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Nature's Perfect Killing Machine Can Be Killed With Soap

Ebola is nightmare fuel: a biological doomsday device conspiring with our bodies to murder us in uniquely gruesome fashion. It’s also killed fewer than 2,000 people. How has a virus with such a modest body count so fiercely captured the darkest corners of our imagination? - Leigh Cowart for Haziltt.
posted by The Whelk on Jul 8, 2014 - 53 comments

I Can Tell By The Pixels

Visualizing Algorithms shows you how computer algorithms can be represented visually, leading to better understanding of how the algorithms work:

"Have you ever implemented an algorithm based on formal description? It can be hard! Being able to see what your code is doing can boost productivity. Visualization does not supplant the need for tests, but tests are useful primarily for detecting failure and not explaining it. Visualization can also discover unexpected behavior in your implementation, even when the output looks correct."
posted by quiet earth on Jun 26, 2014 - 29 comments

...not a neutral exercise.

"Why Do Chinese People Have Slanted Eyes?" By Amanda Lee Koe (Text essay, possibly nsfw)
posted by zarq on Apr 16, 2014 - 23 comments

When to Separate the Art From the Artist

Controversy about Woody Allen is in the news again due to an open letter by Dylan Farrow, who explicitly details sexual abuse allegedly committed by Allen when Farrow was seven. The letter appeared shortly after Allen was awarded the Cecil B. DeMille Award for Lifetime Achievement, prompting the old question, is it possible to separate the person from the art and if so, how?
posted by Brandon Blatcher on Feb 2, 2014 - 921 comments

Understanding Ourselves: Personal Identity is Mostly Performance

"Without external props, even our personal identity fades and goes out of focus. The self is a fragile construction of the mind."
posted by rcraniac on Jan 31, 2014 - 33 comments

Selecting the right glass can be key

Can the shape of your glass enhance the taste of the wine? Do you need to change your glass depending on what you're drinking? "I'm pretty sure that the right glassware can't make a bad wine good, but it can make a good wine more enjoyable." With that in mind, here is a guide to selecting the proper wine glass. A few bonus links: how to choose the right cocktail glass, and Beer Advocate breaks down glassware by types of beer.
posted by filthy light thief on Dec 12, 2013 - 65 comments

Why Should Engineers and Scientists Be Worried About Color?

At the core of good science and engineering is the careful and respectful treatment of data. We calibrate our instruments, scrutinize the algorithms we use to process the data, and study the behavior of the models we use to interpret the data or simulate the phenomena we may be observing. Surprisingly, this careful treatment of data often breaks down when we visualize our data.
posted by cthuljew on Nov 14, 2013 - 58 comments

Boiled Alive

'There’s more lobster out there right now than anyone knows what to do with, but Americans are still paying for it as if it were a rare delicacy.' Also, from 2004: David Foster Wallace goes to the Maine Lobster Festival. Via)
posted by zarq on Aug 25, 2013 - 62 comments

Achilles sat on the shore and looked out to the wine-dark sea

That Homer used the epithet "wine-dark" to describe the sea in the Iliad and Odyssey so puzzled 19th Century English Prime Minister William Gladstone that he thought the Ancient Greeks must have been colorblind. Since then many other solutions have been proposed. Scientists have argued that Ancient Greek wine was blue and some scholars have put forward the case that Homer was describing the sea at sunset. Radiolab devoted a segment to the exploration of this issue, saying that Gladstone was partly right. Another interpretation is that the Ancient Greeks focused on different aspects of color from us. Classicist William Harris' short essay about purple in Homer and Iliad translator Caroline Alexander's longer essay The Wine-like Sea make the case for this interpretation.
posted by Kattullus on Aug 12, 2013 - 108 comments

...never believing the people who think they have you figured out.

"It's his charm. It's his gift. It's his political liability, and it's part of an American conundrum. We beg for authenticity, and then when we get it, oh man, it's hilarious. [Vice President Joe] Biden can be fantastic when he's on his game. At the 2012 Democratic National Convention, his speech got higher Nielsen ratings than either Bill Clinton's or Obama's. He killed the debate against Ryan, pumped air back into a campaign deflated after Obama's miserable first performance against Romney. Watching those performances, it's almost impossible to see him as a person once crippled by speech."
posted by zarq on Jul 18, 2013 - 75 comments

Racial Slur or Honorific?

The Other Redskins. 62 US high schools in 22 states currently use the name "Redskins" for one of their sports teams. 28 high schools in 18 states have dropped the mascot over the last 25 years. As public pressure continues to intensify on the Washington Redskins football team to change their name -- one many consider a racial slur that disparages Native Americans -- similar debates are being waged in towns across the country about their local high school teams.
posted by zarq on Jul 2, 2013 - 183 comments

Peace is liberty in tranquillity

The UK Peace Index [PDF], a new publication from The Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), has produced a startling new headline: against public perceptions of crime, both crime and homicide have fallen significantly. The fall over the last decade has resulted in the UK homicide rate now being roughly equivalent to that of the Western European average, and it is now at its lowest level since 1978. [more inside]
posted by MuffinMan on Apr 24, 2013 - 30 comments

a great collection of medieval illustration

Weird, funny, surreal, fun, silly, bawdy, macabre, cool and strangely beautiful. The Discarded Image is a Tumblr collection of Medieval illustrations gleaned from various illuminated manuscripts, bestiaries, books describing the cosmology of the Middle Ages, ordered and maintained by a celestial hierarchy. The Discarded Image is also the name of CS Lewis' last book, about the fascinating Medieval mindset and world picture. [more inside]
posted by nickyskye on Apr 13, 2013 - 23 comments

the power and beauty of mathematics

An eternity of infinities (via) [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Feb 2, 2013 - 23 comments

Freedom from....

The New York Times asks seven 'experts': Does makeup ultimately damage a woman’s self-esteem, or elevate it? [more inside]
posted by zarq on Jan 16, 2013 - 260 comments

“So your wallet is in your pocket?”

Apollo Robbins is a spectacular pickpocket whose work extends to neuroscience, the military and magic.
posted by xowie on Dec 31, 2012 - 27 comments

Ein Beitrag zur Optik der Farbanstriche

For years now, the primary way of representing and storing color on a computer display has been to define it as existing in three dimensions: Red, Green, and Blue. What if that's wrong? “While the appearance of a color on a screen can be described in three dimensions, the blending of color actually is happening in a six dimensional space,” How Fifty-Three, developers of the iPad painting app Paper, used a theory of paint optics from 1931 to develop a better color mixer.
posted by gauche on Nov 9, 2012 - 28 comments

What Color is this? in 9 languages

Four years ago, we showed English language speakers random colors and asked for the color names. Four years later, with CrowdFlower contributors now in every country of the world, the experiment becomes much richer.
posted by Foci for Analysis on Aug 30, 2012 - 17 comments

A Watched Clock Never Moves

Have you ever wondered why you don't see motion blur when your eyes flick to a new position? Why, if you sit in front of a mirror and watch yourself, you never see your eyes move? That is saccadic masking, one of the lies your brain tells to avoid confusing you. Have you noticed that the first tick after glancing at a clock with a second hand can take more than one second? No, it's not just you! That's a related phenomenon called chronostasis, or more commonly the stopped clock illusion.
posted by gilrain on Aug 16, 2012 - 46 comments

"In Japan, people often refer to traffic lights as being blue in color."

The crayola-fication of the world: How we gave colors names, and it messed with our brains -- A two-part essay about (part I) how perception of colors affects our naming of colors which (part II) affects our perception of colors. Guest celebrities include Darwin's children, xkcd, a mantis shrimp, and Benjamin Whorf.
posted by ardgedee on Jun 17, 2012 - 44 comments

Teller Reveals His Secrets

Teller Reveals His Secrets
posted by Meatbomb on Feb 25, 2012 - 57 comments

Digital Images are SomeThing to aspire to? (A reflection on Hito Steyerl's proposal)

Artist and film-maker, Hito Steyerl, asks us to stand shoulder to shoulder with our digital equivalents. Digital images are Things (like you and me) - a plethora of compressed, corrupted representations pushed and pulled through increasingly policed and capitalised information networks. If 80% of all internet traffic* is SPAM - a liberated excess withdrawn** from accepted channels of communication - perhaps it is in The Poor Image we find our closest kin? [more inside]
posted by 0bvious on Feb 16, 2012 - 5 comments

Celebs With No Eyebrows

Celebs With No Eyebrows [more inside]
posted by cosmic osmo on Nov 6, 2011 - 61 comments

What it sounds like

"Kohn" is an award-winning radio story produced by Andy Mills (a graduate of the Salt Institute) that was honored in the 2011 Third Coast/Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition. The story, which features the musicians of Hudson Branch/Dogs on Tour, tells what happens when someone hears his own voice for the first time and finds that it's not what he expected. (And a Radiolab short based on the story explains why what we hear in our heads isn't always what the world hears from our mouths.) In a similar vein, another Third Coast winner, Seizure's Lament, tells the story of a radio producer who wanted to know what her seizures look like to other people.
posted by liketitanic on Oct 24, 2011 - 1 comment

It's like KittenWar for urban spaces

Which place looks safer? Which place looks more unique? Which place looks more upper-class? MIT is crowdsourcing a "perception network" to analyze people's subconscious judgments about urban spaces. Preliminary results for Boston, New York City, Vienna, Salzburg, and Linz (Austria). [more inside]
posted by desjardins on Sep 28, 2011 - 45 comments

Do you see what I see?

How language affects our perception of colour...(SYTL) more on the 'linguistic relativity hypothesis' here and here
posted by Rufus T. Firefly on Aug 30, 2011 - 52 comments

I see trees of green, red roses, too...

Do you see what I see? Do people always see the same thing when they look at colours?
posted by crossoverman on Aug 12, 2011 - 68 comments

Eww. Girls.

Flashing turns pretty girls ugly [SFW]
posted by christopher.taylor on Jul 8, 2011 - 74 comments

Hello? (((Hello!))) Come to me! (((Me?))) Come, I am here. (((I am here!)))

Whitefield-Madrano is regarding mirrors in the same role that I often give to social media. (Social-media sites seem to me to be self-consciousness machines, encouraging that one maintain a directorial distance from one’s own life experience in order to strategize how to present it in update broadcasts.) But the realities of patriarchy complicate matters considerably; as much as believe we are collectively compelling one another to route our social life through commercial social-media sites, that seems like nothing compared with the coercion involved with fulfilling gendered expectations of self-presentation.
Marginal Utility dissects Mirror Fasting. A goal that blogger Whitefield-Madrano recently took up and called a Month Without Mirrors. The initial reason behind her project: "Sometimes I look in the mirror and see myself, or whatever I understand myself to be. Other times, I distinctly see an image of myself."
posted by P.o.B. on Jun 20, 2011 - 25 comments

sensational skills

Mad skillz with simple things: balancing sticks |Ouka - Ringarts | blind people seeing with echolocation | Rajnikanth at the pick-up counter | cat at a shell game.
posted by nickyskye on Jun 1, 2011 - 11 comments

The Time Hack

The Time Hack: A web-based effort to challenge one person's perception of time through new and unusual experiences.
posted by parudox on Feb 9, 2011 - 28 comments

The Soul Niche

Swimming around in a mixture of language and matter, humans occupy a particular evolutionary niche mediated by something we call 'consciousness'. To Professor Nicholas Humphrey we're made up of "soul dust": "a kind of theatre... an entertainment which we put on for ourselves inside our own heads." But just as that theatre is directed by the relationship between language and matter, it is also undermined by it. It all depends how you think it.
posted by 0bvious on Feb 4, 2011 - 17 comments

Believing is seeing, seeing is hearing

Is seeing believing? BBC Horizon looks at sensory perception, illusions and the interplay of our different senses. (Full program for UK viewers here). Makes you feel like you've entered The Twilight Zone. [more inside]
posted by philipy on Oct 18, 2010 - 16 comments

“... like a killer whale born in captivity in SeaWorld."

"The Man Who Never Was." Vanity Fair editor Todd S. Purdum follows up his 2007 profile of then-Senator John McCain and a scathing 2009 profile of Sarah Palin by asking whether McCain, "...the leader so many Americans admired — and so many journalists covered — ever truly existed." (Previously)
posted by zarq on Oct 7, 2010 - 49 comments

Who sees the human face correctly: the photographer, the mirror, or the painter?

The strange face in the mirror illusion. Full Article.
posted by Brent Parker on Sep 19, 2010 - 61 comments

THAT'S A BONE

Few phenomena have the power to confound as many different types of people as pareidolia. It doesn't discriminate by culture or religion. It causes Christians to see Jesus and Mary, Muslims to see the names of Allah and the Prophet, Jews to see the Star of David, Hindus to see the monkey-god Hanuman, and Buddhists to see — you guessed it — the Buddha. Even atheists who haven't devoted themselves to skepticism have puzzled long and hard over the famous face, and more recently, Bigfoot, on Mars. Now video has surfaced on YouTube of pseudoscientist and perennial attention-seeker Richard Heene (yes, Balloon Boy's dad) seeing things on the red planet too. If you'd prefer the filler edited out, the remix is highly entertaining. [more inside]
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis on Aug 11, 2010 - 20 comments

The curved worlds of Stephen Ladkin

Stephen Ladkin's contemporary paintings have a cheery yet distorted perspective. His traditional works are more down-to-earth.
posted by Hardcore Poser on Jun 20, 2010 - 7 comments

Octarine?

The average human eye has three types of cone cells, each of which is sensitive to a different wavelength range of visible light. The difference in the relative signal from the three cones allows us to distinguish colors. Unfortunately, since these sensitivity ranges overlap, there are some combinations of signals from the cones that can't be created by light emitted from a real object. These are the so-called "imaginary colors". However, by selectively overstimulating one or more types of cone, we can still perceive these colors; this is the principle behind the Eclipse of Titan, an optical illusion which produces both a green and a cyan that don't otherwise appear in nature. (Similar effects can be seen in the Eclipses of Mars, Neptune, and Triton.) [more inside]
posted by Upton O'Good on May 10, 2010 - 64 comments

color-changing card trick

A color-changing card trick. (Related to this old favorite.)
posted by Upton O'Good on Apr 22, 2010 - 25 comments

Art imititates life?

Bringing New Understanding to the Director’s Cut (NYT) Art imitates life? Neuroscientists studying vision have observed a 1/f distribution in the natural scenes we encounter everyday. A new study shows movies have a similar 1/f distribution of scene pacing as natural scenes we encounter in daily life.
posted by scalespace on Mar 1, 2010 - 44 comments

"Help me out White Wanda."

"Hewlett Packard computers are racist." [SLYT] [more inside]
posted by sharpener on Dec 20, 2009 - 100 comments

What is Right?

Which of these fribbles looks more intelligent? Please click the link and decide before you read [more inside]
posted by orthogonality on Aug 4, 2009 - 111 comments

A battle of perceived qualities

Sennheiser, a family-run company with an interesting history of searching for audiophile quality, has created what it boasts as "the new standard for audiophile headphones." But will it matter in the long run, when the next generation of listeners enjoys the "sizzle sound" associated with lower bitrate MP3s? (via) [more inside]
posted by filthy light thief on Mar 16, 2009 - 118 comments

Near death experience

Australian auto website offers anatomy of a crash-- a point by point account of what happens during an accident, up to and including the moment you realize it's happening. [more inside]
posted by puckish on Feb 19, 2009 - 15 comments

The Body Swap Illusion

If I Were You: Perceptual Illusion of Body Swapping. Expanding on previous experiments, researchers discover how to induce a "body-swap" illusion, whereby subjects perceive the body of another as if it were their own.
posted by homunculus on Dec 4, 2008 - 22 comments

metaphors be with you

Link found between physical and emotional warmth l Metaphors of the Mind: Why Loneliness Feels Cold and Sins Feel Dirty. "Our mental processes are not separate and detached from the body". Sensory metaphors l The Metaphor Observatory, top 10 metaphors of 2007.
posted by nickyskye on Oct 27, 2008 - 45 comments

Lacking Control Increases Magical Thinking

Of Jock Straps and Conspiracy Theories. A new study looks at how lacking control increases the tendency for magical thinking and illusory pattern perception. [Via]
posted by homunculus on Oct 5, 2008 - 87 comments

color is relative

Color Is Relative, pretty and interesting eye candy created by Gabriel Mott, is a website dedicated to showing luminosity achieved through simple color combinations. On the site, the image is interactive. By moving the mouse over a single swatch the background color of the page will change to the same color. [more inside]
posted by nickyskye on Aug 29, 2008 - 13 comments

Here's looking at you/me, kid

More good stuff for people who like visual ("optical") illusions (previously): A nice Scientific American article, a particularly creepy illusion, and a link to the "Best visual illusion of the year" contest. Given that the eye/mind/brain is so easy to trick, a person might wonder what's really out there in the world.
posted by cogneuro on Aug 28, 2008 - 26 comments

Ear-sighted

"People with synaesthesia can’t help but get two sensory perceptions for the price of one. Some perceive colours when they hear words or musical notes, or read numbers; rarer individuals can even get tastes from shapes." (previously) Neuroscientist Melissa Saenz of the California Institute of Technology has discovered a new form [pdf] of synaesthesia. Can you hear the dots? (QT)
posted by Kronos_to_Earth on Aug 5, 2008 - 75 comments

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