The Unexpected Optical Illusion Hidden in a Stack of Chairs

iStock
iStock

When you’re a scientist who studies vision, everything you see is inspiration. Such is the case for Nicholas Scott-Samuel, a researcher at the University of Bristol studying visual perception, whose latest work was inspired by a stack of chairs in an office. As BPS Research Digest reports, his new article in i-PERCEPTION explores an impossible-seeming optical illusion. It's formed by stacks of a certain type of chair with legs that make a square on each side of the chair (meaning the bottoms of the legs are connected by a bar).

A stack of purple chairs in a classroom; a black-and-white drawing of an optical illusion of quadrangles stacked tother
Scott-Samuel et al., i-PERCEPTION (2018)

When you look at it head-on, the stack of squares gives you an illusion of great depth, as if the bottom bars of the chair legs stick out rather than stack vertically, and you may not be able to tell which of the legs is on top and which is on the bottom—especially if you’re looking at the drawing of the illusion, rather than at the photo of the chairs.

To explore why a stack of chairs might look so warped, Scott-Samuel and a few other researchers recruited 40 people on Facebook to ask them whether they found the image visually confusing. They did, but only if the stack contained a certain number of chairs—at nine chairs the illusion held, but any number less than four looked totally normal.

The researchers liken the effect to the Penrose triangle, an impossible shape that’s similar to a Möbius strip. But unlike the Penrose triangle, this one is actually possible, as long as you look at it from the correct angle. As the paper states: “Nick Scott-Samuel (in whose office the illusion was observed) reports that it obtains in real life as well as in images, even when sober.”

The paper is extra-short—the author’s bios are longer than the actual contents of the article—demonstrating that science doesn’t have to be a supremely arduous, heavy endeavor. At least not any heavier than a stack of chairs.

Love optical illusions? Try your eye at this one.

[h/t BPS Research Digest]

Forget Therapy Puppies—Michigan State Students Brush Cows to De-Stress for Finals

iStock.com/123ducu
iStock.com/123ducu

As more universities are coming to understand just how stressful the rigors of modern academics can be, many institutions have begun bringing dogs onto campus to soothe anxious students during finals week. At Michigan State University, students have a more unique option to help them de-stress: cow time.

According to Click on Detroit, the recent "Finals Stress mooove on out!" event gave students the chance to brush cows at Michigan State's Dairy Cattle Teaching and Research Center just south of the school's main campus. For $10, participants spent 30 minutes brushing one of the school's 200 dairy cows, an activity designed to relax both the human and the cow.

Not all students come to college with a working knowledge of large-ruminant etiquette, so MSU farm manager Andrea Meade was on hand to show students what to do, prevent them from accidentally spooking the animals, and answer questions about milking and dairy practices.

Studies have shown that petting dogs can help lower your blood pressure, but dogs aren't the only animals that provide people with a psychological boost. A number of animals have been found to help relax humans (though the effect tends to be greater when it's a familiar animal rather than one the person just met), including cows. One 2011 study in Norway found that after working on a dairy farm for 12 weeks, psychiatric patients showed lower levels of anxiety and depression.

And the cows need to be brushed whether there are students there or not, so the event presented a mutually beneficial situation. Many dairies employ automated brush systems to keep cows clean and stimulate blood flow, keeping them happier and healthier in the process.

You don't need to be a student to enjoy the calming effects of cattle, though. Upstate New York's Mountain Horse Farm's hour-long "cow cuddling" sessions let you pet, brush, and play with new bovine friends for $75.

[h/t Click on Detroit]

Tesla Drivers Now Have Access to a Library of Fart Sounds in Their Car

Spencer Platt, Getty Images
Spencer Platt, Getty Images

Tesla’s latest software update includes more than just a few technical tweaks. It also turns the electric vehicles into on-demand fart machines, according to Inverse.

Tesla’s Emissions Testing Mode lets drivers choose different fart sounds from the car’s touchscreen, giving electric-car owners a good sense of Elon Musk’s sense of toilet humor. There’s “Short Shorts Ripper,” “Falcon Heavy,” Ludicrous Fart,” Neurastink,” “Boring Fart,” and “Not a Fart,” all of which are named after some Musky in-joke. (The last one is a play on the Boring Company’s Not a Flamethrower.) Should drivers find it impossible to choose between all the sound effects, the “I’m so random” will shuffle through them automatically.

Users can program the fart sounds to play when a turn signal is activated or when the driver touches the left-side steering scroll wheel. You can see/hear it in action in a Tesla Model S here.

Farting functionality isn’t the only whimsical edition to the software. At this point, Tesla's in-car software comes with a variety of Easter eggs for users to unlock, including games, special lighting effects, and more. In addition to all the flatulence, this update includes a Romance Mode that brings up video of a cozy, crackling fire on the central console and prompts the car to blast the heat and turn on some sensual tunes.

[h/t Inverse]

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