The 10 Trippiest Optical Illusion Pictures

Looks can be deceiving, but the science behind some of these illusions is pretty straightforward.

optical illusion pictures the 10 best, trippiest illusions
Alexandre Watanabe / EyeEmGetty Images

For centuries, optical illusions have used our visual shortcuts and brain inklings against us, turning everyday objects into false 3D images, strange floating ships, and seriously confusing arguments. Let's take a look—and then take another—at some classic and contemporary illusions.

You love weird science. So do we. Let's nerd out over it together.

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1 Is This a Rabbit or a Raven?
optical illusion pictures the 10 best, trippiest illusions
Imgur

This confounding rabbit (or is it a raven?) divided the Popular Mechanics staff. It's a new spin on a classic illusion, where one drawing could be a rabbit or a duck, depending on how you look at it.

2 Please Circle Your Squares
optical illusion pictures the 10 best, trippiest illusions
Anthony Norcia/Reddit/My_Memes_Will_Cure_U

Many viewers look at this illusion and see elaborately decorated rectangles, like picture frame decorations or panels on a coffer. But if you look again, the effect is made by floating circles that are perpendicular to the striped background.

3 The Spins

The 2019 Optical Illusion of the Year is a looping shape that appears to spin horizontally or vertically depending on how you look at it. This one is, well, a real head-spinner.

4 Just One Shade of Gray
optical illusion pictures the 10 best, trippiest illusions
Sinha et al., Vision Research, 2020

Last year, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology published new experiments exploring an old illusion. These two stones are the same color—so why do we see them differently?

5 Even Our Ancestors Weren't Sure
optical illusion pictures the 10 best, trippiest illusions
Duncan Caldwell

This prehistoric stone carving depicts what experts believe is the earliest known "duck rabbit"-style dual illusion. With a keen eye, you can see both a buffalo and a mammoth.

6 Superluminal Optical Illusion
optical illusion pictures the 10 best, trippiest illusions
University of Surrey

This illusion happens when a bicycle travels at the speed of light while a pair of human eyes looks on. And surprisingly, trying to understand it is an important physics problem.

7 A Tale of a Fata-ful Trip
optical illusion pictures the 10 best, trippiest illusions
Monika Schaffner

A fata morgana is a naturally occurring optical phenomenon where layers of cold and hot air distort what we see at the horizon. In this case, it's caused a phantom boat to float in midair.

8 The Disappearing Act
optical illusion pictures the 10 best, trippiest illusions
Nightbreeze13/Reddit

Sometimes, like a movie T. rex, we can only see things that continue to move. In this illusion, the pastel colors slowly fade away until they disappear. Try it!

9 Twisted Metal

Gianni Sarcone's animated version of the classic Müller-Lyon illusion features line segments that are always the same size as parts move around them. Keep watching—it never gets any less weird to think about.

10 The Wonderland Foyer
optical illusion pictures the 10 best, trippiest illusions
Twitter/DuncanCook10

This waving tile floor is the result of careful tile-cutting, creating an illusion of forced perspective. For people in older apartment buildings, this could just look like a bad maintenance day.

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