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Mark ChangiziRSS Feed of this column.

Mark Changizi is Director of Human Cognition at 2AI, and the author of The Vision Revolution (Benbella 2009) and Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed... Read More »

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Imagine, if you will, a Borg cube from Star Trek humming along through space, part of a fleet of such cubes, each with millions of drones participating in a spatially non-localized brain of billions.

Now imagine that this collective Borg brain has a headache. The camera zooms inside one of the cubes and we see the source of the problem: a dreadlocked alien has awakened, and he’s raging through the ship, ripping up the neural wiring that connects the Borg drones to one another. Suddenly disconnected from the collective, the drones are waking up and finding themselves for the first time.

Although this rabble-rousing nerve-cutter might sound like the actions of a Klingon, as the camera gets closer we realize it’s actually a human.

Many of the films we love manage to put us in someone else’s shoes, whether it be the shoes of a social network tycoon or a zombie killer. After all, we don’t pay $15 to see on screen what we do all day. Writers and directors get us into the protagonist’s head in a variety of ways, including letting us hear his or her inner thoughts.

But a more direct route into the shoes of the protagonist is to make it appear as if the viewer is actually in the body of the protagonist.

Science 2.0 is making the cartoon circuit! One of my recent pieces on the brain, computers, and the vagueness of language (Why Meanings Must Be Fuzzy) motivated this comic strip at Calamities of Nature: http://www.calamitiesofnature.com/archive/?c=462

In the cult television series Mystery Science Theater 3000, we are treated to two aliens and a dude wisecracking their way through terrible old B-movies like Project Moonbase. For example, in their episode watching the 1963 movie, The Slime People: Up from the Bowels of the Earth, the main character calls the operator on the payphone at a deserted L.A. airport, and one of the robots improvises, “Hi. This is the human race. We're not in right now. Please speak clearly after the sound of the bomb.”

Boise State University's football team is smoking, and some have wondered whether their blue football field may help explain their success...so much so that, a couple months back, Oregon State painted their practice field blue to help them prepare for playing on it.

Could practicing and playing on blue really give the Broncos a leg up? It seems unlikely.
You’ve heard that space is curved – that’s gravity. You’ve also been told that you cannot really understand curved space. Sure, you can come to know curvy mathematics by studying general relativity or differential geometry, but you cannot grasp curved space in your bones…for the obvious reason that, in our everyday human-level world, space is flat, and so we have a brain for thinking flat.

Or, at least, that’s what they say.


But there is at least one variety of curvy mathematics that your brain comprehends so completely that you don’t even know you know it. It concerns your visual field, and your innate understanding of the directions from you to all the objects in your environment.