Perplexing perspectives: when left is right, and right is right, our brains melt but we’re impressed nonetheless.

There are optical illusions everywhere we go, whether ones designed to give you crazy side effects or deceive you, or more everyday ones like how you know you’re really quite attractive in your own way but the mirror seems to disagree.

Professor Kokichi Sugihara, of Japan’s Meiji University, has had his mind-bending optical illusions twice come first, and twice second, in the Best Illusion of the Year Contest. Sugihara is an accomplished mathematician and artist but is best known for his videos that use mirrors and carefully chosen perspectives to fool the mind into seeing shapes that seem impossible. He’s now released a few new videos, so let’s take a look at them (multiple times, since they seem impossible the first time) .

In the first video, the viewer can see a arrow that is clearly pointing to the right, but even after being spun 180 degrees, the arrow keeps facing to the right. Only when a mirror is placed behind the pointer can it be seen to be facing the left, and only the left, even when turned. While lifting the arrow up reveals its unique shape, that doesn’t seem to explain why we’re seeing what we’re seeing. I’m led to believe it must be magic.

The next video seems to defy logic even more, as a piece of plastic goes from having sharp, pointed edges to having curved, rounded edges and then back again. Once again a mirror is provided but that just confuses the issue further. The second Instagram video is based on his entry to the Best Illusion of the Year Contest, which managed second place. Called “Ambiguous Cylinder Illusion”, the full video can be found below.

▼ His 2015 entry, “Ambiguous Garage Roof”, uses the magic of angles to show how the mirror shows a shape very different to the one we perceive.

Maybe the most fantastical is Sugihara’s illusion where wooden balls appear to go against the laws of gravity and roll up to the top of ramps. He explains how the brain, deprived of information such as depth, looks for symmetry or other indicators and extrapolates from that, sometimes erroneously. The designs are all results of his research into computer interpretations of line drawings, where the computer discovers novel ways of creating 3-D designs that replicate two-dimensional images.

With Meiji University’s Sugihara’s and Kyoto University optical illusionist Akiyoshi Kitaoka working away to confuse us all, it does rather beg two questions. First, where is all this grant money coming from? Secondly, shouldn’t they be putting their impressive intellects into something with beneficial, real-world applications, like building giant fighting robots?

Source: Kokichi Sugihara via Jin
Featured image: Instagram/physicsfun