How does the nose smell?
Do you have a vivid olfactory memory of your childhood, of Christmas or of your last sauna visit but find it hard to name the substance?
You are not alone. Although humans are able to distinguish several thousand smells and link them to specific memories and emotions, we have a comparatively poor ability when it comes to naming smells that are isolated from their origins.
What does the tongue taste?
You are surely familiar with sweet, sour, salty and bitter – but do you know what umami is?
Besides the well-known taste modalities of sweet, sour, salty and bitter, our tongue can distinguish another taste - umami. With the help of taste strips you can explore the regions of your tongue that are highly sensitive to the five different substances.
This exhibit may be booked in combination with „Enjoy your meal!“
Enjoy your meal!
How does the nose contribute to taste?
Why does everything taste so bland when you have got a cold?
While holding your nose close, dextrose simply produces an undifferentiated, sweet taste. In order to distinguish different flavours like strawberry or banana, you need to breathe freely through the nose. Tasting is a complex process that involves different senses at the same time. Interestingly, smell plays a crucial role in this process because flavours are distinguished by the nose, not on the tongue.
The “Magic” Cubes
Expectation guides perception
You are going to experience an unbelievable phenomenon firsthand. Two bricks seem to be lighter than the one on its own!
This exhibit is a cleverly constructed weight illusion. Your expectation leads you to a paradoxical perception.
Unlearn your target skills!
Do you always hit the target? Well, let’s see!
Special goggles move your field of vision sidewards. Once your brain adapts to the new situation, you start hitting on target. However, as soon as you take the goggles off you will have an amazing experience - your brain keeps working according to the conditions it had just adapted to. Hence, you will find it hard to hit the target once again!
Methods of critical evaluation
Bigger, smaller or of the same size? The two table tops look of seemingly different shape and size. However, when you cover the tables with a template you will see that they are congruent which means they have exactly the same size and shape!
This exhibit essentialy illustrates three main perception principles:
1. You cannot avoid perception illusions. 2. Perception illusions make sense!
3. Although being tricked, we may reach reliable knowledge by means of certain scientific methods.
The brain “invents” movement in static pictures
When you fix your gaze on a certain point, the picture seems to stand still… but only at this particular spot! Parts of the picture appears to be moving!
The “Rotating Snakes” illustration by the Japanese scientist Akiyoshi Kitaoka is probably the most famous example of a movement illusion.
This experiment is part of a 4-piece exhibit. Here, as well as in the other movement illusions, the viewer apparently perceives movements in a perfectly still image.
Straight lines on inclined tracks
All these lines are straight. You don’t believe it? Have a go and measure them!
This astonishing effect is essentially due to brightness contrast. Also, the dividing lines between the single elements play a role in the stimuli processing of the brain. Different areas of the picture influence each other, which leads you to perceiving bends and crooks that actually do not exist.
This experiment is part of a four-piece exhibit.
On the search for gestalt
We are constantly in search of recognisable patterns. The ability to recognise gestalt is one of our most important abilities when interpreting the world.
Our perception system is trained to identify symmetric alignments and form a perceptual pattern - gestalt. We cannot avoid pattern formation. One could say we are almost addicted to perceive patterns because the search for order is actually useful! Nevertheless, it may also be a source for deceptions and illusions when we apparently discover order where there is none.
This experiment is part of a four-piece exhibit.
Context guides perceptio
Get insights into ‘constant’ stripes and ‘erratic’ colours.
We never perceive objects in isolation but always in relation to their context. This can lead to fascinating and unbelievable illusion effects.
This experiment is part of a four-piece exhibit.
Invented body parts
Even the perception of your own body can be deceived!
In this intriguing experiment you are going to hide one hand behind a blind and out of sight where it is stroked by a brush. Instead of your own hand, you will see a rubber hand also being stroked simultaneously. Suddenly, a fantastic moment makes you doubt in your own senses. You feel that the dummy hand you are looking at has become part of your body!
Adapting to stimuli
Rubbing coarse surfaces make other surfaces seem smoother.
In this experiment, your left hand rubs on a smooth surface while your right hand rubs on a coarse one before moving on to rub a plate of average roughness. This surface of average roughness will feel comparatively rough to the hand that has adapted to smooth, and vice versa. Our sensory system can sensitively react to a present situation. However, stimuli that reach us continuously are filtered out after a while. Otherwise our brain would be hopelessly overwhelmed by the flood of information.
Speaking requires hearing
If you hear your own voice delayed while speaking you will stutter.
Our brain continuously monitors its interaction with the outside world and raises an alarm as soon as the surrounding sends a feedback conflicting with our actions. This simple precaution helps us to recognise possibly dangerous changes in our environment.
Blind while seeing
If you were to watch yourself in a mirror while looking from one your eye to another, you would see… nothing! The eyes of your reflected image would appear still even though your eyes have been moving.
Our eyes make constant quick motions known as saccades to scan details of the things we are looking at. However, when our eyes move we are practically blind. We do not become aware that we are blind during these movements because our brain simply substitutes blind moments with plausible information.
Contours that aren't there
Our brain tends to search for objects and assigns meaning to what we see.
This can lead to peculiar situations. For example, we start seeing contours of objects that actually do not exist. In everyday contexts it is very helpful to quickly see contours and shapes because it helps us to identify objects that are partly covered or seen from an unusual perspective.
The burden of decision
A rotating cube suddenly changes its direction of movement. An optical illusion!
While we are observing a rotating cube with one eye, our brain receives only limited depth information which leads to an ambiguous perception of space. As our brain is only able to accept one interpretation of a situation at one time, it starts switching between the two possible interpretations. As a result, we see the cube abruptly switch directions.
Orientating with two ears
Use your sense of hearing for orientation!
Our ears are not only responsible for detecting sound waves. They also tell us where a sound originates from. This exhibit illustrates that we are well able to precisely determine the direction from which a sound comes.
Active Movement Perception
The relationship between perceiving and acting
Experience in four steps, how perception and action influence each other!
We are more successful in following a movement with our body when we do not watch the moving object. On the other hand, trying to balance your body without vision proves more difficult than doing it with open eyes. We can experience movement after effects in our arm muscles as well as in our eyes. Experience firsthand how perception and action cooperate!
This exhibit consists of a four-experiments cluster.
Take a look into your own eye
Make the invisible visible
Take a look into your own eye and see the veins and capillaries of your own retina!
The image of our own retina is always in our field of vision but is successfully suppressed by our brain. The brain has learnt that this image does not belong to the surrounding and seeing it all the time would constantly distract us from visual stimuli of what we see. Nevertheless, with the help of a small trick you can outsmart your brain. Simply rotate a pinhole in front of your eye while looking at a bright surface!
Attention guides vision
Are you able to keep track of everything you see? Nothing escapes your observant eyes? You’ll be baffled by this!
Watch a sequence of pictures differing in one dominant detail. You will find it pretty hard to detect the difference if the change between the pictures is ‘masked’ by a short flash of a black screen. However, as soon as the black screen is left out and the scene changes directly from one to the other you will spot the difference immediately!
Two eyes see more than just two images of the world
Experience how your brain convincingly turns two flat photographs into a three-dimensional scene!
Our eyes look at objects from slightly different angles which lead to two slightly different flat images on each retina. The resulting two images are combined into one spatial image in the brain where it is interpreted in three-dimensions.
“Endless” Musical Scale
Who can find the highest note?
12 keys, 12 notes – but why is it impossible to find the highest note?
Have doubt in what you hear but don’t be too frustrated when playing with this fantastic phenomenon!
The 12 keys are arranged in the form of an ascending scale. If you press the buttons in a clockwise direction, every note sounds higher than the one before. And yet, you won't be able to find the highest note! The next note always seems higher than the one you just played…
Reading is easier than thinking...
If you are able to read, you will be clearly disadvantaged here.
Here is a list of colour names… but the colours of the text do not match with the meaning of the words. Do you also find it hard to name aloud the colour of the text when this is not in accor- dance with the meaning of the word?
Dwarf meets giant
A chair is a chair? You have no idea how you can be deceived!
Seen from a certain point, two separate parts of a chair melt into the image of a usual chair even though they are placed far away from each other. As a result of the illusion, the person sitting on the seating area seems like a dwarf in comparison to the ‘giant’ standing by the chair legs.
Stand and fall with your surroundings
You think it is easy to stand upright? This wall can make you fall without even touching you!
If the whole visual surrounding moves — like for instance a big striped wall — you will lose your balance because you inevitably try to compensate for the perceived movement.
Dinner is served!
Head without body
Oops, your head is still there but… where has the rest of your body gone?
Here you can have your head photographed on a plate along with other delicatessen. Be careful not to lose your head though!
Our body in the brain
This “body map” represents the processing of touch stimuli in the brain.
The distorted human figure illustrates that different parts of the body are unequally sensitive to touch stimuli due to a varying number of touch receptors. How would we look if the sensitiveness of our body parts would correspond to their size? The Homunculus shows it! An interactive computer based station invites you to explore more about the homunculus and gives insight into issues such as phantom pain and brain plasticity.
Our perception is not always reliable. However, there are ways out of this problem!
This exhibit lets you find out how to gain knowledge with the help of scientific methods. After typing a certain number sequence you will get seemingly random positive or negative feedback. Now, have a go - establish a hypothesis and systematically test it by playfully imitating scientific research.
Followed by a pair of eyes
Our brain censors what we see.
If you look at a concave model of a human face, you nevertheless get the impression of a normal, three-dimensional face. Naturally, there are no concave faces. This is why our brain ‘censors’ our visual of the hollow face and re-establishes it to something that we are used to seeing. The result is a perplexing movement illusion!
From the sound to the nerve signal
This model visualises the functionality of our hearing organ.
Different frequencies stimulate the cochlea in different regions which becomes easily understandable with the help of this interactive model.
How do the hearing impaired hear?
Hear for yourself how different hearing impairments impact on your acoustic perception!
Simulations of possible hearing impairments make it clear that hard of hearing people do not perceive sounds quieter, instead they find it difficult to perceive the same range of frequencies.
Disturbing silence, relieving noise
Noise can be an advantage!
Perhaps you have already experienced this. During a phone call, even short interruptions make it almost impossible to understand the person on the other end. This simulation shows that noise can be amazingly helpful for complementing missing acoustic signals. Insert gaps in a soundtrack and fill them with either silence or noise. You will experience an amazing difference!