The phrase, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” seems especially true for scientists. What we study becomes not only intellectually beautiful, but also literally beautiful: the form is pleasing to the eyes. Appreciation and endearment develops over time as scientists gaze on their subject for hours, days, years. In fact, research by the psychologist Robert Zajonc shows that the more familiar you are with something, the more likely you are to enjoy it.
Benjamin Franklin once quipped: ‘There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know oneself.’ Every decision we make, from pinpointing the source of a faint sound to choosing a new job, comes with a degree of confidence that we have made the right call. If confidence is sufficiently low, we might change our minds and reverse our decision. Now scientists are using these choice reversals to study the first inklings of self-knowledge. Changes of mind, it turns out, reflect a precisely tuned process for monitoring our stream of thoughts.Continue reading
Our sense of sight is arguably our most important sense. Imagine how different your life would be if soon after birth, you lost the ability to see. For over 1.4 million children worldwide, that is their life. Being blind in developing countries like India has a costly impact: over 90% of blind children do not go to school, less than 50% make it to adulthood, and for those that do, only 20% are employed. But the real tragedy is that many of these cases of childhood blindness are completely avoidable and even treatable.
Why do they go untreated?
The minds of individuals are like parallel universes, forever inaccessible to one another. Never do we truly see through the eyes of another person. It is common for us to wonder if other people experience the world in the same way we do. Is your green my red? Is my yellow your blue?Continue reading
Have you ever wondered if you experience the world like everyone else? We assume that our senses tell us what’s going on in the world, but they’re far from perfect. Synesthesia is a cool example of when our senses have a mind of their own.Continue reading
Our eyes contain millions of color-sensitive cells, called cones, which maximally respond to red, green, and blue light. With just these three types of color receptors, we can see the full rainbow of our world.Continue reading
What would the world be like without color? Imagine you are a neurophysiologist, who studies color perception. You know that light is a wave and that humans perceive color according to differential activation of color receptors, known as cones, in the retina. You know that red cones are sensitive to long wavelengths, green cones are sensitive to medium wavelengths, and blue cones are sensitive to short wavelengths. There’s just one issue: your entire life, you have been confined to a dark room where your only access to the outside world is a black and white television monitor. You have never seen color.Continue reading
“What is color?”
What a good question! The answer is a bit tricky, but it starts with light. Color is the visual perception of different wavelengths of light reflecting off objects, which is the subjective experience of something much more omnipresent: the electromagnetic spectrum. Dun, dun, dun!Continue reading