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See Inside Scientific American Mind Volume 25, Issue 5

These 5 Illusions Turn Ordinary Humans into Superheroes

Superpower your imagination


WEB OF DECEPTION
Distinguishing a hero from a villain is often all a matter of perspective. In this image by Kurt Wenner, exhibited at Universal Studios Japan to celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2011, only someone viewing from the correct angle (much like the vantage point of a Scientific American Mind reader) will see Spider-Man swinging through a New York City canyon, preparing to shoot webs back at the tightrope walkers. The people walking the ropes see the superhero for what he is, a huge, flat painting on the floor below them, and have no fear of falling to their death. This illusion, called an anamorphic painting, takes advantage of how the visual system uses cues such as shading, perspective and relative size to produce our perception of distance, depth and shape.

Credit: © MARVEL, COURTESY OF UNIVERSAL STUDIOS JAPAN

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