Last week, the entirety of the Internet came across photos of what looks like a massive frog being held up by a Texan hunter.
— Farrah Gray (@RealFarrahGray) May 27, 2017
As reported by IFL Science, that frog wasn’t the only apparently huge animals to be found in recent times. You may also remember this one from last year, of a “dog-sized rat” that was allegedly found in London.
— Somtom (@SomtomUs) November 8, 2016
Unfortunately, although perhaps large than usual, these animals are not the giants that people claim.
What’s going on here is “forced perspective”, an illusion in which objects appear larger, smaller, farther away or closer depending on their placement in the visual field.
Steve Lightfoot, spokesman for the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department told the Houston news site Chron that the frog photo is real, but pointing out the visual chicanery at work.
“It’s not as bigly as it appears,” [It’s an] optical illusion created by extending frog toward the camera — similar to what you see with fishermen holding up fish to make them appear larger. Still a big bullfrog, though,” he said.
I know what you’re thinking. Did he just say “bigly”? He sure did, my friends.
And Oliver O’Brien, a data scientist at the University College London, gave a gloriously geeky account of what was going on with the rat:
The “giant rat” is two foot rather than the “four foot” claimed in the press. Perspective trick. Here’s my working: pic.twitter.com/DYGE3hPDSz
— Oliver O'Brien (@oobr) March 11, 2016
The rat was found in the Hackney area of London, and the Hackney Council later confessed that the rodent was “probably not that big.”
— Hackney Council (@hackneycouncil) March 11, 2016
Forced perspective pops up in all kinds of places. It is used in movies, for example, in The Lord of the Rings series, it was cleverly used to make the hobbits appear small.
I hate to tell you this, everything is not as it seems at Disneyland either. There, the floors of each building get progressively smaller so that they can appear taller than they actually are. Sleeping Beauty’s castle may look massive, but it’s only about 23 metres tall, folks. Childhood ruined.
The visual illusion has some pretty cool applications in art too. Rich McCor, a London-based artist known as paperboyo on Instagram, travels the world and uses forced perspective with paper cutouts. The results are pretty interesting:
— Domus (@DomusWeb) May 27, 2017
— Scott Kerr (@scott_kerr) May 27, 2017
— Davis Publications (@DavisPub) May 20, 2017
— Bonnie & Click (@bonnieandclick) May 17, 2017
But frogs and rats just can’t get that bigly, sorry.