Take a look at these two pictures showing women wearing striped dresses, one with horizontal stripes, the other with vertical stripes. Does the bust of the woman on the right look higher than the one on the left? To my eyes it does. To my eyes, the woman in the vertical stripes looks taller and slimmer than the one in the horizontal stripes. These picture were used by Dr Peter Thompson of York University in an experiment to demonstrate the Helmholtz illusion: that wearing horizontal stripes makes a woman look taller (the opposite of what I'm seeing). Val Watham was sceptical about Dr Thompson's findings and entered Radio 4's So You Want to Be a Scientist?
She contacted Dr Thompson and he agreed to help her turn her idea into an experiment, using real people in real clothes. Result: she upset Dr Thompson's findings and won the BBC's Amateur Scientist of the Year award
). Well done, that sceptic.