How many of your friends can see all the dots in this optical illusion? Probably none.

Your brain literally won't let you win against this optical illusion:

There are 12 black dots in the picture, but I'd bet good money that you'll never be able to see all of them at once. If I squint, I can get four, and only four.

The illusion started taking over the internet after game developer Will Kerslake shared it via Twitter, but the picture itself originally came from the Facebook page of Akiyoshi Kitaoka, a psychology professor in Kyoto, Japan. It appears to be a variation of Ninio's extinction illusion, which is a grid illusion that scientists use to explain a big scientific concept.


Why you can't see all 12 dots? Basically, we can blame evolution.

The back of our eyes are full of light-sensing nerve cells, all crowded together, waiting for stimulation. You might think that when something interesting happens, they'd all start shouting and firing off signals — a furious rush of noise. But that's not what happens.

Instead, excited nerve cells actually kind of "shush" their neighbor cells, a phenomenon called lateral inhibition. They do this because it helps the message get through — if only a few people are shouting, the signal is clearer.

The end result is that our visual contrast goes up, but at the cost of muting whatever we're not looking at.

Meanwhile, our brain tries to be helpful by filling in that incomplete information with whatever it guesses is there. And since most of this picture is grey lines, our brain just leaves out the black dots.

So you're not going crazy, I promise. There really are 12 dots, but our eyes and brains do weird stuff sometimes to help us focus and survive. And as for what it means if you can see more dots than someone else? Well, the science doesn't really tell us much. Maybe you just have a different level of lateral inhibition than them, or maybe your brain is better at filling in the gaps.

Little mind games like this remind us of the limits of our brains.

We often assume seeing is believing, but optical illusions help show that's not true. Scientists are now using optical illusions to study how we perceive the world, why we react to certain things, and why we make quick assumptions. Optical illusions can teach us about bigger subjects like schizophrenia or even racism!

And, if nothing else, they're kind of trippy and fun.

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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