What colour are these spheres? Viral optical illusion baffles the internet

Jun 5 2023, 4:40 pm

If you want to take your brain for a ride, you’ve come to the right place. An older optical illusion has gone viral on Twitter, quite possibly frying your brain thanks to good ol’ fashion colours.

Let’s get one thing straight: perception is not always reality and you can witness that truth in real-time thanks to a viral illusion that seems to show pink, green, and blue spheres.

But they’re not colourful at all. All the spheres are actually brown.

Wait, what?

The image is courtesy of David Novick, professor of Engineering Education and Leadership at the University of Texas. You see (literally), the spheres are floating behind streaks of red, blue, and green lines.

And that my friends, is what takes your brains for a ride.

Novick says all the spheres are the same colour — brown. “A three-color confetti illusion with spheres, which appear to be yellowish, reddish, and purplish but in fact have exactly the same light-brown base color (RGB 255,188,144),” wrote the professor in 2019. “Shrinking the image increases the effect.”

The puzzle can get even more trippy as the colours of the spheres tend to switch depending on which area of the image your eyes are focusing on. If you switch areas, a clearly “purplish” sphere might appear greenish or red-like.

Novick confirms that with the foreground stripes removed, it becomes clear that all the spheres are simply brown and everything you’ve ever known in the universe unravels (at least, that was the case for me…)

Wait wait wait, what’s going on here?

The optical illusion actually creates a disconnect between raw data and information (data put into context) by our brains.

Colours perceived by our eyes also take into account the colour surrounding it as well.

Essentially, by changing the colours of the stripes, we are also changing our perception of the spheres themselves.

This photo is an example of the “Munker-White” illusion and is an example of the human brain organizing colourful information based on its luminance. When your eyes are not looking directly at a sphere, the colour of the stripes pulls the colour of the ball toward it, making the say, green stripe make the actually brown sphere look greener.

The illusion shows how much the perception of colour is influenced by what’s around it.

Pass it on to your friends and family and then take a seat and then rethink what you actually think is reality.

What’s even real anymore?

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in June 2022.

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