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Poggendorff illusion

The illusion that the two ends of a straight line segment passing behind an obscuring rectangle are offset when, in fact, they are aligned. The Poggendorff illusion was discovered in 1860 by physicist and scholar J. C. Poggendorff, editor of Annalen der Physik und Chemie, after receiving a letter from astronomer F. Zöllner. In his letter, Zöllner described an illusion he noticed on a fabric design in which parallel lines intersected by a pattern of short diagonal lines appear to diverge (Zöllner's illusion). Pondering this illusion, Poggendorff noticed and described another illusion resulting from the apparent misalignment of a diagonal line; an illusion which today bears his name (IllusionWorks).

Impossible fork

The impossible fork (Seckel 2002, p. 151), also known as the devil's pitchfork (Singmaster), blivet, or poiuyt, is a classic impossible figure originally due to Schuster (1964). While each prong of the fork (or, in the original work, "clevis") appears normal, attempting to determine their manner of attachment shows that something is seriously out of whack. The second figure above shows three impossible figures: the ambihelical hexnut in the lower left-hand corner, tribox in the middle, and impossible fork in the upper right.About the time of the impossible fork's discovery by Schuster (1964), it was used by Mad Magazine as a recurring theme. Their term for it was "poiuyt," which corresponds to the third row of a standard keyboard typed from right to left. The "poiuyt" was commonly used in Mad throughout the 1960s indicating absurdity or impossibility.Hayward incorporated this figure into a picture..

Penrose triangle

The Penrose triangle, also called the tribar (Cerf), tri-bar (Ernst 1987), impossible tribar (Pappas 1989, p. 13), or impossible triangle, is an impossible figure published by Penrose and Penrose (1958). Penrose triangles appear prominently in the works of Escher, who not only inspired creation of this object (Escher 1954, Penrose and Penrose 1958), but also subsequently publicized it.The Penrose triangle can be extended to -gonal barred objects (Cerf, Elber), including the so-called tribox.The figure was drawn earlier by artist Oscar Reutersvärd in 1934 during a "long lecture." For this, he was honored with a stamp by the government of Sweden in 1982 (Miller).The Penrose triangle appears on the cover of Raghavachary (2004).Henderson (2006) offers an impossible triangle net...

Penrose stairway

An impossible figure in which a stairway in the shape of a square appears to circulate indefinitely while still possessing normal steps (Penrose and Penrose 1958). The Dutch artist M. C. Escher included a Penrose stairway in his mind-bending illustration "Ascending and Descending" (Bool et al. 1982, p. 321; Forty 2003, Plate 68). Distorted variations of the stairway are also depicted in Escher's "House of Stairs" (Bool et al. 1982, p. 301; Forty 2003, Plate 40).In the 1998 film The Avengers, Uma Thurman is shown walking down a Penrose stairway and ending up back where she began.


The tribox, also called the Penrose rectangle or Penrose square, is an impossible figure that is the generalization of the Penrose triangle from a triangle to a square. Similar -gonal figures can also be constructed for (Elber).The figure above shows three impossible figures: the ambihelical hexnut in the lower left-hand corner, tribox in the middle, and impossible fork in the upper right.

Fraser's spiral

An optical illusion named after British psychologist James Fraser, who first studied the illusion in 1908 (Fraser 1908). The illusion is also known as the false spiral, or by its original name, the twisted cord illusion. While the image appears to be a spiral formed by a rope containing twisted strands of two different colors, it actually consists of concentric circles of twisted cords.The visual distortion is produced by combining a regular line pattern (the circles) with misaligned parts (the differently colored strands). Zöllner's illusion and the café wall illusion are based on a similar principle, like many other visual effects, in which a sequence of tilted elements causes the eye to perceive phantom twists and deviations.

Scintillating grid illusion

In the above illustration, black dots appear to form and vanish at the intersections of the gray horizontal and vertical lines. When focusing attention on a single white dot, some gray dots nearby and some black dots a little further away also seem to appear. More black dots seem to appear as the eye is scanned across the image (as opposed to focusing on a single point). Strangely, the effect seems to be reduced, but not eliminated, when the head is cocked at a angle. The effect seems to exist only at intermediate distances; if the eye is moved very close to or very far away from the figure, the phantom black dots do not appear.The illusion is known as the scintillating grid, and was discovered by E. Lingelbach in 1994. It is a modification of the Hermann grid illusion.

Café wall illusion

The café wall illusion, sometimes also called the Münsterberg illusion (Ashton Raggatt McDougall 2006), is an optical illusion produced by a black and white rectangular tessellation when the tiles are shifted in a zigzag pattern, as illustrated above. While the pattern seems to diverge towards the upper and lower right corners in the upper figure, the gray lines are actually parallel. Interestingly, the illusion greatly diminishes if black lines are used instead of gray.Gregory and Heard (1979) first noticed the illusion on the wall decoration of a café in Bristol, England. The café wall illusion is only one among many visual distortion effects involving parallel lines. The most famous example of this kind is Zöllner's illusion.The image above shows a picture of a building in Melbourne, Australia designed to exhibit this illusion (C. L. Taylor, pers. comm., Aug. 5, 2006). The building,..

Bullseye illusion

Although the inner shaded region has the same area as the outer shaded annulus,it appears to be larger. Since the rings are equally spaced, (1)(2)

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