Purpose of the Museum

Welcome to the Illusion Museum!

A visual illusion is a phenomenon in which what is seen appears different from reality.
There are famous illusions with which you are no doubt familiar, in which figures of the same size appear to be different sizes, or the same colors appear to be different colors.
Many and varied illusions have been known historically, but even today many new kinds are being discovered or created. At the heart of the exhibits in this museum are illusory works that we have newly created in the course of our research. We invite you to experience these illusions and to enjoy their strangeness.

Experiencing illusions cannot help but cause us to sense the risks in looking at things with the eyes. We should question whether we are truly able to see things as they really are. A picture is said to speak a thousand words, but having seen, can we be certain we have understood? We may well begin to doubt.

The understanding that illusions are pathological phenomena of the eyes and an illusion not appearing is the normal state of the eyes, is incorrect. Illusions can appear to anyone and there is a growing understanding that they are nothing more than functions of the eyes that in normal life are useful, but that in a certain context appear in extreme forms. For that reason, research into illusions is direct research into the human sensory function of looking at things with the eyes.

We seek to understand the phenomenon of illusion using the tool of mathematics. This is a new field of research. We have called it "computational illusion." Many of the illusory works on display here have resulted from research into this new discipline.

If we can understand the illusory mechanism mathematically, we can also understand how it is possible to create an environment in which it is difficult for illusions to appear. Using this knowledge, we are able to acquire guidelines to creating environments that enable us to correctly apprehend the environment, which in turn is useful in preventing accidents. Conversely, we are also able to emphasize illusions. Using emphasis, we are able to design signage that is difficult to overlook and to develop new technologies for expression. We would also be delighted, therefore, if visitors to the museum were able from these endeavors to get an understanding of the utility of mathematics to daily life.

Kokichi Sugihara
Collaboration Research Center for Visual Illusion and Mathematical Sciences, Meiji Institute for Advanced Study of Mathematical Sciences
Research Director
Computational Illusion (Research area: Mathematics)
Core Research for Evolutional Science and Technology (CREST) Project
Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST)

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