Introductions and Illusions

Hello world. My name is Ryan and I’ll be one of the regular contributors to this mad endeavour.

A brief introduction: I’m Canadian, I’m a grad student, I’m an artist and I’m a huge nerd. I love visual art and spend a great deal of time creating, studying and absorbing it. I was basically born a skeptic and I love the idea of the skeptical community finding an artistic voice.

The sort of things that I’m going to be blogging about as much as possible are art that encourages critical thought, futurism, and art that has been created or made possible by science and technology.

For my first post I thought that I’d illustrate what I mean by art that encourages creative thought. Have a look:

Clearly based on M.C. Escher’s Waterfall, this is a brilliant piece of optical wizardry. Sadly, my German is weak so all I can tell you about the creator is that he called himself mcwolles and he studied design at Fachhochschule Trier. Any polyglots out there that could get more detail would be much appreciated.

What does this sculpture have to do with skepticism?

Illusions like this force us to question our perceptions. They require the viewer to accept that their perceived reality can be flawed and exploited. This is the easiest way that I know of to demonstrate to someone that they can be fooled and get them to engage in critical analysis to figure out what cognitive trick is being played on them. The best part is that most people do this reflexively on interacting with an obvious illusion and enjoy the experience.

I put forward that there is no other way of getting someone to admit that they are fundamentally flawed and have them be excited by the experience. Everyone suddenly becomes a good skeptic when engaging with an illusion… as soon as they realize that it is one (Check out the viewer comments).

Unrelated note: Suggestions are always welcome; the world is a big place and I can’t find all the coolest stuff on my own.

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Ryan Consell is a skeptical artist, tap-dancing armorer, juggling scientist, rock-climbing writer, sword-fighting math teacher, uni-cycling gamer, fire-spinning academic and devout nerd. He has a Masters in Applied science, most of a bachelors in Fine Arts, and a very short attention span. He is the author of How Not to Poach a Unicorn and half of the masochistic comedy duo that is Creative Dissonance. Follow him on Twitter @StudentofWhim


  1. March 1, 2011 at 3:15 pm

    I’ve always loved that illusion and I think it’s fantastic that someone built one.
    I saw this video last week and I just kept staring at the thing trying to figure out the perspective and the build of the contraption.

  2. March 1, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    The only clues I’ve been able to get are how his shadows play off of it. I’ve watched this a dozen times and still can’t get the illusion to break.

  3. March 2, 2011 at 1:31 am

    Wow, NICE! I’m still trying to wrap my head around it, but I imagine there some forced perspective going on. Its still an absolutely wonderful illusion.

  4. March 2, 2011 at 2:14 am

    Wait, what? I’ve never seen this done? I just watched the video once, and I can’t wrap my brain around the fact that the water runs by itself to a point from where it can FALL FREELY to the starting point.

  5. March 3, 2011 at 10:36 am

    It doesn’t. The water drips out onto the floor. That’s why the concrete is all wet. Between the perspective and the construction it only looks that way. The “top” is actually the lower part of the ramp while the wheel is the higher.

  6. March 3, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Good eye on the wet concrete. You might be right.

  7. March 4, 2011 at 12:41 am

    Wow. I still can’t break the illusion. I can see how the ramp slopes down and away, but I can’t locate the wheel. What’s spinning the wheel and how come the near end of the ramp seems to have water even after the guy stops pouring?

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