Seckel, Al 1958–

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SECKEL, Al 1958–

PERSONAL: Born September 3, 1958, in New York, NY; son of Paul (an artist) and Ruth (a composer; maiden name, Schonthal) Seckel; married Laura Allen Mullen (in employee relations), June 7, 1980. Education: Cornell University, B.S., 1980.

ADDRESSES: Office—Koch Laboratories, Division of Computational and Neuronal Systems, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA 91125. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Physicist, educator, writer. California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, instructor. Southern California Skeptics, executive director; consultant to Committee for the Scientific Evaluation of Religion; scientific and technical consultant to the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.

AWARDS, HONORS: Best Book for Young Adults, American Library Association, 2001, for The Art of Optical Illusions.

WRITINGS:

(Editor) Bertrand Russell on God and Religion, Prometheus Books (Buffalo, NY), 1985.

(Editor) Bertrand Russell on Ethics, Sex, and Marriage, Prometheus Books (Buffalo, NY), 1987.

The Art of Optical Illusions, Carlton (London, England), 2000.

More Optical Illusions, Carlton (London, England), 2001.

The Fantastic World of Optical Illusions, (contains The Art of Optical Illusions and More Optical Illusions), Carlton (London, England), 2002, published as The Great Book of Optical Illusions, Firefly Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2002.

Incredible Visual Illusions: You Won't Believe Your Eyes, Firefly Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2004.

Masters of Deception: Escher, Dali, and Other Artists of Optical Illusion, Sterling Publishing (New York, NY), 2004.

Optical Teasers, University Games, 2004.

Amazing Optical Illusions, Firefly Books (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2004.

Action Optical Illusions, Sterling (New York, NY), 2005.

Ambiguous Optical Illusions, Sterling (New York, NY), 2005.

Super Visions: Geometric Optical Illusions, Sterling (New York, NY), 2005.

Super Visions: Impossible Optical Illusions, Sterling (New York, NY), 2005.

Scholastic's Giant Book of Optical Illusions, Scholastic (New York, NY), 2005.

Contributor to journals; creator of calendars featuring illusions for Workman Publishing and Firefly Publishing; columnist for National Geographic Kids and for Discover.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Your Mind's Eye: A Comprehensive Scientific Examination of Visual and Sensory Illusions (CD-ROM), MIT Press (Cambridge, MA); IllusionWorld.

SIDELIGHTS: Al Seckel edited two volumes of the work of Bertrand Russell. He told CA that Russell "was without doubt one of the most productive and brilliant thinkers and writers of the twentieth century. The range of his critical inquiry is without parallel in contemporary Western culture. During his long lifetime (1872–1970), he was the recipient of countless awards for excellence, including a Nobel Prize in literature, which he won in 1950.

"Bertrand Russell on God and Religion is an exhaustive compilation of Russell's best essays on religion, free thought, and rationalism. From the outset of his career, Russell struggled to uproot and expose the remnants of Puritanism's emphasis upon guilt, sin, and moral condemnation. The essays in this book demonstrate the full range of Russell's thinking on the subject of religion, which he defined as 'a set of beliefs held as dogmas, dominating the conduct of life, going beyond or contrary to evidence, and inculcated by methods which are emotional or authoritarian, not intellectual.'

"Bertrand Russell on Ethics, Sex, and Marriage is an exhaustive collection of Russell's best and most thought-provoking essays on ethics, morality, sexual ethics, marriage, adultery, divorce, and happiness. The work chronicles the efforts of one of the clearest philosophers of our time trying to struggle with one of the central problems of our time; how to justify passionately held moral convictions when all evidence seems to lead to moral skepticism."

Seckel's scientific interests lie within the field of illusion. He has lectured on this subject at universities around the world, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), University of CaliforniaLos Angeles, University of California—Berkeley, University of Cambridge, University of London, University of Rome, and many more, and has created interactive exhibits for children in science museums in the United States and abroad.

Seckel has published a number of volumes of illusions, and The Great Book of Optical Illusions combines his first and second books into a larger collection of nearly 300 illusions. Divided into eight "galleries," it contains traditional puzzles, works by such artists of illusion as M. C. Escher and Rene Magritte, and sculptures and photographs from two decades. Included are classics, such as the "Impossible Staircase" and Rubin's face/vase illusion. Each illusion presents a problem, and the answers and explanations are provided at the end of each gallery. Seckel provides a resource list and glossary. School Library Journal contributor Cynde Suite felt that this is a book young readers "will enjoy poring over and figuring out what they see or think they see."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, March 15, 2003, review of The Great Book of Optical Illusions, p. 1310.

Library Journal, December, 2002, David A. Berona, review of The Great Book of Optical Illusions, p. 120; February 15, 2005, Nadine Dalton Speidel, review of Masters of Deception: Escher, Dali, & the Artists of Optical Illusions, p. 125.

Publishers Weekly, November 11, 2002, review of The Great Book of Optical Illusions, p. 66.

School Library Journal, December, 2002, Cynde Suite, review of The Great Book of Optical Illusions, p. 175; October, 2003, review of Masters of Deception, p. 125.

Science News, November 16, 2002, review of The Great Book of Optical Illusions, p. 319.

Voice of Youth Advocates, February, 2003, review of The Great Book of Optical Illusions, p. 498.

ONLINE

Al Seckel Home Page, http://neuro.caltech.edu/∼seckel (May 27, 2004).