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World of the Bizarre

Train track illusion is baffling the Internet

By T.K. Randall
April 9, 2016 · Comment icon 52 comments



Are these two track pieces really the same size ? Image Credit: Twitter / Marc Blank-Settle
A remarkable optical illusion posted on Twitter has left many Internet users scratching their heads.
When are two identical wooden track pieces not identical ? That is the question that has been freaking out the Internet this week thanks to a mind-bending new Twitter video.

Posted by Marc Blank-Settle, the footage shows two seemingly identical track parts being stacked on top of one another and then laid out side-by-side. While stacked up the parts appear to be the same, but when shown side-by-side one suddenly appears to be much larger than the other.

Far from being a magic trick however, the phenomenon is actually a well known optical illusion first described by psychologist Joseph Jastrow more than 100 years ago.

The two track pieces are of course identical, but when placed side-by-side the longer side of one contrasts with the shorter side of the other to make them look as though they are different sizes.

Source: Huffington Post | Comments (52)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #43 Posted by Merc14 7 years ago
Thank heavens.... thank you Merc for getting it! Yes, your observations are spot on, and perhaps I should hire you in future to word my posts better..! To summarise, yes the Jastrow effect is real and does create a weird effect on curved items like this. However, if you wish to demonstrate it, you shouldn't CHEAT by using camera angles that exaggerate the effect. And when you are filming things up close, the relative closeness can create HUGE changes in the recorded size in the image, eg, at the extreme end, these sort of images: Those are NOT illusions - it's just perspective!!! So if you wan... [More]
Comment icon #44 Posted by ChrLzs 7 years ago
WARNING - boring technical discussion follows, but it does include reference to another, much cooler 'Illusion'.. I was very surprised at how much difference just the slightest camera angle off 0 makes in the processed image, especially from such a close range. The illusion is there regardless but angle off center when filming definitely enhances it. Yes, as non-linearities in the lens are adding to the problem. Lenses are generally not 'rectilinear', and suffer from pincushion or barrel distortions, where lines (and therefore sizes of things) nearer the edge of the image may be bent, stretch... [More]
Comment icon #45 Posted by Merc14 7 years ago
WARNING - boring technical discussion follows, but it does include reference to another, much cooler 'Illusion'.. Yes, as non-linearities in the lens are adding to the problem. Lenses are generally not 'rectilinear', and suffer from pincushion or barrel distortions, where lines (and therefore sizes of things) nearer the edge of the image may be bent, stretched or shrunk. It can be quite complicated to do accurate photogrammetry on an image, simply because not only do you have the distance from the object to take into account, there are also other distortions happening so any measurement may be... [More]
Comment icon #46 Posted by ChrLzs 7 years ago
I have never heard of this! Thanks, the Moon rises early tomorrow so something to show my son! It's a cool effect, and it will make most folks really scratch their heads.. But are you sure the moon rises early tomorrow? I think you'll find it rises late afternoon, and you will see this effect at sunset or just after. The key is that the Moon needs to be 90+ degrees away from the Sun, ie it doesn't work as well near a full moon or a newish one.
Comment icon #47 Posted by Merc14 7 years ago
It's a cool effect, and it will make most folks really scratch their heads.. But are you sure the moon rises early tomorrow? I think you'll find it rises late afternoon, and you will see this effect at sunset or just after. The key is that the Moon needs to be 90+ degrees away from the Sun, ie it doesn't work as well near a full moon or a newish one. You're right, it will be well above the horizon by sunset.
Comment icon #48 Posted by ChrLzs 7 years ago
Hey Merc, did you catch the moon that night? If you didn't, it's got too close to full so there's no point looking now.. I'll set a reminder to myself to bump this thread when it gets back to a good position in the sky again (it's no fun doing it pre-dawn..)
Comment icon #49 Posted by Merc14 7 years ago
Hey Merc, did you catch the moon that night? If you didn't, it's got too close to full so there's no point looking now.. I'll set a reminder to myself to bump this thread when it gets back to a good position in the sky again (it's no fun doing it pre-dawn..) No it is well above the horizon here at sunset, probably 50 degrees high.
Comment icon #50 Posted by CJ1983 7 years ago
I'd understand if the kid was amazed by this, but the dad? ha.
Comment icon #51 Posted by qxcontinuum 7 years ago
This illusion certainly bewilders me, hard to credit squares A and B are the same shade: this can clearly indicate that the wold seen through our eyes is an illusion
Comment icon #52 Posted by DieChecker 7 years ago
It is a cool illusion.


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