Warning: Might Cause Seizures

Madalin Bucatea stumbled upon this peculiar animation, built just out of few frames. Never the less, the image appears to continuously rotate clockwise! We’ve seen similar stuff (spiders, cities and Christopher Walken), yet I’m not exactly sure why does it appear to rotate? Your view on this? Sorry for writing such a short post, but I just had to stop, since the animation is already visible to me while writing this, and it makes my head hurt…

60 Replies to “Warning: Might Cause Seizures”

    1. It’s because the pictures are switching from inverted colors back to the original black and white and they are tilted slightly from one picture to the next you think they are moving. If you use a program to play the .gif in slow motion you will see that they are slightly rotated. Or just place your mouse on the corner of a pair of pants or someone’s face in the pic.

    2. no, the pictures aren’t slightly rotated. The rotating effect is caused by the black & white continuos inversion and by the CIRCULAR DESIGN background.

  1. If you notice in the lower left corner of the officers strip on his trousers the picture does rotate when reversing image

  2. Hi,

    Since I have your widget as part of my iGoogle home page, I had to minimize it today to avoid the distracting animation. Maybe for ones like these, you could have a static pic in the widget and then the real animation on this page.


    Mr. Shelly McNaught
    Kirkland, WA

  3. I don’t mean to be picky, I felt the warning was enough, but is there anyway you could not have the thumbnail on the desktop not flash? I know it’s only for the day, but I was getting a killer headache from it’s flashing on my desktop.

  4. It appears to me that the background is the culprit. Because of the change to negative and back the swirl gives the illusion of rotating. If you focus on one of the figures it becomes obvious that is not the case.

  5. argh, make it stop….. not liking this one very much! and since it’s in my iGoogle I see it every time I fire up my browser, hard to ignore

  6. But it isn’t an illusion – it really is rotating (look at the edges of the picture, especially the cop’s pants in the bottom left corner and the other one’s head, you can see the corner move). Maybe noones supposed to be able to look at it long enough to realise ;P

  7. Scroll the page up all the way, it kind of helps to block out some of the intensity. I think that MAYBE when the colors are switching back and forth, each color may moves really quickly to one direction to “exit”. That could be totally off but the first thing I thought when i happened to scroll up then glance over.

  8. I think I’ve finally figured this type of illusion out. There are just four pictures. The first is the image, the second is the image rotated just a little. The third is the inverse of the image (not rotated) and image four is the inverse rotated just a little. So I think the reason this works is: our eyes can focus on the rotation between image one and two and between image three and four, but there’s such a drastic leap when we go to the inverse images that our eyes can’t focus on the rotation the other way on those frames. So, since we see the rotation when the images are the same and our eyes are confused when the image is opposite colors (and it’s actually rotating the other way), our mind only accepts the action it can make sense of (with the forward rotation) and so we see this series as continually rotating.

  9. This is horrible. I was *so* close to uninstalling my google widget because I couldn’t read my news without getting a headache. Please consider using a non-animated thumbnail next time you feature such illusions. I really like this site, so I would like to be able to visit without danger of my head exploding. :)

  10. My guess for the apparent rotation is that your eyes/mind follow the direction of the colours rather than the image – logically if all the dark shades move round and all the light shades do the same all together in the same direction then your brain assumes the image is moving.

    Hope that makes sense!

  11. They are four frames, two of them are a little rotated clockwise so that’s why it seems to be rotating that fast

  12. Everybody with iGoogle isn’t that bright, apparently.

    Just click the right top button in the widget and click “minimize this gadget”.

    This might not be read, anymore, so if you are gonna say something about this in tomorows illusion, don’t forget the minimize function in iGoogle! :)

  13. Its an effect called four stroke apparent motion. Low level motion detectors in the brain are sensitive to luminance (brightness) changes across time in areas of the visual field; they infer motion from something of relatively the same brightness being in one place and then another. Theres a lot of them tuned to different velocities.

    If you played 2 normal contrast images in a loop, they would look to judder back and forth, because you detect the consistent change in brightness from frame to frame. By having two normal contrast followed by two reversed contrast frames, you break the consistency, so motion detectors don’t recognise that the frame before and after the flip are the same thing. Because the contrast changes, you don’t see the ‘bright patch’ go back again, you just see consistent motion in one direction.

    A guy call George Mather has done quite a bit of research on this.

  14. This “illusion” is fake. That .gif image is made out of 4 frames: the first two frames are black and white where one of them is rotated slightly, while the last two frames are inverted (one of them is rotated).

    Don’t believe me? Check yourself, there are many programs that can create and edit .gif images.

  15. What’s the point in having a seizure warning, if you’re just going to post the image directly below the warning? Anybody who is vulnerable to such effects will not have had any opportunity to avoid being exposed! You really should have treated that image like a solution, and only provided a link in the main article.

  16. If you focus on the left policeman’s head, the pic seems to just jump back and forth, like the policeman’s bouncing up and down.

  17. Wow, i havent had a seizure since i was like 3 and i dont really remember what happens before one, but if your heart rate increasing quickly, your ears plug, and you begin to feel a bit….woozyish, then i was about to have a seizure

    1. Hey Mae… If it’s any consolation to you, what you described doesn’t sound like any seizures I’ve had. Usually, it starts with a bright “star” whizzing by my face (hard to describe). However, what you described sounds a LOT like a panic attack. I’ve had those for several years and it would sorta make sense that you’d have one when you did: Perhaps the “panic” was brought on because you were worried that you might have a seizure? Almost all of mine have started because I was afraid that something wasn’t right with my body. If I get the slightest discomfort in my chest or if my heart flutters after a good exercise, I’ll get nervous and start wondering if I’m havig a heart attack or something. Once my mind goes there, I totally freak out and start having a panic attack… which causes my heart to beat even faster, causes my throat to almost close up so it’s difficult to breathe, causes my ears to plug up so I can barely hear, and even, in severe attacks, causes my eyes to go blind for a short time. It’s very scary, but I’ve finally realized it isn’t going to kill me, which has actually made me less likely to panic in the first place, lol. I’ve also heard you’re more likely to suffer panic attacks if you have a seizure disorder.

      So, I guess what I’m trying to say is “Don’t worry, Love.” It sounds to me like you might’ve been having a panic attack rather than a seizure. May be something to bring up to your doctor in the future if it starts to happen often.

  18. I think it’s probably because inverting the black and white also inverts where light is in the pictures, which confuses the way we see the shadows falling. Something like that.

  19. its actually rotating…not an illusion. its a 4 frame animation which has normal image in the first frame and slightly tilted in the 2nd. 3rd has the negative image and the 4th has the negative tilted. no big deal

  20. Hey! it’s snookie when she was about to get arrested! wait, why does this cause seizures? I only got dizzy when I stared at it for about a minute…. ^_^

  21. The image rotates clockwise and counterclockwise. It only appears to rotate clockwise because it rotates that direction more slowly than it does counterclockwise. Therefore, the eye and brain have longer to process and accept the clockwise rotation. The “strobe effect” is meant to distract you and break the eye’s concentration.

  22. That kind of thing lets me know when I’ve had way to much to drink so I sleep to wake for a hangover.

  23. No, it isn’t moving. If you put your cursor on the edge of the stripe on his trousers, you will be able to see it doesn’t actually move.

    I wish I knew how to explain this. If I remember right this has to do with with the changing of everything from a light color to a dark color. Because each color is changed in every instance, your brain is trying to compensate for the shadows by adding the dark colors where there are no colors.

    Does that make sense? It might help to understand what I mean if you have a solid color cursor. Place the cursor along any straight line and then watch the animation take place. Nothing moves at all, but because of the unchanging cursor, you can see how the colors are swapped and giving the illusion of movement.

  24. it appears to constantly rotate simply because there is no delay between when the animation stops and restarts. the animation automatically begins again, therefore there is constant movement. similar to a gif. file

  25. (This might have been mentioned above.) The background image appears to form a loop; without discontinuities and the rotation looks continuous.

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