Benham’s Disk Optical Illusion

This 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!

107 Replies to “Benham’s Disk Optical Illusion”

  1. 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!

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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… ^^;

  6. 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!!!

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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!!

  10. 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,

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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

  14. 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

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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

  22. 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.

    1. 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.

  23. BOM, BM BOM BOM, BOM BOM BOM, BOM BOM, EVERY BODY DANCE NOW! I still ❤ illusions, don’t get me wrong..

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