- The brain evolved not to interpret reality perfectly but to make quick and useful judgments about our surroundings. Illusions reveal some of these quirky neural shortcuts.
- One groundbreaking new illusion exploits the fact that a shift in attention (with no change of gaze) changes what we see. Two others trade on the characteristics of peripheral vision, which registers motion but misses key details such as an object's true position.
- The Best Illusion of the Year Contest brings scientific and popular attention to these delightful perceptual oddities. Anyone can submit an illusion to next year's contest: see http://illusionoftheyear.com/submission-instructions for the rules.
A trusting young woman puts her hands in a box with a transparent top. She is participating in an experiment, but this one has the aura of a magic show. The investigators ask her to hold her hands steady between vertical blue lines. She does so, watching her hands carefully. They do not appear to move, nor does she feel as if they are moving.
The investigators flick a switch, and the box darkens on one side, obscuring her right hand. They ask her to reach across with her left hand to touch her now invisible right. She complies, but her eyes suddenly widen with alarm. All she feels with her left hand is empty space.
This article was originally published with the title Mirages and Mind Benders the 10 Best Illusions of the Year.