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This Independence Day optical illusion is baffling me

It's Independence Day in the States today, so what better way to celebrate the holiday than with a US-themed optical illusion? The patriotic design was shared on Reddit and has left users scratching their heads. 

Redditor FoxyJnr987 posted the mind-bending recreation of the flag on a vexillology (the study of flags) group. And seeing as today is 4 July, it seemed like the perfect brain-frazzler to start the celebrations off (and then tomorrow you can start your day with some more mind-boggling designs with our roundup of optical illusions). At first glance, the design (opens in new tab) just looks like an artistic interpretation of the famous flag. However, what if we told you that the vertical stripes are actually completely straight?

The American flag optical illusion

Do the stripes look wonky to you? (Image credit: u/FoxyJnr987 via Reddit)

The artist explained the thought process behind their design, "I rotated it so it looks like stripes and made the black squares red instead. The grey lines that are running vertically look sloped when they are actually straight". According to the Redditor, the illusion is easier to spot when rotated horizontally.  

The design is based on the Cafe Wall illusion, which was discovered in, you guessed it, a café in Bristol, UK (see below). The Illusion Index has explained that, "The precise cause of the illusion is not well understood, although it appears to involve interactions between the neurons in the visual cortex which code for orientation". 

Cafe wall optical illusion

The stripes look slanted when in reality they're completely straight (Image credit: 404 (Not Found))

The flag design on Reddit has racked up hundreds of upvotes already and users have left some hilarious comments on the design (see below). And despite staring at the design for ages, I can't unsee all these sloped lines – we might have to pop this perplexing design on our list of the best optical illusions of 2022

flag_of_united_states_but_its_that_weird_optical from r/vexillologycirclejerk
flag_of_united_states_but_its_that_weird_optical from r/vexillologycirclejerk

Once you've finished staring at this hypnotic design, then why not celebrate American Independence day by treating yourself to a brand new MacBook with this unbeatable 4 July MacBook Pro Deal. Or if you wanted to sink your teeth into a few more optical illusions, then you'll love our roundup of the best Trompe l'oeil illusions. 

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Amelia Bamsey
Amelia Bamsey

Amelia is Creative Bloq’s Staff Writer. After completing a degree in Popular Music and a Master’s in Song Writing, Amelia began designing posters, logos, album covers and websites for musicians. She now enjoys covering a range of topics on Creative Bloq, including posters, optical illusions, logos (she's a particular fan of logo Easter eggs), gaming and illustration. In her free time, she relishes in the likes of art (especially the Pre-Raphaelites), photography and literature. Amelia prides herself on her unorthodox creative methods, her Animal Crossing island and her extensive music library.