The world nearly came to blows over one of the most inane topics imaginable: Was the shirt blue or white? The problem was finally solved this morning (sorry white fans...it really was blue) but it brought to light an interesting scientific phenomena. The same image, featuring a blue dress with black stripes, caused two groups of people to see radically different things. Some saw the dress as it truly appeared and some saw a white dress with gold stripes instead. Even more baffling for some was when they went back to check their answers and saw things completely different than before.
What's the story?
Well, overexposed photography and interesting ocular science: Based on imperfections in which humans perceive light, the image placed against a black background can fool the viewer into believing the dress is white, whereas against a white background the blue comes through. That's about as simplified a version as we can offer but if you want all the nitty-gritty you can check out Wired's full treatment of the problem here.
It got us thinking however: What if we struggled this much to see basic blue on an everyday basis? That might screw up some iconic album covers. Here are some of those most messed up. REMEMBER: Blue becomes white, and apparently black becomes gold as a result of the shift from blue to white...but not on its own in these proportions).
Nevermind by Nirvana
One of the most iconic pieces of album art of all time, and definitely of the '90s, gets a radical transformation if we can't see the blue. The image generated plenty of controversy when it dropped during 1992, featuring a baby "swimming" toward a dollar bill on a hook while submerged in a swimming pool (and the full nude didn't help matters). Things at least get a little more manageable after the color shift: The baby is no longer in a pool, but floating through the clouds while, presumably, God lures him with a dollar on a hook. Something tells us Kurt Cobain might actually approve of the latter idea.
Blue Train by John Coltrane
The possibilities for album art during the hard bop heyday were pretty limited compared to the modern day. So when John Coltrane wanted to make a cover for his classic Blue Train, an homage to the blues tradition in jazz music, he simply added a blue pigmentation to the image of himself thinking on the cover. If someone were to misread the colors here, it would result in the absolute opposite of everything we know to be reality: a white Coltrane. We'd like to argue that race doesn't play into how we perceive the world but a white John Coltrane just ain't right (and the black background becomes gold of course).
Power by Ice-T
Speaking of turning irrevocably black things white: Before Ice-T teamed up with Body Count, he had a perfectly good solo career with plenty of excellent album covers. The most iconic of which was Power, which featured his then girlfriend Darlene Ortiz and associate Afrika Islam. The latter is already wearing a white suit so he fades into the white background as it is. Ortiz is just barely wearing something white, so her figure will be alright. Ice himself looks to be wearing blue nurse's scrubs...which theoretically will result in a disembodied Ice-T head, Futurama-style, once we mess with the light. Sounds pretty awesome actually.
ágætis byrjun by Sigur Rós
Sigur Rós has always been known for their thoughtful artistic displays, in both music and album art (it's an Icelandic band after all), the cover of its relatively simple ágætis byrjun might have raised some eyebrows during 1999. The original image shows an artistic interpretation of a fetus in the womb, outlined in white against a solid, dark blue background. We have to imagine, based on the image of the dress, that the darker the blue in the image, the whiter the color it correlates with. The result would be essentially a blank canvas, which won The Beatles acclaim during 1968, but doesn't bear repeating.
Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) by The Eagles
The result of taking The Eagles first greatest hits collection and submitting it to our test simply results in the same same eagle skull (albeit with a more golden beak) set against a white background. Not too interesting. Boring enough, in fact, that it seems that The Eagles did just that when they released The Very Best Of in 2003. We'll at least give them the benefit of the doubt, knowing that they made some sort of Native American effigy out of the eagle head.
Ride The Lightning by Metallica
Here's another example where the largely blue background is down away with because we, the mistaken viewer, perceive it to be white. But, more importantly, that huge mass of whiteness covers the imposing lightning bolts striking the electric chair, and even the black shades in the clouds turn gold (as they did in the dress photo). It almost looks as if...the sun is coming through the clouds! There's hope after all!
Weezer by Weezer
We're only saying this because we'll get a million comments if we don't: If you applied the test to Weezer's debut "Blue" album, then you would get a bunch of plain looking guys standing against a white background. They could actually make themselves look a tad more bad by drawing height markers as if it were a criminal identification line. Or just keep it a bunch of plain-looking guys standing against a white background.