Illusions With A Message

Progress is an illusion. Original drawing by Donald Simanek.

Display graphs have one primary purpose--to communicate a desired illusion. They are used by politicians, advertisers, corporate spokespersons, social activists and other shady characters to enhance reality, suppress inconvenient information, make mountains from molehills and gild the garbage. This particular example looks as if it shows an upward trend . But if you look carefully at the top surfaces of the bars, you see that the trend is neither up or down, but fluctuates a bit around a steady value.

Don't bother me. I'm playing with my mental blocks.

This is a classic "Who's in front" illusion. If you move around the figure clockwise, each successive cube seems to be in front of the previous one, and you can do this forever. This is the direction favored by optimists. But if you move around the figure counter-clockwise, each successive cube seems to be behind the previous one, and you can do this forever. This is the direction favored by pessimists. Whichever direction you favor, you only have the illusion of change, for you are actually getting nowhere. Just like real life.

Make a mesh of things with creative engineering.

Original illusion drawings by Donald Simanek, who will, for the greater good of mankind, gladly relinquish all rights to the idea to anyone who can find a way to use it to improve the performance of machines. The virtues of this gear system include very intimate meshing of the gear teeth, to reduce wear to zero. This is accomplished by an innovative principle, heretofore never used in machinery: Each tooth vanishes as it fills the gap between the teeth of the other gear. As with all new and innovative ideas, some problems still remain to be solved, including that of devising a process for machining the gears.

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This revision: 2001. Reformatted 2010.