First, it was the case of the mysterious color-changing dress in 2015. Then 2018 gave us the great Yanny/Laurel debacle. Now, another mind-bending sensory debate is engulfing the internet: the case of “green needle” vs. “brainstorm.” A viral clip that’s recently been revived on TikTok features an odd digital audio recording that once again has users across social media asking: Which one do you hear?
TikTok user @emilysophie.m posted the clip in question to the social media site on July 25 last year. In the clip, a girl points to word bubbles containing the words “GREEN NEEDLE” and “BRAINSTORM.” A third bubble reads “You will only hear the word you’re reading.”
A heavily digitized voice speaks, saying… well, one of the two terms, depending on who you ask.
Comments on the video, which currently holds more than 193,000 likes, range from astonishment to borderline terror.
“Okay this is freaking me out, what the heck?” commented one user, according to Buzzfeed.
“WITCHCRAFT!!!!” another comment proclaimed. “You don’t even need to look at anything. Close your eyes and think of the word you want to hear. This is a trip.”
This isn’t the first time “green needle” and “brainstorm” have duked it out online. Buzzfeed reports that the distorted audio comes from footage shared back in 2018 during the Laurel/Yanny debate.
You can hear “Brainstorm” or “Green Needle” based on whichever one you think about.— Tomango (@tomangoUK) May 17, 2018
Pure black magic. We’re well past ‘Yanny’ and ‘Laurel’! pic.twitter.com/mgtss1lrtO
Furthermore, that footage comes from a YouTube toy review from 2014. In the video, user Dosmrider takes a look at toys from the cartoon Ben 10, demonstrating their audio functions. The video also provides a definitive answer to the debate (skip ahead if you want to preserve the mystery!)…
Seriously, you want to know?
…It’s Brainstorm, the name of a character from the series.
Back in 2018, Time spoke with audiologist Dr. Kevin Franck in the midst of the Yanny/Laurel craze. Dr. Franck told the magazine that what people hear “all comes down to the brain.”
“The fact that brains go in one way and some brains go in the other means that we’re all just wired a bit differently based on our experiences,” he said. “The brain was built to turn messy signals into meaning. It just will not give you ambiguity.”