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This Japanese mathematician's optical illusions will make you question reality

INSIDER logoINSIDER 23/05/2018 gshaw@businessinsider.com (Gabbi Shaw)
a close up of a logo: Kokichi Sugihara optical illusions © Provided by Business Insider Inc Kokichi Sugihara optical illusions
  • Kokichi Sugihara is a Japanese mathematician, professor, and artist who creates mind-bending optical illusions.
  • He specializes in 3D printing "impossible objects."
  • His illusions are award-winning — he's won "Best Illusion of the Year" twice.

Everyone loves a good optical illusion, whether it's an image that seems to magically disappear or a photo that simultaneously appears to be both Ben Stiller and Beyoncé. But Kokichi Sugihara, a professor at Japan's Meijia University, takes illusions to a new level.

Most of his illusions use nothing but specially designed, 3D printed objects, and perspective.

For example, this arrow seems to always be pointing right, no matter which way it's spun.

Right Pointing Arrow: spin this arrow 180 degrees and it still points to the right- only in a mirror will it point left (and only to the left). Another incredible ambiguous object illusion by mathematician Kokichi Sugihara of Meiji University in Japan, the inventor of this illusion and art form. A clever combination of reflection, perspective, and viewing angle produce this striking illusion. ➡️ Follow the link in my profile for info about where to get this illusion arrow and other amazing items featured here on @physicsfun #illusion #ambiguouscylinderillusion #ambiguouscylinder #geometry #mirrorreflection #physics #ambiguousobject #kokichisugihara #physicstoy #math #mathtoy #mathstoy #optics #opticalillusion #3dprinting #perspective #science #scienceisawesome

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Sugihara actually invented a new type of illusion with this arrow, called "anomalous mirror symmetry." 

According to LiveScience, anomalous mirror symmetry illusions are objects "that appear to break the rules of typical mirror symmetry by pointing in one direction in reality, and in the opposite direction in reflection."

Basically, what we see is "the result of image processing in our brains," according to Sugihara. Human brains tend to look for right angles, even if there aren't any. The arrow is 3D printed with a bunch of curves we don't register, but that trick our brains into seeing right angles where there are none, depending on the lighting and angle.

Perspective also plays a significant role in Sugihara's award-winning illusion "Magnet-like slopes," which won "Best Illusion of the Year" in 2010.

The illusion makes it look as though balls defy gravity by rolling up a slope. 

However, when the angle we view the slope from is adjusted, it becomes clear that the balls are just rolling down, not up.

Basically, the illusion is just playing with perspective. The slopes look like they tilt down thanks to the columns that look straight when viewed from a specific vantage point, but aren't.

For illusions like this one, Sugihara coined the term "impossible motion," which describes "a new type of optical illusion in which viewers perceive objects that appear to move in physically impossible patterns."

Once again, it's all about perspective in Sugihara's "Ambiguous cylinder" illusion, for which he took second place in the 2016 "Best Illusion of the Year" contest.

While the objects look like circles, they are reflected in a mirror as rectangles, and vice versa.

Essentially, these shapes are neither fully round nor square, plus their tops are wavy and s-shaped (some arch up, some down). Thus, depending on the angle from which the shapes are viewed, they will either look longer or shorter, and thus either square or round.

Still confused? Check out this video that reverse engineers the illusion.

If these illusions all seem too impossible for you to believe, you're not alone. The right-pointing arrow illusion (and conspiracy theories surrounding it) became so widespread that Snopes, a popular fact-checking website, had to debunk a myth that the arrow was manipulated using CGI.

If nothing else, let these "impossible objects" remind you that you can't ever really trust your eyes — they play tricks on you all the time.

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