Optical Illusions, the Nat Geo Camels, and Me

I love this gorgeous picture of camels crossing the desert, courtesy of National Geographic.  But look closely – what you think are camels are actually the camels’ shadows.  (Click on the photo to see a larger version.)  The camels themselves are the slender white shapes at the bottom of each shadow.  The photo was taken from the air at just the right time for the illusion, although I don’t know if it was planned or not.

I plan practical illusions for myself.  I set my watch five minutes ahead, so I have a better chance of being someplace on time.  I deduct $100 from my checking account balance so when I’m getting down there, I really have a bit of a cushion.  But why does this work?  Is my mind really that gullible?  (Don’t answer that, kids!)

Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, just like with optical illusions.  The picture below could be a vase or two profiles.  We see one, then are told to look for the other.  Once we have found both, the next time we look, we’re not fooled any more.

Setting my watch ahead didn’t work too well when I did it years ago.  I was always rushing, always late.  Tapping my foot at the first stoplight, I would remind myself, “Hey, it’s actually only ten ‘til,” and I could breathe again.  Until I would start my rush at home, remember that I had an extra five minutes, and – you guessed it – fill that time until I was late anyway.

As the years have passed, I’ve learned not to constantly squeeze in one more thing before I leave.  No last “quick” phone call.  No loading the dishwasher and wiping the counter.  No just-one-more-game-of-solitaire.  *sniff*  So when I’m late, I’ve usually had at least a few days to forget that my watch is set fast, and that mind trick works again.

The checkbook trick, on the other hand, works almost all the time.  Maybe because *gasp!* I don’t check it nearly enough!  If I’ve gone too long without catching it up, I see a balance of $15.34 (or -15.34), panic for a moment, and then remember.

Does that mean I’m feeble-minded?  (Don’t answer that, either!)

I still love the camel photo, but I don’t look at it regularly.  So when I do, I first see large camels, and then remind myself that those are the shadows, not the camels.

What optical illusions do you love?  What tricks do you play on yourself? Any that might be of use to this feeble mind?

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4 Responses to Optical Illusions, the Nat Geo Camels, and Me

  1. Debra Eve says:

    Jennifer, I related to this on so many levels. I adore National Geographic (never seen that photo and it’s astonishing), optical illusions (MC Escher!), and the “just-one-more” game that caused my chronic lateness for years (and I only recognized recently). I have no words of wisdom for you, but I love the way you put this all together!
    Debra Eve recently posted..John Muir: Father of Steampunk?My Profile

  2. Debra Kristi says:

    I saw that camel photo and that it was pretty cool. I like this post, Jenn. Neat idea. There are so many things that mess with us. You are not feeble-minded.
    Debra Kristi recently posted..Immortal Monday – 2012, Mayans, and Space…HmmmMy Profile

  3. I love this post!

    One optical illusion I like to play on myself is to eat dinner off of salad plates rather than dinner plates. When a little plate is heaped with food, it seems like so much more!

    ~Tui

  4. p.s. I love that camel photo!
    Mental Mosaic recently posted..Row80 & a Ren Fair ReduxMy Profile