Scientific American has recently run a series on the neuroscience behind illusions, or how reality might not be what it appears to be. No kidding. Albert Einstein as Marilyn Monroe? Who knew?
One of the most important tools used by neuroscientists to understand how the brain creates its sense of reality is the visual illusion. Historically, visual artists as well as illusionists have used visual illusions to develop deep insights into the inner workings of the visual system. Long before scientists were studying the properties of neurons, artists had devised a series of techniques to “trick” the brain into thinking that a flat canvas was three-dimensional, or that a series of brushstrokes was actually a still life.
Visual illusions are defined by the dissociation between the physical reality and the subjective perception of an object or event. When we experience a visual illusion, we may see something that is not there, or fail to see something that is there, or even see something different from what is there. Because of this disconnect between perception and reality, visual illusions demonstrate the ways in which the brain can fail to recreate the physical world.
I'm thinking Teller might have something to show for this cognitive disconnect at the IdeaFestival. And as for the most unlikliest of transformations, just load the page and back far away from the computer.