Look Closely at This Footstep Illusion

The best optical illusions are the ones you can try at home. Take the footstep trick below: All you need to recreate it is a white sheet of paper with black stripes and a transparent film sheet marked with yellow and blue blocks. It may look simple, but move the film across the page and the colored shapes will appear to shuffle forward like tiny footsteps.

The illusion, recently shared by The Kid Should See This, is the creation of Akiyoshi Kitaoka, a professor with the psychology department at Kyoto’s Ritsumeikan University. He explained the mechanism at work in a paper he published with psychology professor Stuart Anstis in 2015 [PDF].

According to the report, the colored blocks need to be two times the width of the black stripe and either light (like the yellow ones) or dark (the blue ones) for the trick to pay off. The illusion is all about contrast, so the colors are essential. The authors explain:

“When the dark blue squares lie on white stripes, they have high contrast (dark vs. white) and they appear to speed up momentarily. When they lie on black stripes, they have low contrast (dark vs. black) and they appear to slow down. The opposite is true for the light yellow squares.

Consequently, the squares appear to go faster and slower in alternation, like a pair of walking feet.”

The brain takes all sorts of shortcuts when it comes to perceiving color, and most of the time this goes unnoticed. But when an artist knows how to exploit this it can lead to some mend-bending tricks, like this image from Akiyoshi Kitaoka in which three colors appear to be four. Check out more of Kitaoka's psychedelic illusions on his webpage.

[h/t The Kid Should See This]

Kids Can Join Children's Book Author Mo Willems for Daily "Lunch Doodles" on YouTube

Screenshot via YouTube
Screenshot via YouTube

For children interested in taking drawing lessons, there are few better teachers than Mo Willems. The bestselling author and illustrator has been charming young readers for years with his Pigeon picture book series. Now, from the Kennedy Center, where he's currently the artist-in-residence, Willems is hosting daily "Lunch Doodles" videos that viewers can take part in wherever they are. New lessons are posted to the Kennedy Center's YouTube channel each weekday at 1:00 p.m. EST.

With the novel coronavirus outbreak closing schools across the country, many kids are now expected to continue their education from home. For the next several weeks, Willems will be sharing his time and talents with bored kids (and their overworked parents) in the form of "Lunch Doodles" episodes that last anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes. In the videos, Willems demonstrates drawing techniques, shares insights into his process, and encourages kids to come up with stories to go along with their creations.

"With millions of learners attempting to grow and educate themselves in new circumstances, I have decided to invite everyone into my studio once a day for the next few weeks," Willems writes for the center's blog. "Grab some paper and pencils, pens, or crayons. We are going to doodle together and explore ways of writing and making."

If kids don't want to doodle during lunch, the videos will remain on YouTube for them to tune in at any time. The Kennedy Center is also publishing downloadable activity pages to go with each episode on its website [PDF]. For more ways to entertain children in quarantine or isolation, check out these livestreams from zoos, cultural institutions, and celebrities.

Dreaming of Your Favorite City? This Website Will Create a Personalized Haiku Poem About It for You

OpenStreetMap Haiku will capture the colorful character of your hometown in a few (possibly silly) phrases.
OpenStreetMap Haiku will capture the colorful character of your hometown in a few (possibly silly) phrases.
vladystock/iStock via Getty Images

You no longer need to spend all your free time struggling to capture the vibe of your favorite city in a few carefully chosen syllables—OpenStreetMap Haiku will do it for you.

The site, developed by Satellite Studio, uses the information from crowdsourced global map OpenStreetMap to create a haiku that describes any location in the world. According to Travel + Leisure, the poems are based on data points like supermarkets, shops, local air quality, weather, time of day, and more.

“Looking at every aspect of the surroundings of a point, we can generate a poem about any place in the world,” the developers wrote in a blog post. “The result is sometimes fun, often weird, most of the time pretty terrible. Also probably horrifying for haiku purists (sorry).”

The results are also often waggishly accurate. For example, here’s a haiku describing Washington, D.C.:

“The same pot of coffee
Fresh coffee from Starbucks
The desk clerk.”

In other words, it seems like the city runs on compulsive coffee refills and paperwork. And if you thought life in Brooklyn, New York, was a combination of alcohol-fueled outings to basement bars and traffic-filled trips into the city, this poem probably confirms your suspicions:

“Getting drunk at The Nest
Today in New York
Green. Red. Green. Red.”

The website’s creators were inspired by Naho Matsuda’s Every Thing Every Time, a 2018 art installation outside Theatre Royal in Newcastle, England, that used data points to generate an ever-changing poem about the city.

Wondering what OpenStreetMap Haiku has to say about your hometown? Explore the map here.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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