Illustrated vision of optical illusion

The Times We Lived In – Published: November 13th, 2000. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

Visions of the future come in many forms. In the past we used to think the future would be golden, and would deliver free public transport for all, jolly colonies on other planets and – everybody’s favourite - meals in the form of pills. These days it tends to have a darker sheen, promising bio-terrorism, extreme weather and driverless cars.

This photograph from the year 2000 – now fondly remembered as the year when, it was predicted, computers would crash, implode and disappear from our lives forever – has an appealingly futuristic vibe. That is, it’s futuristic in an old-fashioned way, when the future was still something to look forward to.

It shows a man giving a lecture on visual and optical illusions. He is Prof Brian Bates of Queen’s University, Belfast, and he’s giving a talk about optical and visual illusions at Kevin Street Institute of Technology as part of Science Week.

Our intrepid photographer appears to have climbed inside the prof’s overhead projector, so that we see his head embellished with a beguiling leopardskin pattern, a number of randomly-combined circles and triangles and some lines of suitably enigmatic text.

Hang on: did I say this image was appealing? The more I look at it, the more it reminds me of those press releases which used to update us on the progress of Google glasses. (Once relegated to the dustbin of futurology but currently on sale, I believe, at around €1,500 a pair.)

So I think I’ll stop trying to to read the writing on this particular transparent wall – is that “fear” I can see, between the prof’s tie and his hand? – and go and partake of the instant meal our illustrious ancestors used to call tea and toast. And invite you all to dream of a happy, rather than a horrifying, future.

These and other Irish Times images can be purchased from irishtimes.com/photosales. A book, The Times We Lived In, with more than 100 photographs and commentary by Arminta Wallace, published by Irish Times Books, is available from irishtimes.com/irishtimesbooks and from bookshops, priced at €19.99

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