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Culture

An Early Look at the New “Mind Bending” Exhibit at the AMNH

By Rob Grams

An Early Look at the New “Mind Bending” Exhibit at the AMNH
An exhibition that will challenge everything you know about your 5 senses opens in NYC at the American Museum of Natural History today, November 20. Take an early look at this once-in-a-lifetime Exhibit.

New York City is a full-on assault on our senses …in the summer it’s certainly an assault on our sense of smell. The five senses, (sight, smell, hearing, touch, and taste) form the basis for a new exhibit opening today at American Museum of Natural History.

Our Senses: An Immersive Experience” is a mind-bending new exhibition heading to the American Museum of Natural History. Prepare for a sensory overload, here’s everything you need to know. The “funhouse-like” exhibit will delve into our senses, specifically how they can deceive our perceptions and how they have evolved over time.

The exhibition will expand your understanding of how and why your senses have evolved the way they have and put them in context and opens to the public today, November 20 through to January 6, 2019.

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Our Senses: An Immersive Experience” will take you through a series of 11 interactive galleries what will put all of your senses through their paces. Check out images from the exhibition and detailed info courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History.

In the highly experiential exhibition Our Senses: An Immersive Experience, 11 funhouse-like galleries playfully dare visitors to rely on their senses—and then reveal how and why what we perceive is not all, or exactly, what’s occurring around us. ©AMNH/R. Mickens
In the highly experiential exhibition Our Senses: An Immersive Experience, 11 funhouse-like galleries playfully dare visitors to rely on their senses—and then reveal how and why what we perceive is not all, or exactly, what’s occurring around us.
©AMNH/R. Mickens
Seeing
In this gallery, decorated walls lit with an alternating series of colored lights reveal just how much a world bathed in white light can differ from one illuminated by blue, green, or red. ©AMNH/R. Mickens
In this gallery, decorated walls lit with an alternating series of colored lights reveal just how much a world bathed in white light can differ from one illuminated by blue, green, or red.
©AMNH/R. Mickens
Detecting
Visitors explore an oversized garden through the eyes of a bee or a butterfly. For insects looking to feed on the nectar and pollen in the center of blossoms, flowers appear like enormous targets, with ultraviolet marks that help them find a place to land and to enjoy a meal.  ©AMNH/R. Mickens
Visitors explore an oversized garden through the eyes of a bee or a butterfly. For insects looking to feed on the nectar and pollen in the center of blossoms, flowers appear like enormous targets, with ultraviolet marks that help them find a place to land and to enjoy a meal. 
©AMNH/R. Mickens
Orange coneflower Rudbeckia fulgida
In this gallery, decorated walls lit with an alternating series of colored lights reveal just how much a world bathed in white light can differ from one illuminated by blue, green, or red. ©AMNH/R. Mickens
In this gallery, decorated walls lit with an alternating series of colored lights reveal just how much a world bathed in white light can differ from one illuminated by blue, green, or red.
©AMNH/R. Mickens
Infrared viewer
An infrared viewer allows visitors to hunt like a snake and find prey by the heat they generate. ©AMNH/R. Mickens
An infrared viewer allows visitors to hunt like a snake and find prey by the heat they generate.
©AMNH/R. Mickens
Secret sounds
Humans evolved to detect only certain frequencies, while some animals, including mice and rats, communicate at ranges we can’t perceive without the aid of technology. Visitors turn a dial to hear a variety of animal sounds normally outside the range of our detection, revealing soundbite calls from a fin whale, forest elephant, house mouse, and an Indiana bat. ©AMNH/R. Mickens
Humans evolved to detect only certain frequencies, while some animals, including mice and rats, communicate at ranges we can’t perceive without the aid of technology. Visitors turn a dial to hear a variety of animal sounds normally outside the range of our detection, revealing soundbite calls from a fin whale, forest elephant, house mouse, and an Indiana bat.
©AMNH/R. Mickens
Hearing
We hear with the help of some 15,000 cells arranged in rows deep inside our ears—and with our brain’s selective filter. High-pitched sounds trigger cells near the outer part of the cochlea (the spiral cavity of the inner ear), while deeper sounds activate cells farther in. Visitors push buttons to hear a sound, and see where hair cells in the cochlea respond. ©AMNH/R. Mickens
We hear with the help of some 15,000 cells arranged in rows deep inside our ears—and with our brain’s selective filter. High-pitched sounds trigger cells near the outer part of the cochlea (the spiral cavity of the inner ear), while deeper sounds activate cells farther in. Visitors push buttons to hear a sound, and see where hair cells in the cochlea respond.
©AMNH/R. Mickens
Selecting
Visitors try a variety of experiences that reveal how our brains are wired to prioritize certain signals and focus on particular cues and details, such as movement or human faces. Visitors touch sensors on models of a coyote, human, and dolphin heads, activating a digital display representing the neural pathways associated with these senses. ©AMNH/R. Mickens
Visitors try a variety of experiences that reveal how our brains are wired to prioritize certain signals and focus on particular cues and details, such as movement or human faces. Visitors touch sensors on models of a coyote, human, and dolphin heads, activating a digital display representing the neural pathways associated with these senses.
©AMNH/R. Mickens
Balance
In one gallery, visitors discover what happens when our senses disagree: though their feet will feel a flat floor beneath them, their eyes will see walls and a floor that appear to curve and ripple. ©AMNH/R. Mickens
In one gallery, visitors discover what happens when our senses disagree: though their feet will feel a flat floor beneath them, their eyes will see walls and a floor that appear to curve and ripple.
©AMNH/R. Mickens
Balance interactive
To keep you balanced, your brain combines what you see and feel with information you receive from organs in your inner ears. These organs track your movements and relay signals to your brain, eyes, and other parts of your nervous system, helping you adjust your muscles so you don’t fall. Visitors can manipulate head-shaped knobs on this interactive to watch a model of the three curving tubes in our inner ear, called the semicircular canals, track several different head motions. ©AMNH/R. Mickens
To keep you balanced, your brain combines what you see and feel with information you receive from organs in your inner ears. These organs track your movements and relay signals to your brain, eyes, and other parts of your nervous system, helping you adjust your muscles so you don’t fall. Visitors can manipulate head-shaped knobs on this interactive to watch a model of the three curving tubes in our inner ear, called the semicircular canals, track several different head motions.
©AMNH/R. Mickens
Correcting
A series of activities allows visitors to explore what our brains are actively creating, piecing together inputs from sensory organs, filling in the gaps, and even overruling our senses when needed. When an image is incomplete or inconclusive, our brain determines and shows us the most likely interpretation. Visitors can look through a pair of goggles that upend the information the brain receives from the eyes—when hands move up, the brain sees them moving down—making it harder to handle objects and put them in their proper place. But as long as there is a consistent relationship between what you see and where your hands go, your brain will figure it out—often in less than a minute. ©AMNH/C. Chesek
A series of activities allows visitors to explore what our brains are actively creating, piecing together inputs from sensory organs, filling in the gaps, and even overruling our senses when needed. When an image is incomplete or inconclusive, our brain determines and shows us the most likely interpretation. Visitors can look through a pair of goggles that upend the information the brain receives from the eyes—when hands move up, the brain sees them moving down—making it harder to handle objects and put them in their proper place. But as long as there is a consistent relationship between what you see and where your hands go, your brain will figure it out—often in less than a minute.
©AMNH/C. Chesek
Sensing through Culture
A case of cultural objects from the Museum’s Anthropology Collections explores the traditional Chinese five-element theory. Artifacts include a monkey puppet toy (linked to the element Metal); a Korean fish-shaped water vessel (Wood); a jade pig paperweight used to secure the delicate paper used in Chinese painting and calligraphy (Water); miniature clay fruits purchased in a Chinese New Year market around 1900 (Earth); and a red carved lacquer bowl (Fire), associated with joy and happiness and bearing a “double happiness character” representing marriage. ©AMNH/C. Chesek
A case of cultural objects from the Museum’s Anthropology Collections explores the traditional Chinese five-element theory. Artifacts include a monkey puppet toy (linked to the element Metal); a Korean fish-shaped water vessel (Wood); a jade pig paperweight used to secure the delicate paper used in Chinese painting and calligraphy (Water); miniature clay fruits purchased in a Chinese New Year market around 1900 (Earth); and a red carved lacquer bowl (Fire), associated with joy and happiness and bearing a “double happiness character” representing marriage.
©AMNH/C. Chesek
Touch
Our sense of touch isn’t just one sense—it’s many, with nerve endings to feel hot, cold, extreme temperatures, pressures, textures, pain, even itch. Our brain knits together information from all of these sensations to create a unified perception. Three-dimensional models of specialized touch receptors show how complex our touch system really is, with different types of touch signals traveling from our skin to our brain along different pathways. ©AMNH/C. Chesek
Our sense of touch isn’t just one sense—it’s many, with nerve endings to feel hot, cold, extreme temperatures, pressures, textures, pain, even itch. Our brain knits together information from all of these sensations to create a unified perception. Three-dimensional models of specialized touch receptors show how complex our touch system really is, with different types of touch signals traveling from our skin to our brain along different pathways.
©AMNH/C. Chesek
Smell test
A smell test invites visitors to unpack the fragrance notes in a complex scent, showing that we perceive as a particular odor is actually a symphony of smells.  ©AMNH/C. Chesek
A smell test invites visitors to unpack the fragrance notes in a complex scent, showing that we perceive as a particular odor is actually a symphony of smells. 
©AMNH/C. Chesek
Live presenter
A live presentation addresses why our senses are essential to our survival, how the senses and world views of other species differ from ours, and what’s truly distinctive about human perception, including sensory integration, language, art, and music. ©AMNH/C. Chesek
A live presentation addresses why our senses are essential to our survival, how the senses and worldviews of other species differ from ours, and what’s truly distinctive about human perception, including sensory integration, language, art, and music.
©AMNH/C. Chesek
Train a Brain
Computers can learn to perceive the world around them using artificial neural networks—computing systems that mimic the way human brains learn. Visitors are invited to arrange puzzle-like pieces atop a sensor to create pictures of common, everyday objects, such as a butterfly, house, or car, and challenge the computer to guess what it is based on prior input. Over time, the computer records the different ways individuals choose to create images of the various objects and becomes more adept at recognizing them. ©AMNH/C. Chesek
Computers can learn to perceive the world around them using artificial neural networks—computing systems that mimic the way human brains learn. Visitors are invited to arrange puzzle-like pieces atop a sensor to create pictures of common, everyday objects, such as a butterfly, house, or car, and challenge the computer to guess what it is based on prior input. Over time, the computer records the different ways individuals choose to create images of the various objects and becomes more adept at recognizing them.
©AMNH/C. Chesek