Over the past few years, several images have broken the internet with their mind-bending visual effects, leaving millions of people wondering how they are possible.
These types of images enjoy high popularity, and their variety is impressive. If you enjoy them, here’s a compilation of some of the most famous ones from recent years.
Visual Effects: Spot the Hidden Animal
In January 2019, nanotechnology engineer Michelle Dickinson posted the following image on her Twitter. Everyone went crazy trying to solve the mystery of the image because when you look at it directly, you can faintly see the silhouette of something.
The solution? Slowly step back, and the image of the cat becomes clearly visible.
The Strange Amorphous Shape in the Painting
Painted in 1533 by German artist Hans Holbein, “The Ambassadors” is a painting that has generated much discussion, especially because of the strange visual effects in the lower part of the artwork.
When viewed head-on, the object seems completely out of place in the painting. However, when viewed from a certain angle, the “blur” turns into a human skull.
According to researcher Phillip Kent, the painting is one of the most famous examples of anamorphosis, an image with an irregular shape that hides its true form, which is revealed when viewed from a specific angle.
What Color Are the Circles in This Photo?
In 2018, the internet exploded over an image posted on Twitter by University of Texas professor David Novick. Despite what can be seen at first glance, the reality is that all the circles are the same color.
“However, the differences are subtle and depend on the size of the image when viewed,” explained the professor on his account. The image is a classic visual illusion known as the Munker illusion. As Danish professor Michael Bach explained, this illusion reveals how much our perception of color is influenced by the surrounding colors.
The Strange Effect in This Photo
That same year, Twitter user Charles Joseph posted a photo showing two coworkers hugging. The problem is that the guy’s head seems to belong to the girl’s body and vice versa, causing chaos on the web with one of the most comical visual effects.
It’s a funny photo, and the user himself posted:
“At first, I thought I was the one wearing the heels.”
Depending on how you look at this image, it resembles either Ben Stiller or Beyoncé
This optical illusion scared everyone after James Corden tweeted the photo in 2018. The image was originally created by Chris Frady and gained popularity in 2015 but went viral after the host of The Late Late Show shared it.
At first glance, you see a blurry photo of Ben Stiller’s character, Zoolander, from his 2001 movie of the same name. But when you squint your eyes, Stiller’s face disappears, and Beyoncé appears in its place.
If you focus on this image for about 30 seconds, it will disappear completely
In 2020, an occultist in training in Horsham, Pennsylvania, tweeted one of the most controversial visual effects. The image, the more you look at it, begins to disappear. So if you stare at it for a fixed point for 30 seconds, it will vanish completely.
According to the explanation, this illusion is actually a variation of the so-called Troxler effect, discovered in 1804 by Swiss philosopher and physicist Ignaz Troxler. It illustrates the efficiency of the human brain.
In simple terms, sensory neurons tend to filter out constant information that the brain considers non-essential and non-threatening. As Brandon Specktor from Live Science explained, this rapid adaptation to stimuli allows the brain to focus on genuinely important things.
When we force our eyes to focus on a point, as we do with visual effects of this kind, the brain doesn’t receive new information to process. At this point, the stimuli from peripheral vision take on the nature of the surrounding environment.
The Infinite Hole in This Tattoo
Renowned Insider, Jacob Shamsian, explained that the tattoo design creates an illusion of infinite depth by placing progressively smaller rectangles inside each other.
A Newspaper… or a 3D Kitchen?
Creative director Felipe Salazar and graphic designer Karen Castañeda transformed an ordinary newspaper into an advertisement for HiperCentro Corona supermarket. The artists manipulated the newspaper text to make it look like a “3D kitchen,” using a design to add the illusion of depth. In reality, the paper is completely flat.
A Bunch of Circles Spinning… or Not
This image was created in 2003 by Japanese psychologist and professor Akiyoshi Kitaoka, inspired by the famous “rotating snakes” illusion.
Both are examples of the well-known peripheral illusion, in which we perceive static images as moving. Interestingly, when you stare directly at a part of the photo without blinking, that part “stops spinning,” while peripheral vision makes us believe that the rest is in motion.
The Moving Image
Perhaps, this was the most viral image of visual effects at the time. Although many claimed it was created by a “Japanese neurologist,” the truth is that its creator was American designer Yurii Perepadia.
The user wrote this on their Instagram:
“I drew this optical illusion in Adobe Illustrator on September 26, 2016. To create it, I used the effect by Akiyoshi Kitaoka. It’s a black and white stroke on a colored background that shifts the focus of vision and makes a person perceive the image details as moving. Japanese psychotherapist Yamamoto Hashima has nothing to do with this image. In fact, Yamamoto Hashima doesn’t really exist. Google will help you.”
But how does the illusion actually work? Well, Alice Proverbio, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at the University of Milano-Bicocca in Italy, explained the famous image in a Twitter thread:
Basically, our neurons compete with each other without either one winning. It’s worth noting that the larger the image, the more pronounced the effect. However, be careful, prolonged viewing could cause dizziness or headaches.
There’s no doubt that these effects, in addition to being astonishing, are very curious and have caused many headaches on the internet. While these have their explanations, there are many others out there to discover.