Math Professor Creates Amazing Optical Illusions That Will Leave You Scratching Your Head


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Kokichi Sugihara is a specialist in optical illusions. He is a maths professor and an inventor who creates and writes about optical illusions that can leave anyone in awe. He earned first place at the Best Illusion of the Year Contest in 2010 and 2013, and second place in 2015 and 2016. He studied mathematics at the University of Tokyo. He worked at various Japanese universities and is now working as a professor at Meiji University.

Sugihara studies computer vision and pattern recognition. The research he did in this field led him to create a new field of “Computational Illusion.” He described the work by saying, “Computational illusion is aimed at studying human visual illusions mathematically. If we could reveal how and under what conditions human visual illusions occur, we would be able to numerically express the strength of visual illusions and control the quantity.” His thinking leads him to become a master of the optical illusion. One of his famous illusion is the ‘Impossible Roof’. The object looks completely different when viewed from two different angles.

In a video where he is demonstrating the illusion, a hand places small round balls on a sloping roof but the balls roll around and settle on the slope, defying the gravity. Another such example is the ‘Nautilus folding ladder’. In this video, the paper structure is punctured by a red rod, each time the rod moves the shape changes. It is an incredibly amazing and frustrating phenomenon.

Sugihara won the Illusion of the Year contest with his ‘Impossible Motion’ illusion in 2010. The video shows a 3D model which has four slopes facing downwards from a common point at the top. When wooden points are placed on these slopes they go upwards rather than rolling down. When viewed from another angle it was revealed that the slopes are actually going downwards. These illusions work because our brain thinks that each supporting column of the object is vertical and the longest column in the center is the highest. However, the columns are actually very cleverly angled to create the illusion.

Pretty cool, isn’t it?

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