The art of anamorphic illusions


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The art of anamorphic illusions

The art of anamorphic illusions

One of the more popular optical illusions in art history is anamorphosis. It’s a mind-bending form of art that dates back to the 1500s, and is still causing people to cock their heads and blink today. Take a look at the weird designs that artists come up with when they smush their own paintings.

Anamorphosis is an ancient painting technique. It may actually be the ancient painting technique, because some art historians say that it was used in the cave paintings of Lascaux. Anamorphosis is distortion of an image so that it appears in perspective only from one angle. In Lascaux, supposedly the horses and bison painted on the walls are distorted so that they seem in perfect perspective when looked at from the floor below. Michelangelo’s David is sculpted so that the head and upper body is proportionately larger than the lower body, giving the illusion of a normal body from those looking up at it. But that’s the invisible form of anamorphosis – the kind at work when people don’t want you to notice it. It’s much more fun when they do want you to see what they’ve done.

The most famous instance of anamorphosis is undoubtedly Hans Holbein’s painting, The Ambassadors. Painted in 1533, it shows two opulently dressed men standing in a room filled with the symbols of empire. Globes, sundials, astronomical instruments, all done in Holbein’s characteristic stiff and slightly flattened style. The painting seems to be marred by a white and gray smudge across the bottom. Only as person walks down and to the side does the smudge resolve itself into a three-dimensional looking skull. The painting, then, is meant to be viewed from two different angles; straight on and staring at humankind’s achievements, and from down below, remembering how all people, great and small, end up. It’s said that the painting was meant to hang in a stairwell, and that as people walked down the stairs, they would see the skull suddenly snap together as they passed the painting. 

Another theory is Holbein was showing off that he could do more than one style of art, because anamorphic images were doing a brisk business which lasted for the next few hundred years.. Anamorphosis filled needs that regular painting and decoration simply couldn’t. One of those was practical. The most famous anamorphic image in architecture is the dome of Saint Ignazio, painted originally by Andrea Pozzo. The dome itself doesn’t exist. The devout brothers had built the church, but sadly the cupola they expected to build never materialized. Tired of looking up at a disappointment, the brothers hired Pozzo to paint a fake dome interior on canvas. In most areas, the dome looks strange and distorted. There is a certain spot, though, that makes the dome look like the giant, vaulting thing that had been originally envisioned by the church. The ceiling also features frescoes that make the relatively low ceiling look like a much taller arch. Today, we’re more likely to see anamorphosis on the ground. If you’ve ever seen those chalk paintings that make it look, from a certain angle, like the sidewalk is crumbling into lava or characters are coming up out of the ground, you’re seeing the modern version of the Ignazio dome.

Anamorphosis was also the 3D tech of its time. It allowed objects to be projected in such a way that they had depth that they couldn’t acquire any other way. To no one’s surprise, the paintings that made full use of this kind of tech were nudes. A painting would be painted of a nude with an appendage – usually a hand or a foot – painted in an anamorphic style. A reflective pillar or ball would then be put on one part of the painting, and the appendage would be reflected in it, in proper perspective. This made it look like the nude was extending a hand or foot to the viewer. Other more conventional paintings were just messes of smashed color, with a pillar to be placed in the middle. In the pillar, the painting would be reflected in perfect perspective, giving it all depth. With the right tones, the painting itself would be indecipherable until the pillar was placed, making it the secret of whoever held its accessories. 

For the most part, anamorphosis is now a novelty in art. There are desk toys and children’s activity books that are made to showcase it. Occasionally though, like Holbein, modern painters will showcase their style and ability to paint perspective.

Top Image:Myrna Hoffman

Via Science Blogs and What Is.

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NASA: Strange and sudden massive melt in Greenland


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NASA: Strange and sudden massive melt in Greenland

Associated PressBy SETH BORENSTEIN | Associated Press – 16 hrs ago

These undated handout images provided by NASA shows the extent of surface melt over Greenland’s ice sheet on July 8, left, and July 12, right. Measurements from three satellites showed that on July 8,

These undated handout images provided by NASA shows the extent of surface melt over Greenland’s ice sheet on July 8, left, and July 12, right. Measurements from three satellites showed that on July 8, about 40 percent of the ice sheet had undergone thawing at or near the surface. In just a few days, the melting had dramatically accelerated and an estimated 97 percent of the ice sheet surface had thawed by July 12. In the image, the areas classified as “probable melt” (light pink) correspond to those sites where at least one satellite detected surface melting. The areas classified as “melt” (dark pink) correspond to sites where two or three satellites detected surface melting. Nearly every part of the massive Greenland ice sheet suddenly and strangely melted a bit this month in a freak event that concerned scientists had never witnessed before. NASA says three different satellites saw what it calls unprecedented melting from July 8 to July 12. Most of the thick ice remains, but what was unusual was the widespread area where some melting occurred. (AP Photo/Nicolo E. DiGirolamo, SSAI/NASA GSFC, and Jesse Allen, NASA Earth Observatory

WASHINGTON (AP) — Nearly all of Greenland’s massive ice sheet suddenly started melting a bit this month, a freak event that surprised scientists.

Even Greenland’s coldest and highest place, Summit station, showed melting. Ice core records show that last happened in 1889 and occurs about once every 150 years.

Three satellites show what NASA calls unprecedented melting of the ice sheet that blankets the island, starting on July 8 and lasting four days. Most of the thick ice remains. While some ice usually melts during the summer, what was unusual was that the melting happened in a flash and over a widespread area.

“You literally had this wave of warm air wash over the Greenland ice sheet and melt it,” NASA ice scientist Tom Wagner said Tuesday.

The ice melt area went from 40 percent of the ice sheet to 97 percent in four days, according to NASA. Until now, the most extensive melt seen by satellites in the past three decades was about 55 percent.

Wagner said researchers don’t know how much of Greenland’s ice melted, but it seems to be freezing again.

“When we see melt in places that we haven’t seen before, at least in a long period of time, it makes you sit up and ask what’s happening?” NASA chief scientist Waleed Abdalati said. It’s a big signal, the meaning of which we’re going to sort out for years to come.”

About the same time, a giant iceberg broke off from the Petermann Glacier in northern Greenland. And the National Snow and Ice Data Center on Tuesday announced that the area filled with Arctic sea ice continues near a record low.

Wagner and other scientists said because this Greenland-wide melting has happened before they can’t yet determine if this is a natural rare event or one triggered by man-made global warming. But they do know that the edges of Greenland’s ice sheets have already been thinning because of climate change.

Summer in Greenland has been freakishly warm so far. That’s because of frequent high pressure systems that have parked over the island, bringing warm clear weather that melts ice and snow, explained University of Georgia climatologist Thomas Mote.

He and others say it’s similar to the high pressure systems that have parked over the American Midwest bringing record-breaking warmth and drought.

Ohio State University ice scientist Jason Box, who returned Tuesday from a three-week visit, said he ditched his cold weather gear for the cotton pants that he normally dons in Nevada.

“It was sunny and warm and all the locals were talking about how sunny it was,” Box said after getting off a plane. “Beyond T-shirt weather.”

___

Online:

NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/greenland-melt.html

Ancient finds


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Ancient finds

A look at the world of the past, through ancient ruins and archaeological discoveries.

http://news.yahoo.com/photos/ancient-finds-slideshow/

Ancient finds

Glasses, a metate (mealing stone) and a sea shell fragment are seen at a burial chamber at the archeological site of Atzompa, in the Mexican state of Oaxaca in this undated handout photo released by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) on July 18, 2012. A funerary complex, consisting of three burial chambers, was discovered at the pre-Hispanic site of Atzompa in Oaxaca. The discovery of the complex, which is more than 1,100 years old, is important because it was located inside a building designed exclusively to house a series of tombs, which are placed vertically, one above another, and unlike the ones found so far, they are not underground, according to INAH.

Ancient finds

Members of the media take pictures of archeological pieces are presented by the Guatemalan Authorities in Guatemala City June 13, 2012. According to the authorities, 440 archeological pieces were recovered in 2008 after they were sold to an antique store in Chichicastenango, in the Quiche region, north of the country

Ancient finds

Residents stand near what is believed to be the bone of a mammoth, found three days ago at the dry river bed in the municipality of Manuel Doblado, in the Mexican state of Guanajuato June 12, 2012. Authorities from this municipality have cordoned off the area while awaiting the arrival of experts from the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) to verify the authenticity of the fossil, according to local media.

Ancient finds

A picture of what is believed to be the tusk of a mammoth, found three days ago at the dry river bed in the municipality of Manuel Doblado, in the Mexican state of Guanajuato June 12, 2012.

Ancient finds

Gold coins and the ceramic jug in which they were found hidden are displayed at the Arsuf cliff-top coastal ruins, 15 km (9 miles) from Tel Aviv, July 9, 2012. The 1,000-year-old hoard of gold coins has been unearthed at the famous Crusader battleground where Christian and Muslim forces once fought for control of the Holy Land, Israeli archaeologists said on July 11, 2012.

Ancient finds

An Israel Nature and Parks Authority employee displays gold coins found hidden in a ceramic jug at the Arsuf cliff-top coastal ruins, 15 km (9 miles) from Tel Aviv July 9, 2012. The 1,000-year-old treasure was unearthed at the famous Crusader battleground where Christian and Muslim forces once fought for control of the Holy Land.

Ancient finds

An archeologist brushes off dust at a burial chamber at the archeological site of Atzompa, in the Mexican state of Oaxaca in this undated handout photo released by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) on July 18, 2012.

Ancient finds

A view of the building (top) where archeologists found a burial chamber at the archeological site of Atzompa, in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, is seen in this undated handout photo released by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) July 18, 2012.

Ancient finds

A  view of a burial chamber at the archeological site of Atzompa, in the Mexican state of Oaxaca is seen in this undated handout photo released by the National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) July 18, 2012.

Ancient finds

Archeological pieces are presented by the Guatemalan Authorities in Guatemala City June 13, 2012. According the authorities, 440 archeological pieces were recovered in 2008 after they were sold to an antique store in Chichicastenango, in the Quiche region, north of the country.

Ancient finds

Journalists and policemen enter the Sednaya monastery built in 547 AD, north of Damascus, January 31, 2012, during a tour organized by the Ministry of Information to see the damage caused by a shell fired at the monastery on Sunday. Officials say the shell was fired by rebels causing a one-meter hole in the wall of one of the convent’s rooms.

Ancient finds

Performers wearing traditional costumes look out from a small door as they prepare to take part in an ancient Qing Dynasty ceremony in which emperors prayed for good harvest and fortune, during the opening of the temple fair at Ditan Park, also known as the Temple of Earth, in Beijing January 22, 2012.

Ancient finds

A performer dressed as a Qing dynasty emperor prepares to pray in an ancient Qing Dynasty ceremony in which emperors prayed for good harvest and fortune, during the opening of the temple fair at Ditan Park, also known as the Temple of Earth, in Beijing January 22, 2012.

Ancient finds

An interior view of the Civil War submarine H.L. Hunley at Clemson University’s Warren Lasch Conservation Center in North Charleston, South Carolina January 12, 2012

Ancient finds

A  member of the conservation crew walks beside the Civil War submarine H.L. Hunley at Clemson University’s Warren Lasch Conservation Center in North Charleston, South Carolina January 12, 2012. The Hunley was the secret weapon of the Confederacy and the world’s first submarine to sink an enemy ship.It attacked and sank the Union warship Housatonic on the night of February 17, 1864, and then disappeared. The submarine was found several miles off Charleston, South Carolina in the 1990s and recovered in 2000.

Ancient finds

A view of Leptis Magna, a UNESCO World Heritage site on the Mediterranean coast of North Africa, some 120 km (75 miles) east of Tripoli, November 8, 2011. Libya was home to thriving Roman outposts beginning around the first century A.D. One Roman emperor, Septimius Severus, was born in Leptis Magna, on the site of the modern Libyan town of Khoms. He turned his hometown into a model Roman city and large parts of it are still intact.

Ancient finds

Tourists walk on a footway of the step well of Nahargarh fort in Jaipur, capital of India’s desert state of Rajasthan January 23, 2012. Nahargarh fort, one of the major tourist attractions of the city, was built by Sawai Raja Jai Singh in 1734.

Ancient finds

A view of the historical Radda castle, overtaken by al Qaeda militants, southeast of Yemeni capital Sanaa January 15, 2012.

Ancient finds

An employee displays clay tablets belong to the Sumerian era at the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs headquarters in Baghdad January 30, 2012.

Ancient finds

An employee checks recovered artifacts at the Iraqi Ministry of foreign Affairs headquarters in Baghdad January 30, 2012. A 6,500-year-old Sumerian gold jar, the head of a Sumerian battle axe and a stone from an Assyrian palace were among 45 relics returned to Iraq by Germany. The items were among thousands stolen from Iraq’s museums and archaeological sites in the mayhem that followed the U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Ancient finds

A pocket watch recovered from the RMS Titanic is on display during the Titanic Auction preview by Guernsey’s Auction House in New York January 5, 2012.

Ancient finds

A pair of binoculars recovered from the RMS Titanic is on display during the Titanic Auction preview by Guernsey’s Auction House in New York, January 5, 2012. The biggest collection of Titanic artifacts is to be sold off as a single lot in an auction timed for the 100th anniversary in April of the sinking of the famed ocean liner.

Ancient finds

An Afghan specialist displays an ancient pre-Islamic sculpture that was returned to Afghanistan at the Afghan National Museum in Kabul January 30, 2012. Germany returned the sculpture looted during Afghanistan’s civil war, giving hope to Kabul’s cultural mavens that the rest of its stolen treasures will also make their way home.

Ancient finds

A part of the ancient city of Ptolemais is pictured near the town of Ad Dirsiyah, about 100 km (62 miles) east of Benghazi January 27, 2012.

Ancient finds

The entrance of a water storage facility is pictured underneath the ancient city of Ptolemais, near the town of Ad Dirsiyah, about 100 km (62 miles) east of Benghazi January 27, 2012. The ancient city, founded approximately in 700 B.C, gained its name during the rule of the Ptolemaic empire. It later became one of the capitals of the ancient Roman province of Creta et Cyrenaica, which today makes up the eastern coastal region of Libya.

 

 

Satellite captures stunning images of Earth


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Satellite captures stunning images of Earth

The changing face of our planet has been documented in stunning detail over the last 40 years by the longest-running Earth-observing satellite program, called Landsat.

Landsat

In the style of Van Gogh’s painting “Starry Night,” massive congregations of greenish phytoplankton swirl in the dark water around Gotland, a Swedish island in the Baltic Sea. Population explosions, or blooms, of phytoplankton, like the one shown here, occur when deep currents bring nutrients up to sunlit surface waters, fueling the growth and reproduction of these tiny plants. (Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/USGS)

Landsat

Countless lakes, sloughs, and ponds are scattered throughout this scene of the Yukon Delta in southwest Alaska. One of the largest river deltas in the world, and protected as part of the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, the river’s sinuous waterways seem like blood vessels branching out to enclose an organ. (Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/USGS)

Landsat

Small, blocky shapes of towns, fields, and pastures surround the graceful swirls and whorls of the Mississippi River, the largest river system in North America. Countless oxbow lakes and cutoffs accompany the meandering river south of Memphis, Tennessee, on the border between Arkansas and Mississippi. (Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/USGS)

Landsat

What look like pale yellow paint streaks slashing through a mosaic of mottled colors are ridges of wind-blown sand that make up Erg Iguidi, an area of ever-shifting sand dunes extending from Algeria into Mauritania in northwestern Africa. Erg Iguidi is one of several Saharan ergs, or sand seas, where individual dunes often surpass 500 meters (nearly a third of a mile) in both width and height. (Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/USGS)

Landsat

The scary face in this image is actually inundated patches of shallow Lake Eyre (pronounced “air”) in the desert country of northern South Australia. An ephemeral feature of this flat, parched landscape, Lake Eyre is Australia’s largest lake when it’s full. However in the last 150 years, it has filled completely only three times. (Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/USGS)