Sammy Nickalls
February 27, 2015 8:37 am
If you weren’t on social media last night, you missed the biggest controversy of the century. OK, maybe we’re being a little hyperbolic, but you guys, this was a huge deal with so many unanswered questions we needed to get to the bottom of. So we did.

It all started when Tumblr user Swiked uploaded the below picture with the following caption:
“guys please help me – is this dress white and gold, or blue and black? Me and my friends can’t agree and we’re freaking the f*** out”

The responses on Tumblr seemed to be split down the middle. Some people thought it was blue and black, others thought it was white and gold. Others just couldn’t even deal.

We all wondered. . .WAS THE WORLD GOING TO END WITH A DRESS? It started to get aggressive. Teams started to form. And even celebs started to join in:

Some people tried to use Photoshop to track the colors to prove their point, but it seemed to work out both ways. Why? “You’re doing this very bad trick, which is projecting those patches on a white background,” Bevil Conway told Wired. “Show that same patch on a neutral black background and I bet it would appear orange.”So what color is the dress?!

Wired helped us out. It’s not about social media, they explained—it’s about science. Essentially, your brain normally figures out what color you’re looking at and subtracts any color that might be interfering with “whatever wavelengths are illuminating the world, reflecting off whatever you’re looking at.”

Usually, that’s just a fine-and-dandy system, but this image seemed to have hit that sweet spot where it doesn’t work out quite as well. “What’s happening here is your visual system is looking at this thing, and you’re trying to discount the chromatic bias of the daylight axis,” Conway told Wired. “So people either discount the blue side, in which case they end up seeing white and gold, or discount the gold side, in which they end up with blue and black.”

So the reason we’re seeing it differently is because of how our brains are processing it. “Our visual system is supposed to throw away information about the illuminant and extract information about the actual reflectance,” Jay Neitz, a neuroscientist at the University of Washington, told Wired. “But I’ve studied individual differences in color vision for 30 years, and this is one of the biggest individual differences I’ve ever seen.”Unfortunately for Team White And Gold (which I’m a part of, BTW), the dress is indeed blue and black. Here’s a visual of what people have been seeing:

As Neitz (who sees the dress as white and gold) explains, “My brain attributes the blue to the illuminant. Other people attribute it to the dress.”

But finally, let’s pose the biggest mystery–who is the person…”swiked”…behind the original Tumblr post?

These are the women behind the account, according to Business Insider:

21-year-old Caitlin McNeill, from Scotland, was the original poster (pictured bottom right) “What happened was two of my close friends were actually getting married and the mother of the bride took a photo of the dress to send to her daughter,” McNeill told Business Insider. “When my friend showed the dress to her fiancé, they disagreed on the color.”

McNeill decided to share the image on her fan account of Sarah Weichel (pictured top right), talent manager on YouTube.

McNeill was totally blown away by the response. “I thought my followers on Tumblr would maybe have a good reaction, but I never would have considered that Taylor Swift and Mindy Kaling would be tweeting about it,” McNeill said.

Last night, McNeill, a folk singer in a band called Canach, posted this on her band’s Facebook page: “It seems like we’ve caused quite the stir online! This is madness!”

By this morning, their Facebook was littered with media requests, which is awesome for them. And it’s all thanks to a dress—a BLUE AND BLACK dress.

Case closed.
(Photos via Tumblr, Business Insider and Facebook)