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Illusion, ambiguity and truth

bison mammoth optical illusionThere’s something irresistible about optical illusions. They seem to us a sort of mental sleight of hand, as if nature has a mischievous streak and is deliberately messing about with our vision. It turns out that even some of our stone-age ancestors were thinking about the power of illusion; over at National Geographic Andrew Howley explores the phenomenon of optical illusion in cave paintings and other prehistoric art, showing that in at least one instance,pictured here, the visual ambiguity seems indisputably deliberate.

Does our fascination with ambiguity have anything to tell us about our relationship with truth? Can we find some kind of meaning in our curious interest in multiplying meanings?… Read the rest

Seeing is believing. Almost.

Of all our senses, vision is the one we tend to trust most. Ask any group of people which of the five senses (accepting for a moment the conventional categorization of our sense perception into five categories), almost none will choose to give up their sense of sight. “Seeing is believing,” as the old saying goes. In this TED talk by Beau Lotto, however, we get a slightly different idea of the reliability of visual perception. Our senses, Lotto observes, evolved for specific adaptive reasons. And truth wasn’t necessarily one of them.… Read the rest

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