Disappearing dots and seven other optical illusions freaking out the internet

The internet loves optical illusions. Why? Because the internet is a network of bored cubicle-browsers in search of ways to pass the time.

Their latest fixation is an image dubbed “disappearing dots,” posted to Facebook on Sunday by professor Akiyoshi Kitaoka. The illusion consists of a gray-and-white geometric pattern with 12 black dots superimposed at the intersections of some of its lines. Try as you might, you can’t see all of the dots at once — a bit of visual trickery that has prompted Twitter’s bored cubicle-browsers to retweet the image about 21,000 times.

But how does disappearing dots compare with the year’s other viral illusions — of which we’ve had quite a few already? (I mean, it’s no ambiguous cylinders, but it certainly gives brick wall or camouflage phone a run for their respective moneys.) We’ve rounded up the most viral optical illusions of the year thus far, in all their mind-bendy glory. Some are good, some are merely mediocre — but all will improve a dull workday morning (!).

1. Snow panda

The artist Gergely Dudas posted this illustration of a field of snowmen in December, inviting users to find the panda hidden among them. About 180,000 people have shared it.

2. Red dot

Picture: Playbuzz

It looks like a big red circle… until you stare at it for a few minutes. Interestingly, whether you can see through this particular meme might indicate the health of your vision, or at least your colour-sensitivity. (…not to get too serious about this or anything.)

3. Train tracks

In April, a BBC journalism tutor shared a confounding video of his son’s toy train tracks, which appeared to show one track growing and shrinking depending on where he placed it. This is called the Jastrow illusion and has to do with the way the brain interprets curved segments.

4. Brick wall

This photo of a brick wall has been around since at least 2014, but Facebook users rediscovered it again this spring. There, some 60,000 people have shared “one of the best optical illusions Iv [sic] seen”.

5. Hugging couple

Picture: Imgur

More than 7.5 million people have viewed this Imgur image of a couple hugging — mostly because their legs look impossibly (painfully?) intertwined. As commenters eventually figured out, the illusion springs from the design on the man’s shorts.

6. Ambiguous cylinders

This was the runner-up in the Neural Correlate Society’s Best Illusion of the Year Contest. (I know what you’re thinking: Who the heck won first?!) More than 10 million people have watched the confounding YouTube video and a series of explainers that break the illusion down — this one from YouTuber Devin Montes succinctly explains how it works.

7. Hidden phone

In July, a Facebook user in the Philippines posted a photo of a floral carpet and challenged viewers to find the camouflaged phone placed on it. (That was shared more than 20,000 times, and liked by about 155,000.) A hint: The phone’s patterned case is very similar to that of the rug, but they don’t perfectly match up.

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