You Won’t Believe Your Eyes

As if today’s world hasn’t messed with your mind enough already, in late December 2020,  the Neural Correlate Society announced the top designs in its annual Best Illusions contest.

This year’s winner  is a 3-D interpretation of a classic optical illusion, the Shröder Staircase. In the original, two-dimensional illusion, a series of zig-zagging parallelograms span a rectangle’s diagonal. Because there is no indication of depth, the display can be seen as either a staircase going up or coming down. In the 2020 winning interpretation, a small cone at the “top” of the staircase can reach the bottom simply by spinning the staircase 180 degrees. This first-place design was submitted by Kokichi Sugihara, a mathematical engineer at Meiji University and a repeat winner of the contest. He has also created a printable version of the 3-D illusion. The top 10 finalists from the 2020 contest can be viewed at They are all amazing.

The organization behind this optical obfuscation is the Neural Correlate Society, a nonprofit organization “that promotes scientific research into the neural correlates of perception and cognition. We seek to communicate these discoveries to the public, helping to increase medical advancement and overall awareness.

“We serve a community of perception scientists, ophthalmologists, neurologists, and artists who use a variety of methods to help discover the underpinnings of illusory perception.” (

They also cause laymen to question their sanity. At least it’s in the interest of science.

Also see the Smithsonian Magazine’s “See the Most Mind-Bending Optical Illusions of 2020” by Theresa Machemer ( Especially note the Ambiguous Cylinder Illusion in this article.

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