In Brain Games: Motion Commotion, host Jason Silva explores the many ways our brain makes the world around us move. Sometimes, motion is nothing more than a trick of your mind. In fact, some of the most common motions in our life are just an illusion. Here are three common things that aren’t moving quite the way we think.
Watching television is a daily ritual for most people where we are witnessing just such a trick. We quickly get swept up in the fact that we are watching action and motion. However, the picture isn’t actually moving. Our brains just trick us into believing we are seeing seamless movement. What we are really seeing is a rapid succession of still images, which allows us to perceive motion. And we’re easily fooled by other illusions where perspective, combined with the rapid transition between images and their negatives, creates the illusion of motion like in this image:
Kind of makes you dizzy, huh? Want to see more? Check out this image and see if you can tell what’s really going on.
Mercury in Retrograde
You’ve probably heard plenty of people who believe in astrology complain when Mercury goes into retrograde, meaning it appears to be moving backwards in the sky. Most of the planets and stars appear to be moving from west to east in their migration across the sky. However, every now and then, some of the planets seem to decide to go the other direction. Whether this is a mystical incident or not, the retrograde motion is nothing but an illusion of motion.
NASA explains that Earth and Mars are like race cars on an oval track. Earth has the inside lane and moves faster than Mars; so approximately every 26 months, Earth comes up from behind and overtakes Mars. When this happens, Mars appears to be moving backwards. This same phenomenon happens with other planets like Jupiter, which orbit further away from the sun as well. However, the backwards motion is just an illusion.
Slow Down/Freeze Frame
Some common illusions make moving objects seem to move in slow motion, or even freeze. The stroboscopic effect, which usually uses a flashing light can change the way our mind perceives motion. If you have ever been in a dance club when the strobe light was turned on and danced in “slow motion,” then you have experienced this illusion. Standard fluorescent light can cause the same phenomenon as they operate and flicker at 60Hz and cause a stroboscopic effect with any machinery which has parts, such as pulleys or gears, running at speeds that are a multiple of 60Hz. The stroboscopic effect will cause the machine to appear motionless, which could be a deadly hazard.
So what is motion, really? Is the movement that you see actually happening? Or is the wiring of your brain’s motion detectors merely being fooled? If you want answers, there is only one thing to do! Tune in to Brain Games: Motion Commotion tonight, Monday April 29, at 8 PM et/pt and find out…