Watch Me Do Something Impossible In Three Totally Easy Steps

by ROBERT KRULWICH, on NPR, August 08, 2013 7:54 AM

Here's what the Swedish artist Oscar Reutersvard did. In 1934, he got himself a pen and paper and drew four cubes, like this.

Then he drew some more, like this.
And, then — and this is where he got mischievous — he drew one more set, like this.
He called this final version "Impossible Triangle of Opus 1 No. 293aa." I don't know what the "293aa" is about, but he was right about "impossible." An arrangement like this cannot take place in the physical universe as we know it.

You follow the bottom row along with your eyes, then add another row, but when the third row pops in, where are you?

Nowhere you have ever been before. At some step in the process you've been tricked, but it's very, very hard to say where the trick is, because what's happening is your brain wants to see all these boxes as units of a single triangle and while the parts simply won't gel, your brain insists on seeing them as a whole. It's YOU whose playing the trick, and you can't un-be you. So you are your own prisoner.

At first, this feels like a neurological trap, like a lie you can't not believe.

But when you think about for a bit, it's the opposite, it's a release. Twenty years later, the mathematician/physicist Roger Penrose (and his dad, psychologist Lionel Penrose) did it again. They hadn't seen Reutersvard's triangle. Theirs was drawn in perspective, which makes it even more challenging. Here's my version of their Penrose Triangle.
What's cool about this? I'm going to paraphrase science writer John D. Barrow, who has written about these triangles in several places: We know that these drawings can't exist in the physical world. Even as we look at them, particularly when we look at them, we know they are impossible. And yet, we can imagine them anyway. Our brains, it turns out, are not prisoners of the world we live in; we can fly free! We can, any time we like, create the impossible.

These triangles prove it. We don't feel crazy when we look at them, we laugh. We sense we've just stolen something or seen something that can't be out there in the world, and yet, here it is! As John Barrow puts it:
The impossible is not necessarily something that lies outside our mental experience even if it falls outside our physical experience. We can create mental worlds which are quite different from the one we experience. 
You find versions of "impossible triangles" in M.C. Escher's drawings, of course, but variants turn up in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland stories, in Jorge Luis Borges, in Breugel, in Magritte. We may be the only creatures on Earth that can break the rules this way. One of the most wonderful thing about the human mind, I think, is it can contradict itself, like this:

John D. Barrow has written about impossible triangles in his 1999 book Impossibility: The Limits of Science and the Science of Limits. He's also included some in his picture book Cosmic Imagery: Key Images in the History of Science. He's a professor of mathematical sciences and director of the Millennium Mathematics Project at Cambridge University.


Task 06 grades are completed

I have finished looking at all the task 06 presentations for the 1230 session and have uploaded the finished gradesheets.  I have also just put the grades into Connect Carolina.

I wish I had the time to do a more personalized commentary on everyone's presentation, but that is not the case. If anyone is curious, I would be happy to go over your presentation with you in detail and offer some thoughts about various components. But this won't happen until January 2012.

Be safe over the break and have a wonderful holiday season.


Task 06 grades

I have finished the task 06 grades for the 0800 session. Your final grades have been turned into Connect Carolina and your gradesheets are in the normal places.

I will be working this weekend to grade the 0930 and 1230 sessions and will be back with a commentary on all presentations after I am done.


Information Overload

Hi Everyone,
I thought this was in interesting article from the New York Times discussing whether electronics and gadgets evolve too fast for us to keep up.
Also, here is the link to the story I shared about Facebook, email, and spamming. I just realized I forgot to post it.




FYI ... I am currently not in possession of three final presentations. If I haven't sent you a confirmation email and you don't have a link to the presentation on your web site, I don't have it.


Task 05 grades have been posted

You may retrieve your gradesheets to see your task 05 grades. I will be going back through my email to catch up on anything you asked me to take a second glance at. If you want me to re-look something, be sure I know to do it.

Issues with Mac vs. Windows Powerpoint

To my fellow Mac users (and actually anyone who is having issues with video in their presentations):

I wanted to incorporate a video clip in my presentation. The Mac version of PowerPoint (2011) doesn't have the "Package for CD" option, but after searching online, I found that many people stated that the option wasn't necessary with this version of the software because it did it automatically. I thought my problems were over. My video clip worked beautifully on my computer, but as soon as I tried to play my recorded presentation on a PC, the video clip refused to play. However, the audio was still in the clip when I selected and played it.

So....the short story is, you need a converter to convert your clip to something with PC friendly codecs. I used a free program called Free Convert YouTube FLV to AVI, WMV, etc. This converter doesn't just convert YouTube videos, it will convert files you already have on your computer. I converted mine to WMV and it works on both my Mac and PCs. If only PCs were as smart as Macs....

I inserted the converted video into my presentation and re-recorded the slide (which you should do by copying the needed slide into a new presentation, recording, and then copying that slide into your original presentation. Don't try to re-record just one slide!! It will end badly.). Then I got onto a PC and did "Package for PC" just in case. If you do not have video clips in your Mac made presentation, you don't have to, but I did just in case. Good luck!