Escher for real

With a 3-D printer rapid prototyping machine, you can now create just about anything you can mathematically describe. It doesn’t have to be practical or easy to machine. If you can picture it, you can build it. (If you’re wondering how in the world 3-D printers work, Z Corp has a nifty animated explanation.)

But what about unreal, unphysical things? What about all that weird stuff that M.C. Escher drew, the endless staircases and impossible buildings, can you make those? That’s what some folks at Technion University were wondering. Armed with some funky blueprints and a machine from Z Corp, they actually built some objects they collectively call Escher for Real. They’ve also published some nice animations that show how these “impossible” objects are made possible by some grotesque contortions that vanish magically if you look at them from exactly the right angle. Rotating them from the magic viewing position reveals the trick and can be oddly disorienting, like walking around the famous Ames Room illusion.