How do our brains reconstruct the visual world?

anifest_3d_movie-photo-by-michal-husakGiven that we see the world through two small, flat retinae at the backs of our eyes, it seems remarkable that what each of us perceives is a seamless, three-dimensional visual world.

The retinae respond to various wavelengths of light from the world around us. But that’s just the first part of the process. Our brains have to do a lot of work with all that raw data that comes in – stitching it all together, choosing what to concentrate on and what to ignore. It’s the brain that constructs our visual world. (more…)

Selfie is not a dirty word

Unidentified woman taking her own photograph using a mirror and a box camera, roughly 1900.jpg More details Unidentified woman taking her own photograph using a mirror and a box camera, roughly 1900, Scanned from the original 4x5 inch glass negative.

Unidentified woman taking her own photograph using a mirror and a box camera, roughly 1900, Scanned from the original 4×5 inch glass negative.

Three years ago, on the 18th of November, 2013, the Oxford English Dictionary named the term “selfie” as their Word of the Year.

It was a term coined by an Australian, who took a photo of himself. He then posted it on an ABC online forum, saying, “Um, drunk at a mates 21st, I tripped ofer [sic] and landed lip first (with front teeth coming a very close second) on a set of steps. I had a hole about 1cm long right through my bottom lip. And sorry about the focus, it was a selfie”.

Today the term crops up with the regularity of death and taxes in news feeds across the world, and like death and taxes, it releases myriad conflicting contrails. (more…)

Science deconstructs humor: What makes some things funny?

Think of the most hilarious video you’ve ever seen on the internet. Why is it so funny?

As a researcher who investigates some of the potential side effects of humor, I spend a fair bit of time verifying the funniness of the jokes, photos and videos we present to participants in our studies. Quantifying the perception of humor is paramount in ensuring our findings are valid and reliable. We often rely on pretesting – that is, trying out jokes and other potential stimuli on different samples of people – to give us a sense of whether they might work in our studies. (more…)

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