The 'rotating' optical illusion guaranteed to make your head spin

There's nothing the internet loves to hate more than a mind-boggling optical illusion. While none have caused quite as much controversy as 'The Dress' of 2015 (which is definitely white and gold, by the way), there are enough confusing illusions online to keep you scratching your head indefinitely.

Doing the rounds on Twitter right now is a particularly hallucinogenic gif in which two cubes are clearly spinning on the spot. Except they aren't. The shapes are completely static, with the illusion caused by the flashing background. And if you want more illusory fun, check out our pick of top trompe l'oeil illusions from around the world.

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Needless to say, the trick has sent Twitter users wild (below), with many refusing to believe that the cubes aren't moving at all. Indeed, without focusing on one of the cube's corners (or even with a cursor over it), it's practically impossible not to perceive that the shapes – like our heads – are spinning. 

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So, onto the science. According to SoraNews24, this is a phenomenon called the "reverse phi illusion" (we knew that, honest). "When our eyes see sudden transitions from either light to dark or dark to light, our brains perceive it as motion happening," the site explains. The effect is heightened by the lining of the wireframe cubes, which are also flashing. The combination of this and the background results in the illusory rotation of the cubes.

Impressively, it seems the illusion was created from scratch by Twitter user @jagarikin. "I finally finished the optical illusion that makes it look like two three-dimensional cubes are moving," reads their translated tweet. "They look like they're moving, don't they? They're actually not." (YES THEY ARE.)

While this is by no means the first illusion we've seen this year (and to be honest, we wish this year was an illusion), it's certainly one of the best. The effect clearly demonstrates that, despite the extraordinary perception capabilities, our brains can be fooled. 

Just last week, the internet went wild over this logo with a hidden message. But there are some optical illusions we just wish we could unsee, such as this year's kissing burgers from McDonalds (yes, they're as bad as they sound). 

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Daniel John
Senior News Editor

Daniel John is Senior News Editor at Creative Bloq. He reports on the worlds of art, design, branding and lifestyle tech (which often translates to tech made by Apple). He joined in 2020 after working in copywriting and digital marketing with brands including ITV, NBC, Channel 4 and more.