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Curveball Named World's Best Illusion

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Sort of. I'll let the article do the talking for me: The three best visual illusions in the world were chosen at a gathering last weekend of neuroscientists and psychologists at the Naples Philharmonic Center for the Arts in Florida. The winning entry, from a Bucknell University professor, may help explain why curve balls in baseball are so tricky to hit. A properly thrown curve ball spins in a way that makes the air on one side move faster than on the other. This causes the ball to move along a gradual curve. From the point of view of a batter standing on home plate, though, curve balls seem to "break," or move suddenly in a new direction. This year's winning illusion, created by Arthur Shapiro of Bucknell University in Pennsylvania, may explain this phenomena. His animation shows a spinning ball that, when watched directly, moves in a straight line. When seen out of the corner of the eye, however, the spin of the ball fools the brain into thinking that the ball is curving. So as a baseball flies towards home plate, the moment when it passes from central to peripheral vision could exaggerate the movement of the ball, causing its gradual curve to be seen as a sudden jerk. The illusion itself can be seen in the link, and I must say, it's pretty nifty. Tango provides a link to the original article, which also has a couple other cool (but not baseball-related) illusions.

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