It was just a colour out of space—a frightful messenger from unformed realms of infinity beyond all Nature as we know it; from realms whose mere existence stuns the brain and numbs us with the black extra-cosmic gulfs it throws open before our frenzied eyes.
Science-fiction author H. P. Lovecraft considered The Colour Out of Space his best story. In this classic tale of cosmic horror, a small farming community faces unspeakable evil from the outer reaches of the universe. The extraterrestrial villain is not a face-hugging or chest-bursting alien but something far more terrifying: a weird color.
Slowly but surely the otherworldly color mutates and destroys crops, insects, wild animals and livestock. It impregnates the land and the water. The unfortunate farmers who encounter the bizarre hue fall prey to insanity and untimely death.
And you thought vision research was for wimps.
This slide show features some of the most spectacular color phenomena this side of the Milky Way. You won't see any extraterrestrials, but you will see some of the many strange illusions arise from putting colors in an unusual context. Use caution: the peculiar shades and tints you are about to experience could blow your mind.
Susana Martinez-Conde is a professor of ophthalmology, neurology, and physiology and pharmacology at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University in Brooklyn, N.Y. She is author of the Prisma Prize-winning Sleights of Mind, along with Stephen Macknik and Sandra Blakeslee, and of Champions of Illusion, along with Stephen Macknik. Follow Susana Martinez-Conde on Twitter Credit: Sean McCabe
Stephen L. Macknik is a professor of opthalmology, neurology, and physiology and pharmacology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Along with Susana Martinez-Conde and Sandra Blakeslee, he is author of the Prisma Prize-winning Sleights of Mind. Their forthcoming book, Champions of Illusion, will be published by Scientific American/Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Follow Stephen L. Macknik on Twitter Credit: Sean McCabe