A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away … And also in a parallel galaxy, sitting right alongside that first galaxy … There were two identical ribbons of scrolling yellow text.
The scrolls, like the one that forms the distinct opening text for the “Star Wars” sagas, were exactly the same in every way and disappeared into the horizon at exactly the same angle. And yet, the scrolls appeared to split away from each other like two forking streams of the same river — one moving left, and the other moving right.
How could this be? Were the scrolls caught in the pull of an Imperial tractor beam or the gravity of a sinister moon? Or was it simply the observer’s mind that was doing the pulling?
This phenomenon — known as the “Star Wars” scroll illusion — was first described by Arthur Shapiro, a visual illusions expert and professor at American University in Washington, D.C., in a 2015 issue of the journal i-Perception. According to Shapiro, the “Star Wars” scroll illusion is a more dynamic version of the leaning-tower illusion, in which two identical photos of Pisa’s famous tower appear to slant in different directions, despite being identical, side-by-side copies of each other.