Cool-To-Look-At Optical Illusions Don't Always Work As Advertised

op art

The good folks at Scientific American magazine dedicate their new issue to “The 169 Best Illusions.” (Why 169? I don’t know.) “Illusions make great eye candy,” they say. “But they also serve a serious purpose. When we look at an illusion, we ‘see’ something that does not match the physical reality of the world around us. Scientists take advantage of this discrepancy between perception and reality to gain insights into how our eyes and brains gather and interpret (or misinterpret) visual information.” For us here on the Internet, they provide a fun slideshow of ten samples and explain what’s going on in each.

My one complaint: No. 7.


It has the caption, “The way we see things depends on our frame of mind. In this illusion, Message of Love from the Dolphins, adult viewers see two nude lovers embracing. But when young children look at this image, they see only dolphins.”

That’s pretty interesting. So this morning, I tested it out on my 5-year-old.

“What’s that a picture of?” I asked.

“A bottle,” he said.

“What’s the picture on the bottle?”

“People doing ballet,” he said.

Huh. So much for that. He didn’t see the dolphins at all until I pointed them out.