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Bright Black

Bright Black
Can you tell the difference between black and white?

At this exhibit, find out how subjective brightness can be as you struggle—and fail—to correctly decide whether the squares you see are black or white. 

What’s going on?

Your perception of an object’s color is affected by both its lighting and its surroundings. The first card you see in this exhibit is actually black—but it’s brightly lit. When it’s the only card in the light, it may look gray or even white. But as you raise lighter cards, each new card looks white and the previous cards look darker by comparison.

Going further

An astronaut standing on the moon.Our moon is also a brightly lit dark object—it’s dark gray, but in the spotlight of the Sun, it looks white. This photograph of the moon’s surface shows how dark it really is. Photo courtesy of (click image to enlarge)

External resources

IMLS acknowledgment

This web project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services [MA-30-16-0175-16].