illusions at his website – I can guarantee that each time, your eyes will fool you.
Learning to love science. As a producer for EarthSky, Lindsay Patterson interviews some of the world's most fascinating scientists. Through EarthSky, her work content is syndicated on some of the world's top media websites, including USAToday.com and Reuters.com. Patterson is also charged with helping to stay in steady communication with the thousands of scientists who contribute to EarthSky's work of making the voice of science heard in a noisy world. She graduated from Colorado College with a degree in creative writing, and a keen interest in all forms of journalism and media.