07 March 2007

Gathering for Gardner


I will be on field work starting tomorrow afternoon til Sunday, so I'm making my weekend post today.

So what's the title about? Mr. Martin Gardner is an American mathematician and science writer with specialization in recreational mathematics (I'm quoting this from wikipedia). Recreational Mathematics? Mathematics for fun? Sounds impossible, but he is quite a popular guy in the field of puzzles and illusions. Simply magical. Well... don't worry if you haven't heard his name before. It's my first time too.

Which brings me back to more than a decade ago when I visited Disneyland in Anaheim, California. We trooped early to the side of the lake to get good seats for the fireworks show that Disney is so popular for. But it was hours still before the show and while my companions sat comfortably, I decided to venture on my own. I chanced upon the Haunted Mansion and since it was the nearest attraction to the lake, decided to take the ride. I was with a small group when we entered the lobby of the mansion. As we waited for the main door to open, the lights suddenly went off! Overhead, the windows flashed from the lightning outside and it would momentarily illuminate the dome, on the center of which hung a man, very much dead with ropes on his neck! Strangers though we were, we huddled together and each time the lightning struck, it seemed the dome was coming down on us! After what seemed like a long time, the lights got restored, the dead guy's gone, and the dome is waaay up there.

We were then ushered to a door which leads to a narrow, circular staircase. By the wall are a row of frames with portraits of turn-of-the-century dudes. At first glance, there's nothing really peculiar about them, until you look at them while you walk. Their heads are moving and looking right at you as you descend the staircase! I looked at my companions and they, too, were seeing the same illusion! How can that be? The same photo staring at each and every one of us?

Now how they did that has been a mystery to me. The hanging man and lightning trick is somewhat easier to explain, but the photos with their bulging eyes gazing at you? Finally, after over a decade, I know the answer!

The dragon (pictured above) was made in celebration of a gathering for Gardner, hence the title on the pedestal (duh). The dragon is a visual illusion. When you look at the dinosaur and move about, the dinosaur's head would seem to move and gaze back at you! There's a video (in wmv format) in the site showing how the dragon ought to work.

And as an additional treat, a template of the dragon (pdf format, with instructions) is freely downloadable from the website!

I had printed one for myself last week but I had a huge error in the construction. The head is supposed to be concave. I'll make another one over the weekend and make it work this time.

Visit this site today!
http://www.grand-illusions.com/opticalillusions/dragon_illusion/

There are a lot of other puzzles there as well for your amusement and amazement.

So until next week, have fun with the dragon, and have a magical weekend ahead!

Photo credit: Grand Illusions
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...