JF Ptak Science Books Post 2678
"Hee beganne to stande in great ambiguitee of his saftie."--P. Vergil Eng. Hist (1846) I. 160, ca. 1560
"Shall I make spirits fetch me what I please, Resolue me of all ambiguities"-- Marlowe Tragicall Hist. Faustus (1604) [Both quotations via the OED]
First Appearance of a Famous Optical Illusion--the Necker Cube (Necker's Cube), 1832
Humans do not normally see one thing two different ways at the same time, unless they are confronted with something that Louis Necker thought up 15 decades ago. I am referring to the wide swath of humanity mostly here in the West with a mostly hard pull to binary interpretations, and not so much so for other belief systems that are more accommodating to multi-dimensional interpretations, like say the clarity/ambiguity inherent in Taoism (though the definition of "Taoism" is usually ambiguous in itself). Also I'm speaking more physiologically/psychologically than anything else more so than yin-yang metaphysics.
Buried in an interesting (and illustrated) article in this Philosophical Magazine1 of 1832 is the first appearance of one of the most famous optical illusion images of all time--the Necker Cube. this construction--named for Louis Necker--has now been used for many years in tests on human perception (and in some areas for psychological interpretation, depending on who sees what and when). In its original appearance the cube is mostly given a textual description but it does appear once as a tiny rhomboid--tiny or not, it really does do the trick. ("He shows that you may see the Necker cube in either perspective, but that you practically can not see it as a flat geometrical design in the plane of the paper."--Science 8 Jan. 37/2 . "He did not experience the usual spontaneous depth-reversals of the Necker cube—which appeared to him flat."--Oxford Companion to the Mind, 96/1, 1987. "The reason an optical illusion such as the Necker cube outline..works is that, in some deep biological sense, you are of two minds on the question of what to see."--Scientific American, Jan. 18/1, 2001. "It is a simple wire frame drawing of a cube with no visual cues as to its orientation, so it can be interpreted to have either the lower-left or the upper-right square as its front side..."--Wiki)
According to the Oxford English Dictionary it turns out "Necker Cube" doesn't make its first appearance as a phrase for another nearly 70 years, surfacing in 1901 in an article by the psychologist E. B. Titchener in Experimental Psychology (I. ii. ix. 309): "The Instructor should have a few prepared as large wall-diagrams:..Schröder's stair-figure, Necker's cube,..the Müller-Lyer figure." In any event, so far as I can determine, this is the first appearance of that famous construction.
Necker, L.A.,"Observations on some remarkable optical phaenomena seen in Switzerland; and on an optical phaenomenon which occurs on viewing a figure of a crystal or geometrical solid", pp 329-337. The London and Edinburgh Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science, printed in London for Richard Taylor, 1832, third series, volume 1, July-December, 1832;. 8vo, viii, 480 pp, with 2 engraved plates. Other contributors to this volume include:
- R. Warrington, "On the Establishment of some perfect System of Chemical Symbols, with remarks on Professor Whewell's Paper on the Subject", pp 181-187;
- William Sturgeon, "On the Distribution of Magnetic Polarity in Magnetic Bodies", pp 31-40;
- J. Challis, "On the Resistance in the Motion of Small Spherical Bodies in elastic Mediums", pp 40-45;
- (Faraday) Salvatore dal Negro, with notes by Michael Faraday, "New Experiments relative to the Action of Magnetism on Electro-dynamic Spirals, and a Description of a new electro-motive Battery, pp 45-49;
- Baden Powell, "Further Remarks on Experiments relative to the Interference of Light", pp 433-438
- [Babbage] "On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, by Charles Babbage..." A book review, featured on pp 208-213;
- M. Rudberg, "On the Refraction of differently-coloured Rays in Crystals, with one and two Axes of Double Refraction", pp 136-146, and numerous others.