Sense perception

This category contains 3 posts

So how do you explain that… the science of Ouija boards

In the summer of 1990 I visited the Avebury stone circle in Britain. It’s a wonderful place, infused with an atmosphere of prehistoric mystery and inspiring no small amount of wonder at the ingenuity, persistence and perhaps bloody-mindedness of our ancient ancestors. While there I was given the opportunity to try dowsing rods. I had seen people perform this simple trick looking for water – supposedly the rods turn downwards when over a water source – and now was being told that the ‘energy’ in the standing stones would push back against these two metal rods, bent at a 90 degree angle, when someone approached the stones.… Read the rest

Can science help us to understand art?

Over the past 50 years science has made incredible advances in understanding the workings of the human mind. With technologies such as FMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) we now can actually watch brain activity in real time, which puts us well ahead of the days when psychiatrists and philosophers were limited to extrapolating theories of human motivation from observing behaviour and asking questions of participants in studies. But can such technological advances. The following article in the New York Times¬†explores the intersection of brain science and visual art.… Read the rest

Aliens on Mars – after all, seeing is believing.

Our brains spend an inordinate amount of time looking for patterns. It’s something we are profoundly good at, and we should be glad. Meaning, after all, is simply finding a pattern, a system in what would otherwise be simply the white noise of sense data. Among other things, it gives us the possibility of art, reason, and philosophy.

The problem is that we ar e a little too good at it. So determined are we to find meaning in the bewildering storm of data that floods our brains every second that we have developed a tendency to spot patterns even when they aren’t there.… Read the rest

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