The Best Illusion of the Year 2014 Award

By Anupum Pant

You probably know the static Ebbinghaus illusion – where a circle appears bigger around smaller circles even when it is of the same size. It’s static because it works without moving. Well, if you don’t know, you should because it helps you lose weight in a very subtle manner.

A slight variation involving movement of the Ebbinghaus illusion won the best illusion award for the year 2014. Yes, there are annual awards for the best illusions (I never knew that!). This one which won the award was submitted by researchers from the University of Nevada Reno.

The new variation is called the Dynamic Ebbinghaus effect. This is what happens in it…

 best illusion animation

There’s an arrangement of circles, exactly like the Ebbinghaus illusion, but there’s just one of the sets from the static illusion discussed above. While this arrangement of circles move, the central circle remains of the same size and the surrounding circles change in size.

Now, if you look into the central circle, you’ll see that it changes size too. In reality, it doesn’t. This effect is weaker when you look directly into the central circle. To make it more pronounced, you can shift your focus to the side and look at it through your peripheral vision. It’s totally mesmerizing. No wonder it won.

It works even when you  know about it.

A Fun Way to Multiply Numbers

By Anupum Pant

Please note, in the heading I said, a fun way to multiply numbers, not necessarily a quick way. Widely touted as an “amazingly quick Japanese method to multiply”, I think firstly, it really is not a very quick method. Secondly, I couldn’t find any sources confirming that it is a method developed by the Japanese. In fact, I’m not even sure if there’s anything Japanese about it. Nevertheless, the method sure is fun and should work great for people who don’t remember the multiplication tables well.

Another great thing about it is that it is a multiplication problem turned into a visual counting  problem. Since multiplication exercises don’t really make kids happy, they’d definitely love to count intersections instead (multiplication disguised intelligently).

Of course the counting can be used for single digit numbers too, but that won’t be too useful. For slightly more complex problems involving 2 digits like 32 X 42, it could be a life saver. It’s a fairly simple 3-step process. Here’s how you do 32 X 42 with it…

Step 1Step 1: The best way to go about it is by starting from the top left. First, you draw the 3 lines for the 3 of the number 32. And then you make 2 lines for the number 2, as shown.

Step 2

Step 2: Next make 4 lines and 2 lines intersecting the previously made lines as shown. Clearly, 4 lines for the 4 of 42 and 2 lines for the units place of 42.Step 3

 Step 3: Count the number of intersections in the far left (a), centre (b), and the far right (c). (a), (b) and (c) are 12, 14 and 4 respectively, for this problem.

The 1 from 14 gets carried to the number just at the right of it – 12 of (a), and (a) becomes 13. A similar carrying of the ten’s place to the immediate right column happens if there are any 2 digit numbers. So you are left with 13, 4 and 4 now. 1344 is the answer to 32 X 42.

This can be done for 3 digits too and more…
If there’s a zero, you could make a line and not count any intersections with it. As it has been shown in the video below…

Please hit like if you learnt something from this article.

Shepard Tone – An Incredible Auditory Illusion

By Anupum Pant

Here’s the thing. Go to ToneDeafTest.com and take that little test they have on their homepage. That is what you need to do first. Stop reading further if you haven’t done it yet.

Assuming you did what I asked you to do…
If you did well in the test (with a few silly mistakes which can be ignored), you’ll probably understand better what I’m talking about in the following article. Otherwise, you might miss the point.

Nevertheless, there is still a chance that you’d understand even if you are tone deaf. I’m not sure because I’m certain not tone deaf and it’s impossible for me to understand the subjective experiences of tone deaf people (I can boast that the first time I took it, I got a perfect score in that test). Anyway, that test is a fun thing to do. You’ll at least learn something about yourself.

The endless stairs and the endless tone

Everyone knows the endless stairs (in the picture below). Now, you’d think why is the author talking about a visual illusion just after he told us to take an auditory test. That is because the popular visual illusion helps you to relate better to a relatively lesser known auditory illusion.

endless stairs illusion

If you start going up on the endless stairs, you always keep moving up. Even after you come back to the same place, you still keep going up. An impossibility. But it’s something that fools your eyes. The same thing happens if you start going down the stairs.

A similar thing can happen with tones. Listen to the following (continuous?) note sweep.

It sounds like a tone that is continuously going down, endlessly. Only, it isn’t. It’s actually a much smaller looped sound that starts from a high point and then goes down. These little loops have been placed one after the other. If you do not carefully listen to it, you’ll never find the exact point at which one loop ends and the next loop starts. You’ll always interpret it as a continuously going down sound. Just like the continuously going down stairs. This is called the Shepard tone.

This works for discreet notes also. Listen to this endless mario stairs video to get an idea how it works for individual notes (not sweeps).

Why?

Notes are not simple frequencies. A single note is usually composed of several other frequencies. To not overwhelm us with data, the brain puts all these frequencies together and we hear a single sound (note).

Also, our brains like continuity. So, it cherry picks the frequencies from the loop’s notes that makes us hear a continuous sweep. This is the reason we hear no individual loops. Bah! I’m not very good at explaining this. So, here goes the Vsauce video which explains it better. Note that the arrows in the video are the frequencies I was talking about…