Black and blue or white and gold?

An unassuming image uploaded to social media platform Tumblr on 26 February has caused the Internet to erupt into chaos.

The image – a dress worn to a wedding in southern Scotland – has created a furious debate: is the dress black and blue, or is it white and gold?

The matter has caused the hashtags #BlackAndBlue and #WhiteAndGold to trend.

The answer isn’t as clear-cut as you would think. Before you read on – tell us what you see.

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Black and blue or white and gold?
Black and blue or white and gold?

WIRED has offered a scientific explanation as to why the two groups are so divided on the matter.

According to experts quoted in the piece, our brains are hard-wired to take in reflected light of an object and compensate for various other factors (such as ambient light, time of day, and background noise) to determine the colours of what we see.

What it boils down to is that the colours present in this particular image hit a boundary that our brains struggle to interpret one way or another.

“Most people will see the blue on the white background as blue,” Bevil Conway, a neuroscientist who studies color and vision at Wellesley College told WIRED.

“But on the black background some might see it as white.”

Image manipualted to be white and gold (left), the original (centre) and black and blue (right)
Image manipulated to be white and gold (left), the original (centre) and black and blue (right)

In the MyBroadband office the matter was divided, with an almost even split on both sides.

When white-balanced (bringing the image back to a natural ‘clean’ white), the image is shown to be black and blue – to the writer at least. Inverted, it shows the same trend (black will appear white, blue will appear gold).

Inverted and white-balanced image
Inverted and white-balanced image

According to the original uploader of the image – a musician who attended the wedding – the dress in real-world terms is blue and black.

“I got to the wedding and the mother was wearing the dress,” she said. “Obviously it was blue and black.”

Thanks to Mashable, we know the definite answer – the dress is black and (royal) blue, and is sold by British clothing retailer Roman Originals.

Dress as advertised
Dress as advertised

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Black and blue or white and gold?