IT’S ALL AN IL­LU­SION

HI Weekly - - FRONT PAGE - STORY SHRUTHI NAIR • PHO­TOG­RA­PHY SHABIN E. — shruthi@time­so­fo­man.com

Ex­pe­ri­ence the fas­ci­nat­ing, amus­ing, and be­wil­der­ing Mu­seum of Il­lu­sions.

Back in the days when so­cial me­dia sites were a thing of the fu­ture and hot­mail and MSN were the only things in town, I re­mem­ber re­ceiv­ing nu­mer­ous emails on var­i­ous top­ics in­clud­ing moral sto­ries, po­etry, news, but the one thing that I’d al­ways find my­self hooked to ir­re­spec­tive of who sent it or how good or bad it was, were posts on op­ti­cal il­lu­sion. It had fas­ci­nated me as a 13-year-old and it con­tin­ues to fas­ci­nate me as a 23-year-old.

An il­lu­sion typ­i­cally de­scribed as the dis­tor­tion of senses, recre­ation­ally, could range from op­ti­cal il­lu­sions that can be seen on a piece of pa­per to larger real-life sen­sory sim­u­la­tions that can re­ally bend your brain. Geo­met­ri­cal il­lu­sions are said to be caused due to a phe­nom­e­non called lat­eral in­hi­bi­tion. This means neu­ron in this part of the brain re­sponds to lines and ori­ented in dif­fer­ent di­rec­tions and when one neu­ron is turned on it turns off the ac­tiv­ity of its neigh­bour. This the­ory may not stand true for all the il­lu­sions we have and thus the ul­ti­mate cause of the il­lu­sion that most of us ex­pe­ri­ence re­mains a mys­tery.

And since mys­tery is al­ways in­trigu­ing, the news of the Mu­seum of Il­lu­sions com­ing to Oman ex­cited me. It is a whole new world of blue and white nes­tled in a cor­ner of Mus­cat Grand Mall. Once you en­ter the gate, you get en­gulfed into a par­al­lel uni­verse where things don’t make much sense and ev­ery­thing around you will seem mag­i­cal.

Sur­pris­ingly, the day I de­cided to go to the Mu­seum of Il­lu­sions was a week­day and yet it was pretty busy with peo­ple of all age groups get­ting amused by what they were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing. The first room I en­tered was the Ames Room, where I got to be a dwarf and a gi­ant just by walk­ing across the room. The trape­zoidal room works on the trip of per­spec­tive, where the per­son stand­ing in one cor­ner of the room ap­pears to be a gi­ant and the one stand­ing in an­other cor­ner ap­pears to be a dwarf on the mir­ror that’s kept in the room. In fact, if the same per­son walks back and forth the cor­ners, he will ap­pear to grow and shrink.

The tilted room is an­other strange room I en­tered where the ceil­ings, floors and walls are tilted. As a re­sult, when you walk through the room you feel all wob­bly and dis­torted as though you’ve been in­tox­i­cated. This room ba­si­cally messes up your bal­ance and con­fuses the vis­ual sig­nals sent to your brain. Hence, If you close your eyes and try stand­ing you won’t feel dis­ori­ented.

How­ever, the Vor­tex, which was my favourite room, takes dis­ori­en­ta­tion to a whole new level. This harm­less room looks like a trippy dark room with a sim­ple bridge that helps you go from point A to point B. But the 30 sec­ond walk be­tween the 2 walks will make you ques­tion your abil­ity to just walk. Its walls are like a cir­cu­lar cham­ber that ro­tates con­stantly with club-like lights. How­ever, once you start walk­ing on the bridge you will feel as though it is the bridge that you are stand­ing on that is ro­tat­ing and you will try hard to main­tain your bal­ance and stand straight. It’ll look re­ally funny to some­one who is watch­ing you from out­side but dare them to do the walk. You’ll feel like you’ve just been on a twirling roller coaster ride.

There are a num­ber of other at­trac­tions in this small space that will mess up your mind and force you to un­der­stand why this is hap­pen­ing. The in­fin­ity room and the kalei­do­scope play with mir­rors make you go ‘woah’ at the power of the or­di­nary ob­ject in your house that you use ev­ery­day. There are a num­ber of geo­met­ric and pho­tog­ra­phy il­lu­sions adorn­ing ev­ery part of the wall of the Mu­seum of Il­lu­sions. There is not one space that you can look at which won’t make you ask ‘how?’ or ‘why?’. You will also find holo­grams and stere­ograms, like the ones you oc­ca­sion­ally come across on Face­book but to ex­pe­ri­ence it on pa­per is to­tally worth it. There are also a num­ber of brain teasers and puz­zles, which could take you hours to solve and if you have a com­pet­i­tive streak in you might just end spend­ing a lot of time on them.

Ex­pe­ri­ence the be­wil­der­ment of un­cer­tainly and mys­tery in the Mu­seum of Il­lu­sions.

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