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Photo by Jeanson Wong on Unsplash

We know Coca-Cola cans are red, but that's not why it looks red in a viral optical illusion.

Optical illusions are wild. We can look at an image and swear up and down we see one thing, only to find out what we're seeing isn't what we're actually seeing at all.

Some optical illusions regularly go viral, like the not-really-two-dogs photo or the cat going up or down stairs drawing or the moving Van Gogh painting. (And we all remember the debates over "the dress," right?)

One that's making the rounds now is an image that appears to be a pixelated photo of someone holding a Coca-Cola can. The colors are muted, but the can definitely looks red.


But it's not.

In reality, the only visible colors in this image are black, white and teal (or cyan).

from woahdude

Seriously, zoom in.

Trippy, right? There's a similar version that uses a more stripey pixelation:

And there's another version made out of black, white and yellow that makes the Coke can appear blue (negating the idea that our brain is automatically making the can red because it's the color our brain expects it to be).

Again, no blue in this image when you zoom in. There's only black, white and yellow.

So what exactly is going on here?

It's the complicated way our colors work and the way our eyes perceive and process them in our brains. Here's how one Reddit user explained it when someone claimed the white in the Coke can wasn't really white:

"It is white. This is an example of simultaneous color contrast, a phenomenon that occurs when two adjacent colors influence one another, changing your perception of the colors. The cones in your eyes make it seem like it is pink. Cones give your eyes good color vision but can also play tricks with your brain, hence why from a distance, ie not zoomed in, the color appears pink and why you see the can of Coke as “red” even though there is no red in the image.

Essentially, the way your eyes see color in the first place is by contrasting it with other colors."

Another commenter verified that the white is, in fact, pure white. "The pixel color on the white is: #FFFFFF which means pure white. If there were any red in there we would see a variation on it like #FFFEFE. It is not a trick. It really is pure white," they wrote. "I too thought it might be a compression trick. Nope. Our brains just be weird."

Indeed, our brains do be weird.

Photographer and filmmaker Jared Bendis explained it in another way with a demonstration of the "Retinex effect," also known as color constancy. Essentially, because our eyes have to recognize color in varying kinds and amounts of light (otherwise how would we find food at different times of day), our brain is excellent at filling in blanks. How it works is rather complicated, so Bendis shows how it works using a photo of a bowl of fruit.

Our brains may be weird, but also very cool.

Catrina Frost remembers looking at photos of her daughter, Cailee, as a baby and thinking one of her eyes looked off-center.

Cailee's older brother, Tanner, had been born a few years earlier with major vision problems, so at first, the mom of four wanted to believe she was just being overly cautious.

Later, a vision test revealed that Cailee did indeed have some problems with her eyes. She was severely nearsighted and suffering from amblyopia, where the function of one eye is reduced because the eye and the brain are not working together properly.


But Catrina's instincts told her there was something more going on too.

"I just had this mommy gut feeling," Catrina said. "And I literally remember being in theparking lot [of the optometrist] thinking, 'you know what, I just think there's more tothis.'"

Eventually Cailee was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called FEVR (familial exudative vitreoretinopathy).

It was a condition that would likely eventually cause her to go completely blind.

This is Cailee in a pink shirt that reads, 'Always be who you are.' All photos by Catrina Frost, unless otherwise noted.

It was during a road trip to see a FEVR specialist in California that Catrina had an idea: a "sightseeing" bucket list.

As they drove, they came across the Imperial Sand Dunes, miles of soft, beautiful sand sandwiched by smooth dessert on either side. And Cailee fell in love with them.

The sun setting behind the Imperial Sand Dunes in California. Photo by David McNew/Getty Images.

"We pulled over and she ran up and downand up and down these sand dunes for like an hour. And got filthydirty and made sand angels and had a blast. And it was really therethat I realized I had to make myself a list of places that she shouldgo and things that she should do. ... If I hadn't stopped and given her that experience, she would neverhave been able to pull from that memory, that soft sand, and what thatlooked like and felt like."

When the two got to California, the specialist told them Cailee would likely lose all her vision within the next four or five years.

So when it came to this "bucket list" idea, it was now or never.

With help from donations brought in via a GoFundMe campaign, Cailee has been able to see the flowing gowns of princesses at Disney World...

Cailee hugs Belle at Disney World.

... the sparkling water of swimming pools ...

Cailee floats in a pool.

... crashing blue waves ...

Cailee hugs her Minnie Mouse doll on the beach.

... her first beach sunset ...

Cailee soaks in the sunset.

... and that's really just the beginning.

You don't need a visual memory to be able to perceive and interact with the world. But for Catrina, Cailee, and her three brothers (who are also along for the ride), the memories they make on these adventures will bring the family a lot of joy over the coming years.

"We're still putting the listtogether," Catrina said. "I've asked Cailee what she wants to do. She really wants to try horseback riding [again]. She wants to go to a ballet,so "The Nutcracker" is something I'm thinking about taking her to. Ithink she'd really enjoy that."

Some day soon, Catrina will take the kids to see the giant California redwoods. Then, a fashion show. Then art class, rock-climbing class, cooking class.

And so many other things.

In the meantime, Catrina says they are preparing Cailee to go blind.

Cailee practices walking with a cane.

She has been practicing her cane skills and reading braille in school for years. So when the time comes, she'll be ready.

"She came out of her third laser surgery whenshe was just this little, itty-bitty thing and said 'Momma, girlsare tough.'" Catrina recalled. "And I said 'Yeah, baby, girls are tough.' And that has beenher motto."

Catrina urges other parents to make sure their kids get their eyes checked early and often, but also that blindness, and conditions that can cause it, are not necessarily something to fear.

"Whether she's sighted or not, I haveno doubt this girl has amazing, amazing things coming in her future," Catrina said. "I have no doubt."

It's easy to take the colorful world around us for granted sometimes.

Sure, sunsets and coral reefs can be pretty spectacular. But what about the vivid colors of party balloons or a pink beach towel?


GIFs via jpapenhausen/YouTube.

Aren't those colors special too?

In a touching new video, two brothers, Jimmy and Jace, both of whom are color-blind, try on a pair of glasses that allow them to see colors as they truly are for the first time.

Within seconds of sliding them on, both guys break down, overwhelmed with tears of joy.

Because yes, colorful balloons are amazing.

The video, which you can watch below, was filmed by the brothers' mom while their many loved ones joined them to watch in support. Their mom called the experience a "special [and] amazing moment."

The video is touching hearts across the internet, garnering more than 100,000 views by June 24, 2016 — just three days after being posted.

The glasses Jimmy and Jace tried on were made by a company called EnChroma. And, clearly, they're pretty neat.

The brand's glasses — which are the "only speciality eyewear that alleviates red-green color blindness," according to EnChroma's website — are making a real difference to many of the more than 10 million Americans who are affected by color blindness.


In May 2015, color-blind dad Opie Hughes put on a pair and shed a few tears after truly seeing the color of his kids' eyes for the first time.

He told Upworthy last year that the experience was "like finally seeing a painting finished that you had looked at for 30 years unfinished."

Watch Jimmy and Jace slide on their pair of glasses for the first time below:

Family

How your phone's camera could help detect a rare cancer in kids.

What wasn't available for his son may now save other kids.

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In 2008, 1-year-old Noah Shaw was diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer called retinoblastoma.

By the time he received the diagnosis, the cancer had progressed and the treatment plan was extremely intense.

Months of chemo and radiation followed, and Noah had to undergo surgery to remove his right eye to keep the cancer from spreading to his brain.


All images from Bryan Shaw, used with permission.

That's a lot to go through in your first year of life.

As worried parents often do, Bryan and Elizabeth Shaw wondered if there were any missing warning signs that would have helped get Noah's diagnosis sooner.

They remembered the photographs that first raised concerns. Instead of the usual red dot of a pupil, they had noticed one of Noah's eyes appeared different from the other.

Being a scientist himself, Bryan wanted to see if he could track down when that difference first appeared. Bryan and Elizabeth turned to Noah's baby pictures to see how early this symptom showed up in photos before he was diagnosed.

Lo and behold, a clear warning sign is exactly what they found.

It's all about a white reflection that appears in the eye in photos with a camera flash.

Blood vessels in the back of the eye will normally reflect red, but if there is a tumor or other issue present, the eye may appear differently.

For Noah, that white glow first began appearing in photos when he was just 12 days old.

The presence of a white glow in a child's eye can help determine whether a baby has leukocoria, an early indicator of an eye problem ranging from a refractive error, where a baby needs glasses, to a rare form of cancer, like in Noah's case.

Noah, now a lively 7-year-old, is doing great. But Bryan never stopped thinking about how he could help other kids detect their eye problems earlier on.

"If I would have had some software in it telling me, 'Hey, go get this checked out,' that would have sped up my son's diagnosis and the tumors would have been just a little bit smaller when we got to them. There might have been fewer," Bryan told NPR.

A chemist at the University of Baylor, Bryan decided to shake up his career path by exploring life as a software designer too.

Bryan launched a free app called CRADLE that screens kids for leukocoria through their photos.

Created with the help of Baylor colleagues and graduate students, the app is available on both iPhone and Android for free under the name CRADLE, which stands for ComputeRAssisted Detector of LEukocoria. Clever.

The app can search your device for all photos that might contain white eye, given that leukocoria can show up inconsistently. It can also be used in real-time, snapping a photo through the app itself.

Even better? The app is working.

If the app finds a photo that could be a leukocoria, it recommends a visit straight to the pediatrician.

"Multiple families have used it to catch cancer in their children at such early stages — way before doctors — that the children received only laser treatment, no chemo, no radiation, no eye removal," Bryan said in an email to Upworthy.

And while retinoblastoma itself is very rare — fewer than 12 out of 1 million children aged 0-4 will develop it — the app goes beyond to help with other eye problems.

Shaw says "white eye" in kids is a symptom of a lot more than cancer. The app has caught Coats' disease, myelinated retinal nerve fiber layer, and a bunch of refractive errors (i.e., kids needing glasses).

Posting and sharing photos is more than just a great way to connect and document life: It can now share valuable information about the health of a child's eyes.

Bryan knows early diagnosis is key and parents see their kids a lot more than doctors do. While it's no substitute for being seen by an actual doctor, there is no question that this app can make a difference.

"From here, the software is going to get better," he told People. "It's going to get more accurate as we collect more and more pictures to train it and make it smarter."

Keep the pictures comin'.