Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sticky Business

It's been a refreshing break these past couple months, but map making has once again swung into high gear. In order to get back into the swing of things I've been taking a little retrospective at my old optical illusion coffee table books, especially Adventures with Impossible Objects by Bruno Ernst. While getting myself back into the proper mindset for this project I realized that I've overlooked something pretty interesting.

Ladies and gentlemen: Oscar Reutersvärd.

Born in 1915, Reutersvärd has often been called the "father of the impossible figure". Over the course of his career he created over 2500 paintings of impossible objects, each of them as isometric projections giving the illusion of depth. While he's often overshadowed by his more well known contemporary, one Mr. Maurits Cornelis Escher, he had a long, rich career. His most notable contribution is probably the impossible tribar, which he created in 1934. It caused a stir in the mathematical community when it first appeared, but slowly faded into obscurity. Later, in 1950 Roger Penrose accidentally reinvented the tribar and published a paper on it, only to realize later that Reutersvärd already created that particular impossible object sixteen years ago. Nevertheless, we still call it the Penrose Triangle.

Oscar and Penrose stayed in contact after their chance meeting, bouncing ideas off each other since. Then, in 1982, his home country of Sweden recognized his work with a series of stamps. Sadly they were only in print for about two years, with most copies being destroyed after a change in stamp value. Now long out of print, they're considered extremely collectable. Observe:

It's true, it really is hip to be square.

What at first glance appears to be an ordinary tribar morphs into an unprecedented eightbar. Extravagant!

Be honest, that would make one heck of a bookshelf.

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