The Museum of Illusions opens today in Philadelphia, near the Independence Mall. The relatively small space – about 5,000 square feet – has optical and spatial illusions designed to take your eyes off your brain.
It presents classic techniques of perception, such as the Ames room, conceived by American psychologist and ophthalmologist Adelbert Ames, in which a person on one side of the room seems much larger than his partner on the other. It also has a Boucher chair, created by French psychologist Jean Boucher, in which a standing man rises above a sitting man.
Both illusions demonstrate the difference in depth perception between binocular vision (seen through two eyes) and monocular vision (seen through one camera lens). The trick only works if you take a picture.
The Museum of Illusions will tell you exactly where to stand for the illusion to work, and where exactly the other person can take the picture. The museum is designed to take photos and share them on social media.
“You will have a great time. You will laugh, ”said marketing manager Stacey Stack, who describes the museum as“ educational and entertaining ”. “You’ll also learn a few things about optical illusions, vision and the human brain.”
The concept of the Museum of Illusions originated in 2015 in Zagreb, Croatia, as the Muzej Iluzija. Since then, he has received franchises in more than 35 cities around the world, including Miami, Chicago, Houston and New York.
The Philadelphia Museum, which shares a building with the newly opened Bible Museum, was supposed to open a few months ago, but has faced delays with permits and construction.
Just as some exhibits require a camera lens, others are not transferred to the camera at all: A vortex tunnel is a podium that passes through a rotating tunnel. The visitor experiences dizziness when the vestibular apparatus – a sense of balance inside your inner ear – is rejected by rotation. Inside the tunnel you involuntarily reach for the railing to correct a false sense of imbalance, even if the track remains flat.
This is a purely internal reaction. On camera you look like a fool who drank too much. (The solution is to take a page from the spinning ballerinas and skaters and capture the gaze at a fixed point in the distance. Your brain won’t be fooled by the spinning tunnel.)
The main attractions are exciting rooms, such as the Infinity Room, with mirrors that seem to clone you into the distance forever; and a sloping room where through a chamber aligned with a sloping floor, you seem to be standing on an impossible slope.
The walls of the museum are hung with graphic illusions, like Mueller-Leier arrows, in which two lines of equal length tips with arrows pointing outwards and arrows pointing inwards. The first seems longer than the second. A dense collage of small pictures seems random, but at a sufficient distance there is a famous look – this distance can help the camera.
Such graphs are sometimes used in research to better understand the sensitivity to optical illusions.
There are times when your eyes and your brain may completely contradict each other. The abstract graphic image on the wall, when viewed from afar, seems two-dimensional, but its crossed diagonal lines fluctuate as it moves from side to side.
As I approach, the graphic shows itself as a three-dimensional panel with parts of the image protruding from the wall. However, my brain refused to believe that what it took to be flat could actually be protruding, to the point that I felt dizzy approaching the panel.
But the brain learns. Probably too good. After repeatedly experiencing the 3D panel with an uncomfortable feeling of dizziness, my brain finally learned to look at it. It no longer seems flat to me. The illusion was shattered.