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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Harvest Moon Illusion

The Harvest Moon is magical…well not really. But if you go out tonight just after sunset, and are lucky enough to have a clear view of the horizon, you'll see the moon, pumpkin-colored, slowly rising in the east -- and, boy, does it look large.
It is, in fact, no larger in the sky than when it's overhead, but our minds fool us, perhaps because we have a reference point -- something on the horizon -- that we lack when it is high among the stars.

For example, when you see the moon in close proximity to a tree, your brain will miscalculate the distance to the moon, mentally bringing it closer (like the tree) and thus making it bigger. It seems so real, but this beautiful illusion is all in our minds.

Either that’s true, or the sky is falling! Chicken Little was right!

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