Look around you. Is the scene you see “real”? Or a story you made up inside your head? What about atoms? Are they real? What about love? Physics tells us that familiar space and time are illusions (while black holes and quantum weirdness are real). Artists reveal deep truths by pretending. What does it mean to say something is “real,” anyway? Physicist Steven Weinberg says it means we are granting it a measure of respect.

For this month’s Categorically Not! we are delighted to have Bay Area artist Bob Miller, whose explorations into the nature of light, seeing and believing are embodied in museum exhibits through-out the world. Bob will TALK A LITTLE about, and SHOW A LOT (capitals his) about what we're REALLY seeing when we open our eyes. It really has a LOT to do with "The Wholeness of Seeing and Being," he says.

From a scientific perspective, neuroscientist Richard Brown will demonstrate several engaging and powerful illusions currently being studied by scientists, present current views of why our brains evolved to produce illusions, and discuss the significance of illusions in our and understanding of "reality." Richard studied neuroscience at Caltech and UCSF, and researched human color vision at UCSD's Center for Brain and Cognition before moving to the Exploratorium in 1998, where he continues to develop interactive exhibits about perception, behavior and minds.

For a literary trip behind the looking glass, Pushcart prize winner Aimee Bender will lead us in a group writing exercise, as well as read and talk about her reality redefining fiction. Aimee is the author of The Girl in the Flammable Skirt, An Invisible Sign of My Own, and Willful Creatures, which feature a girl with a fire hand, a character obsessed with numbers, and pumpkinheads who give birth to children with the recessive gene that produces a head made of an iron. Aimee has published in Harper's, Granta, The Paris Review and is heard on This American Life. She teaches creative writing at USC

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