2012 was a pretty epic year for visual trickery. We stared through telescopes, transfixed by Venus' cosmic trick of the light; gaped in disbelief at a Rubik's Cube that wasn't; and watched with morbid curiosity as celebrities transformed into grotesque mutations of their former selves.
Sound crazy? We're just getting warmed up. Here are our picks for the very best optical illusions from 2012.
An Illusion that tricks you into Thinking Celebrities are Downright Hideous
Society harbors a strange obsession with seeing celebrities disheveled, out of makeup, and out of shape. The video featured here takes that fascination and turns it totally inside out, by using normal photographs of good-looking celebrities to illustrate what's known as the "Flashed Face Distortion Effect" — an optical illusion first described last year by University of Queensland scientists Jason Tangen, Sean Murphy and Matthew Thompson, and re-imagined this year in the celebrity-version featured above.
The best thing about this illusion is that it was discovered by accident. Murphy had been working alone in the lab, skimming through photographs of faces aligned at eye-level, when he noticed that some of the faces lurking on the fringes of his vision looked frightening and deformed. The instant he tried to get a closer look at them, however, they appeared totally normal — attractive even. Can you imagine working in the lab late one night, only to discover a novel optical illusion that tricks you into perceiving attractive faces as utterly grotesque? Don't pretend for a second that wouldn't freak you the hell out. [More]