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Perspective and Illusion

34 35 ImpossIble objecTs and a fable for the certain A king, debating the nature of reality with a sage, decided to show him the objective nature of truth. He set up a gallows on the bridge into his castle, and stationed two guards to question people there. If they told the truth they could pass, but if they lied they were to be hung. In this way truth would be upheld. The following day, the sage approached the castle. The guards asked him his business. I am on my way to be hanged, he said. They scratched their heads. If we let him through he will have lied, said one. But if we hang him, he will have been telling the truth, said the other. Thus the paradoxical and relative nature of things was shown to the king. Impossible objects similarly confound our certainty of the world by impossibly contradicting themselves. Some only work from one point of view. Like the paradoxical objects of the quantum realm, they neatly demonstrate that oversimplistic perceptions of the world are almost certainly narrow, cartoonlike, and illusory, and that more subtle perceptions may be helpful. Above left One of M.C. Eschers 18981972 famous impossible buildings, here his Belvedere lithograph from 1958. Above right Three impossible figures based on the work of Swedish artist Oscar Reutersvard 19152002 who drew impossible objects throughout his life. Right Shepards elephant looks normal at first glance, but is it really okay Why does the brain struggle so hard to make sense of it
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