The Illusion is Complete

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The human eye/brain connection is an interesting and fascinating one. Our eyes see things as they really are, but sometimes the brain can’t really make sense of what we see. And because our experiences have taught us to believe only what makes sense to us, our minds come up with an explanation to make sense out of the sensory input that is coming through our senses.

Take today’s photo as an illustration. It is a picture I took in Jerusalem’s old city – the Jewish Quarter to be precise. It is actually a mural on a wall near an underground shopping area. The mural is quite large…I’d guess at least 15-20 feet wide and the height would be proportional. It is supposed to represent a street scene from ancient Jerusalem (probably around the first century) and the street has colonnaded shops on both sides. The street is abuzz with adults, children and animals that have been brought to the bazaar.

So, where is the illusion? Well, so you see the columns on left hand side of the mural? There are four of them, the tallest being in the foreground and the shorter in the background. Those are real pillars from ancient history! They are not part of the mural. Yet they blend into the scene so well that it was a picture that was begging to be taken.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: sixty-six years ago today, in 1950, U.S. President Harry S. Truman publicly announced his decision to support the development of the hydrogen bomb, a weapon theorized to be hundreds of times more powerful than the atomic bombs dropped on Japan during World War II.

Five months earlier, the United States had lost its nuclear supremacy when the Soviet Union successfully detonated an atomic bomb at their test site in Kazakhstan. Then, several weeks after that, British and U.S. intelligence came to the staggering conclusion that German-born Klaus Fuchs, a top-ranking scientist in the U.S. nuclear program, was a spy for the Soviet Union. These two events, and the fact that the Soviets now knew everything that the Americans did about how to build a hydrogen bomb, led Truman to approve massive funding for the superpower race to complete the world’s first “superbomb,” as he described it in his public announcement on January 31.

On November 1, 1952, the United States successfully detonated “Mike,” the world’s first hydrogen bomb, on the Elugelab Atoll in the Pacific Marshall Islands. The 10.4-megaton thermonuclear device, built upon the Teller-Ulam principles of staged radiation implosion, instantly vaporized an entire island and left behind a crater more than a mile wide. The incredible explosive force of Mike was also apparent from the sheer magnitude of its mushroom cloud–within 90 seconds the mushroom cloud climbed to 57,000 feet and entered the stratosphere. One minute later, it reached 108,000 feet, eventually stabilizing at a ceiling of 120,000 feet. Half an hour after the test, the mushroom stretched 60 miles across, with the base of the head joining the stem at 45,000 feet.

Three years later, on November 22, 1955, the Soviet Union detonated its first hydrogen bomb on the same principle of radiation implosion. Both superpowers were now in possession of the “hell bomb,” as it was known by many Americans, and the world lived under the threat of thermonuclear war for the first time in history – and lives under it still.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: “Love” in the sense of “no score” in tennis dates to 1792 and means “playing for love” or, in other words, playing for nothing. Other scholars claim that “love” as a tennis score is a corruption of the French word for egg, “L’oeuf,” because of the egg’s resemblance to a zero.

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