Vanishing Puzzles or Geometric Puzzles

A geometric erosion puzzle is more of a trick as opposed to an illusion – when re-arranged it modifies either the design or the spatial area of the pieces. This of course is merely an illusion and is achieved by clever design work and mathematical know-how.

Vanishing puzzles were exceptionally popular in the early 19th century and had existed for around 5 centuries prior.

The first known instance of a vanishing puzzle, is featured in the book – Libro d'Architettura Primo by Sebastiano Serlio dated around 1530, however the first mathematical solution of a vanishing puzzle was found in a book titled: Rational Recreations – dated around 1782.

Vanishing puzzles have been around for over 5 centuries and they still continue to confound and amaze puzzle fans everywhere. This style of paradoxical puzzle involves rearranging parts of a drawing, so that, once completed, a portion or element of the drawing disappears or appears. The puzzle is really a simple mathematical trick using a carefully applied cut however some of the outcomes are highly complex and varied.

This style of optical illusion was applied by early counterfeiting experts – who would cut up 9 notes and end up with enough pieces from which they could make a tenth.

There are a handful of puzzle inventors who specialized in this variety of puzzle which was popular throughout the 19th century. The most famous was Sam Lloyd, who was probably inspired by Tangram puzzles he used in his youth – he created a fantastic array of optical illusions and puzzles.

Sam Lloyd, an American puzzle creator, and the premier puzzlist of the 19th century, created a series of vanishing puzzles, which are now regarded as classics. A savant of many crafts – regarded as one of the finest chess players of his era, and a creative writer for one P. T. Barnum. Among his peers he’s been called everything from “Old reprobate” to “America’s greatest puzzler, but obviously a hustler.”

Sam Lloyd in honesty was a somewhat fabled character, the lethal combination of undoubted genius, huckster, smooth talker and celebrity.

He created perhaps the most famous geometrical puzzle – Get Off the Earth which reportedly sold over 10 million copies just during his lifetime. The game itself is pretty far from politically correct by today’s standard, but the basic premise is rotate and move the inner disk so that men disappear and reappear – the puzzles itself was patented and Copyrighted 1896 by Sam Loyd. And has spawned many modern incarnations most notably Bushwacky and Teddy and the Lions.

La Mysterieuse, represents a classic vanishing puzzle, this particular design was copyrighted by 19th century magician Theodore L. DeLand, Jr. This principle was later replicated and applied to many other games on similar themes like Vanishing Leprechauns – designed by a MS Pat Lyons in 1968 or “The Magic Egg Puzzle” designed in 1880. In these styles of vanishing puzzles there is a sheet of paper with a design can that is dissected into 3 – you can move the piece around to show, 15 or 14 leprechauns, eggs or cards depending on the puzzle's designs. 

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Geo-metric Erosion Puzzles

These types of puzzles or illusions comprise of a set area that has been dissected into a number of shapes – when you move the dissected pieces around the area appears to change. Conventional wisdom would indicate that this is impossible, and the area should remain exactly the same – of course it is all an illusion, usually made up from lines not being exactly straight or angles that change.

Missing Square Puzzle or The Disappearing Rabbit, is an optical illusion used in mathematics to teach student that they should not reason with figures. Other variations of this is the Azulejos (which is more of a trick rather than an illusion and requires the swapping of pieces) and the Winston Freer tile puzzle.

The illusions themselves depicts arrangements made of similar shapes, in slightly different configurations. The illusions arises when the combination is moved, spaces appear, even though it fills the same area.

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