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See Inside May / June 2011

10 Top Illusions

Balls that roll uphill, bathtubs that stretch and shrink, freaky faces and throbbing hearts. Welcome to the year's best visual tricks

A Japanese miner climbs onto the stage, his helmet light bobbing and a pickax slung over his shoulder. He swings the pick a few times before kneeling to inspect something unusual and then worries at some loose rubble with his hands. Suddenly his face lights up, and he turns to the audience, his newfound riches held forward in his open hands. “I have discovered a new supermagnet that attracts wood,” he announces. Okaaaay....

A video begins playing overhead, and the audience sees four wood balls rolling uphill in open defiance of the laws of gravity. Pulled by a magnet? Not really. The “miner” is mathematical engineer Kokichi Sugihara of the Meiji Institute for Advanced Study of Mathematical Sciences in Kawasaki, Japan, and his magnetlike slopes illusion is the winner of the 2010 Best Illusion of the Year Contest. The trick is exposed when the video shows Sugihara’s slopes from a different vantage point: the wood balls are actually rolling down, not up. The slopes are cleverly designed to produce the antigravity illusion when seen from a specific point of view.

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