Looking for a new way to waste time on the subway?

I was riding on the L train to Williamsburg to partake of Free PBR Tuesdays when my erstwhile companion pointed out a too-freaky-for-a-schoolnight optical illusion.

Check out this familiar image:

1 train

Take a few steps back from the computer screen, if you have the space/energy. Look at the 1 in the circle and move your head slowly left, then right, keeping your eye on the 1.
Isn’t that weird?

We observed that this works best with a black background and with the red trains: 1, 2, and 3. It also works slightly with the orange trains: F, V and, let’s not forget, D.

Here’s the 2:

2-train.jpg

and the somewhat less effective F:

f-train.jpg

I’ve looked through every optical illusion on wikipedia
and have so far failed to come up with the relevant example from psych literature. It could either be a physiological thing, to do with rods and codes and the way that cells in your eyes work, or a cognitive thing, to do with the way the brain organizes visual stimuli. Any thoughts?

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