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By on September 13, 2011, with 107 Comments

Benhams Disk Optical IllusionThis is one of my childhood’s favorite visual illusions, one you could literally have spent hours playing with! Unfortunately, back then I wasn’t aware it was invented by C.E. Benham, and that it already had a name – Benham’s Disk.

It was pretty popular back in the “old days”, as you could easily make your own unique spinner using nothing but piece of cardboard, a pencil and a toothpick! So what is so special about it? In 1894, toymaker Mr. C.E. Benham discovered that a spinning disk with a particular pattern of black and white marks could cause people to see colors! Mr. Benham called his disk an Artificial Spectrum Top and sold it through “Messrs, Newton and Co.”

Benham’s Top (or Benham’s Disk) has puzzled scientists for over 100 years. Let’s see if the spinning black and white disk can fool you into seeing some colors?! Do you think you can understand why is this happening? At some point, you should also be able to see a radiation warning sign inside the spinner!

Comments

107 Responses
  1. mark says:

    Does everyone see the same color? I see two concentric circles of read lines.

  2. Chris Smith says:

    I see blue circular stripes as well as the radiation warning sign. Excellent illusion.

  3. I don't get it says:

    OK, I stared at it for a long time, but I don’t see colors or anything of interest :(

  4. happy says:

    only bleu

  5. EngrDude says:

    I see the “radiation warning” shape but no colors, just black and white.

  6. phuntastic says:

    I see green. Light green.

  7. Care Bear says:

    Maybe it’s the astigmatism or the bifocals but sorry, no colors. I can’t see the images hidden in those wiggly paintings either. Waaa!

  8. Apoc Hedgie says:

    I saw blue and yellow in a sort of lightning-esque shape. Neat.

  9. Bob says:

    I still remember this from “Ask Mr. Wizard”,
    the original version of the TV show from about
    50 years ago. The show was in black-and-white,
    proving that the colors originated in your brain,
    rather than on the disk itself.

  10. Vince says:

    I see yellow and radiation logo

  11. Jesper says:

    I see yellow circular lines

  12. NervusTwitch says:

    I see blue,yellow and light green(faintly) and of course the rad symbol

  13. whynaut says:

    The outer circle is red
    the middle circle is blue
    and the inner circle is green.
    However they are all earth tones and hence really muted.

  14. Kimon says:

    I see the radiation sign. It also appears to be spinning slowly clockwise but it is actually static. So there, an illusion within an illusion!

    And I seed two bands of pale brown lines. If I look hard enough they are black, with a pale after-image that for some reason is interpreted as brown.

  15. A Person says:

    I saw blue, green, purple, and the radiation sign. And it looked kinda like there was smoke coming from the edges! So cool :3

  16. plmethvin says:

    All I see are red, blue, and green in the spinner. But I’m pretty sure this effect would cause you to see only the primary colors: Red, green, blue; for probably the fact of how close the lines are and the constant “flashing” of the “pieces of pie” from white to black. It just seems logical even if I don’t know the true reason… ^^;

  17. Natalie says:

    I see purple.

  18. MajorWebUser says:

    I see dead people — aaaaaaaaah!

  19. Pam says:

    Radiation sign, but no colours tho, but i’ve started at it so long I think my eyes are spinning now lol

  20. Ms No Name says:

    i see gold…

  21. Camille says:

    Purple and yellow…that’s epic!

  22. Bob the wezel says:

    sometimes i lie on the floor and pretend to be a corrot

  23. magpiez says:

    Cant see any colours no matter how long I look at it, squint at it or anything else.

  24. La-la-lina says:

    i see green! i read the comments and apparently, we’re not seeing the same colour, that’s amazing!

  25. Cooper says:

    I didn’t see anything?

  26. Cherry Blossom says:

    I can only see yellow. I can see the radiation warning sign as well. Very interesting.

  27. egdirbr says:

    Nice illusion, but please man, your widget is on my homepage and it’s driving me buggy.

  28. Ryan says:

    It seems like everyone is seeing multiple colours but all I can see is yellow.

    I wonder why I can only see yellow. It also makes me wonder about colours in general, how does my brain know to see yellow, whereas someone else may see blue. I always though colours had to do with certain wavelengths, but I guess I am wrong.

    Here’s another question: will I always see yellow only for my entire life, or does it change based on something in my mind? Maybe if I am mad it will go red or something lol

    This is my fav illusion on the site thus far – so many mysteries surrounding it!!!

  29. toodamlazy says:

    i see yellow

  30. Pintosong says:

    i see orange, blue, yellow and green i also see the sign awesome !

  31. Bluepool says:

    yep radiation sign. Also blue and yellow colors!

  32. PromiseMe says:

    nothing…

  33. Dee says:

    Yes I see earthly yellow/brown lines in the middle, and perhaps a hint of deep dark blue in outer circles…that’s it.

    But the radiation sign was the first thing I saw, it’s clear as day.

  34. dan says:

    all i could c was a snail rolling over and over but no colours or symbol

  35. Josh says:

    I see the radiation sign very clearly. I see no colours yet.

  36. Mana Clash says:

    i see yellow!

  37. Leroy says:

    I see orange! And orange only.

  38. Alex says:

    I see two bands of yellow, I wonder if small variations in screen refresh rates have an effect on the colour/effect people see?

  39. Peter says:

    Kimon is the only one who got this illusion right. Even the MO Illusions guy Vurdlak thinks this circle is spinning, but it isn’t! The several sections are flashing on and off, that is all. The “radiation sign” is stable and so are all the small linear elements. Okay, the colour effect is nice too, bit nicer is that even MO Illusions can be deluded.

  40. Edgar says:

    I see it in black & white, then it stops, and then it speeds up and that is when I see the color pink in a circle with an outline of green. After looking at it for over ten minutes, I saw naked girls with large breasts!! LOL!!

  41. Anmol says:

    I am not able to see any colours enstand of
    Black and white

  42. illusion lover says:

    i see a dark blue and purple radiation signal

  43. kennt--- says:

    lol we’ve got different colors, mine is red, it tried to cover my right eye by my left hand, and looked at the center, there’s actualy a reddish color on It’s side wyl it’s spinning,

    I think some person who saw colors like blue, I guess It’s the words colored with blue by it’s side,

  44. aki says:

    at what part of the disc am i supposed to concentrate to see the colors?

  45. wii dvd says:

    I saw red lines when I first saw the disk, after reading the post I don’t see the red anymore, interesting. I saw red for sure.

  46. hello. says:

    STUPID LAG!!!!!

  47. OvExX says:

    got the radiation thing.. but no colors u.u

  48. debbie says:

    I just got a headache!

  49. Eddie says:

    Sorry no colours but see it spinning clockwise then anti clockwise.

  50. flwrchld74 says:

    I see the radiation sign, and yellow and blue lines. Pretty neat, from a black and white sketch.

  51. Raveyn says:

    I see absolutely nothing, yet i assume the small lines within the white parts of it will ultimately form a triangle or some other form.

  52. Colleen says:

    I see no color. Just drove me nuts.

  53. Kathleen says:

    I’m an artist and you would think I would at least see a color but no. Not even the warning sign. I only got a headache from watching it.

  54. Eric says:

    If you dont see the colours, youre looking to hard. Just relax your eyes.

    As far as how it works – im sure the flashing of the RGB pixels has something to do with it (mainly the red)
    But as this works analog it seems obvious the colours are a result of the slower action of the cones in your eyes (colour sensitive cells) versus the rods (light and dark sensitive)-dont get confused into thinking black and white are light and dark-

    that said its just like staring at something bright; you get that after residue of washed out colour where the shape was
    but with this spinning motion before that slight fade can ebb, it’s replaced with a new design to be absorbed and interpreted
    the ebb and flow of sensory inputs on your cells arriving faster than they can be processed leads to first blurryness – but push that further and you start “blurrying” colour

    wave your finger back and forth, you see a trace – its not there, your eye just needs time to tell your brain that

  55. Eric says:

    baffled scientist for over 100 years? COMMON!!!

  56. I see says:

    I see blue and green lines in two separate groups

  57. Seeing Double! says:

    Green yellow blue red

  58. TLM says:

    I see brown and blue in alternating rows. I also see the radiation symbol. Weird!

  59. guy says:

    i dont see anything

  60. Debi says:

    I only saw the original B&W drawing…no colors and no warning…and I watched it for about 10 min trying to see. Is this normal? or am I brain dead? LOL

  61. Jeffrey says:

    I see yellow and blue.

  62. me123987645 says:

    i saw some color difference but not much i right now am having trouble focusing my eyes because i am dizzy from staring at that.

  63. blightersan says:

    Nope I must be brain as well never saw any colors. Someone suggested you just need to relax your eyes. I relaxed so much I started to drool which promtly landed on my laptop keyboard and shorted it out.

    I am now on a different computer. I recommend if you try relaxing not to do so without protecting your computer first.

  64. whootie says:

    I got nothing, and I’m usually pretty good
    at this kind of thing.
    Quit looking at it before it gave me a
    migraine. I have enough of those without
    triggering one. lol

  65. jennyqw8 says:

    Offf this just hurt my eyes, i only saw a bit of blue lines (maybe?) i stared at this for too long it just ended up glowing! :(

  66. guest says:

    just saw green and radi sign.

  67. Code Monkey says:

    For those not seeing anything, it may be that your browser is rendering the animated gif too slowly. I found in IE that the gif was very slow, but in firefox it ran at full speed and provided the desired effect.

  68. jo says:

    Maybe the disk gif is spinnig to slow to get the effect…coudnt see a thing…but try this vid..

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_0Z4Bi3JQo

    ..could see yellow and red…;)

  69. Rick says:

    I see colors and the sign. Unfortunately, I can’t leave my home page up with this on it. Very annoying, and yes, it gives me a headache very quickly.

  70. De Wilde Amsterdammer says:

    It’s very simple to explain.

    White light holds all the colours, black blocks them. When turning the wheel fast enough,the colours will be revealed.

    The same with a White/Yellow/Bleu/Red disk, ordened like pizza slieces. Spin that hard enough and you’ll see just White while all the colours are hidden behind the White.

  71. teekay says:

    If you cant see the color or radiation sign you need to have a faster connection. I looked yesterday at a hotel and did not see anything now today on my faster home connection the disc is spinning faster and I see the symbol and purple color

  72. anthony says:

    crazy shit

  73. none of your buissness says:

    just stare at da dot

  74. whootie says:

    I saw it faster on the email link and I saw blue and yellow. After going to the youtube link I finally saw the red, too. Thanks

  75. EricaMiracle says:

    I can only see yellow… lol

  76. Art Lady says:

    Oh wow that Is amazing! Fantastic!

  77. grueeee says:

    i see dark green and brown with a hint of orange

  78. Anonymous#66 says:

    all i c is yellow in the white.

  79. Whirligig says:

    Bonus illusion: the “radiation symbol” pattern of the disk appears to slowly rotate to the right, while in fact it does not.

  80. sumone iz here says:

    I saw yellow then green and then yellow again

  81. sumone iz here says:

    wow, I tried to relax my eyes and think it was all bright colors. I saw yellow glow and the black seemed like lighting! It keeps blinking, I mean the black part, though.

  82. Anonymous says:

    No colors here boss.

  83. xP says:

    It took a while! But then I saw a red cicle rotating in the middle! :S

  84. V0rt3x says:

    the only colors i see are blue and yellow

  85. ME says:

    i think it is because of the frequencies of the light are moving so fast that they blend and make color

    • your mom says:

      the frequencies didn’t blend, they separated into the different frequencies (colors) of visible light.

      you see yellow and green more because they are in the center of the visible light spectrum.

  86. RibShark says:

    I see a lime green, nothing else. I wonder what causes what colours you see?

  87. Camelseal says:

    Yellowish green and purple…

    Am i the only one who saw purple!?

  88. PenguinLover says:

    I see nothing… Apart from a blinding white glow

  89. Karlos says:

    I saw violet and green .. I didn’t see no yellow and I am not color blind

  90. Optical illusions says:

    I see nothing What so ever..

    Besides a Spinning disk.. XP

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  93. Mevin1 says:

    I saw a grey, for some reason i see a dark yellow-green when it’s actually grey(not black).

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