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Here's the science behind that goddamn dress

Don't panic guys, science has all the answers.

FIONA MACDONALD
27 FEB 2015
 

In case you missed it, this dress has been blowing up the Internet and tearing friendships apart since it was posted on Tumblr yesterday. Because even though the dress is so very clearly white and gold, some people out there are equally convinced it's blue and black.

But we're not going to get started on that debate. We're here to tell everyone to chill, because there's a scientific explanation behind this witchcraft. And, much to my horror, the dress is actually blue. Sorry guys.

 

So what's going on here? According to Adam Rogers over at Wiredyour brain is actually trying to correct for sunlight, and in the process it's screwing everyone who sees white and gold over (myself included.)

In order to perceive colours, different wavelengths of light have to enter the lenses of our eyes and hit our retinas, and this triggers the nerves that connect to our brain's visual cortex, which results in us seeing a picture.

But importantly, the light your eye receives doesn't just contain the wavelengths of light reflecting off the object you're looking at, but also those wavelengths that are lighting up the world.

Your brain is really smart, and it knows this, so without you having to think about it, it just subtracts these other wavelengths from the 'real' colour of the object you're looking at. Which is where everything is going wrong with that goddamn dress - some of our brains are colour-correcting in different ways.

“Our visual system is supposed to throw away information about the illuminant and extract information about the actual reflectance,” Jay Neitz, a neuroscientist at the University of Washington, told Rogers for Wired. “But I’ve studied individual differences in colour vision for 30 years, and this is one of the biggest individual differences I’ve ever seen.”

Bevil Conway, a neuroscientist at Wellesley College, added: “So people either discount the blue side, in which case they end up seeing white and gold, or discount the gold side, in which case they end up with blue and black.” 

Here is the original image in the middle, with the version on the left white-balanced as if the dress was white-gold, and the right version white-balanced as if it was blue-black.

Untitled-12-660x334Wired

So what colour is it really? The Wired design team did some Photoshopping and found that the dress is, in fact, blue. Apparently, when you print the image, cut it out and look at it on a neutral background, it looks blue. And, yep, even Google thinks the dress is blue.

But for now, I just have to trust the science, because to me it's still clearly #whiteandgold. 

And if your brain doesn't already hurt enough, find out more about the science of optical illusions in the BrainCraft video below.

Source: Wired 

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