Stamps depicting impossible figures

by Francis P. Gunasekara

Shown here are three stamps from Sweden depicting figures impossible to create, challenging you to construct them with solids, if possible. Whether you are a stamp collector or not, these stamps will surely provide you with unlimited fun as you examine the drawings on them.

One may think that these are merely drawings, or can they be transformed into physical models? Look at them carefully and you will see that one stamp, the one on the right shows a triangle with three right angles! Surely, this cannot exist in our physical world!Years ago, scientists in the field of mathematics had said that such figures, known as non-euclidean figures, never existed. But, about 50 years ago, picture constructors in Europe and America succeeded in making the so-called impossible figures.

They proved it by designing non-euclidean shapes which can actually be drawn with paper and pencil.A Swede by the name Oscar Reutersvard was the inventor of the first false geometrical pictures of the kind you will see on these stamps.

It is to honour him that these stamps were issued by the Swedish Postal Administration on February 16, 1982.

These stamps have been produced in coil form and therefore, perforations can be found only on two sides. They come in denominations of 75 ore, 50 ore and 25 ore. If you have at least one of these stamps in your collection, you now know why they were issued and the story behind them. The stamps were engraved by Czeslaw Slania.

Source: Sunday Observer, 4th September 2005


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