Not too long ago, we brought you an optical illusion that made an image disappear before your very eyes. So now, in the interest of fairness, we're about to make you see something that doesn't exist at all.
Researchers at Caltech have come up with two new illusions – dubbed, for no doubt adorable reasons, the "Illusory Rabbit" and the "Invisible Rabbit" – that reveal some of the bizarre effects our senses can have on our brain. Their study is published in the journal PLOS ONE.
The video below shows the first of these – the "Illusory Rabbit". Just focus on the cross at the top of the video, and count the number of flashes you see below it.
Now, if you're like most people, you just saw three lights flash across the video, each accompanied by a high-pitched beep. But we know you're not reading this article to see things that are really there – so what did you actually just watch?
In reality, there were only two flashes. First, a light flashed on the left while a beep sounded at almost exactly the same time. Then, a tiny 58 milliseconds later, a beep was played on its own. Finally, another light flashed on the right, accompanied by a beep, sounding again at almost exactly the same time.
"But IFLS!" we hear you cry. "I saw a third light in the middle! What gives?"
Well, don't cry. We have the explanation, and it turns out the phantom flash's location is actually key to understanding it.