Vision

Other people have an accent, but not me. And this is not just because I have no accent. I wouldn’t have an accent even if I had one!

Accent is a strange thing (as is my reasoning style). No matter the accent you get stuck with – southern, New Yorker, or my valley girl rendition – you feel as if it is the other accents that sound accented to you. Your own accent sounds, well, unaccented, like vanilla, corn flakes, or white bread. Arguments about which person “has an accent” don’t tend to be productive; just a lot of pointing and reiterating the pearl, “No, you’re the one with the accent.”
It’s nearing the end of American football season, with the Super Bowl fast approaching. These games involve displays of tremendous strength, agility and heart. What you may not have known is that some of the most talented players out on the field are doing it all with their eyes closed.   Literally.    The American football player Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals made news last year when photographers captured him catching the ball with his eyes closed. He apparently does this all the time. And it is not just Fitzgerald who does this: after just five minutes searching online I found evidence that acclaimed college wide receiver Austin Pettis of Boise State, this year’s Fiesta Bowl Champion’s, closes his eyes when catching, as seen in the photo here.
How does an outfielder get to the right place at the right time to catch a fly ball? According to a recent article in the Journal of Vision, the "outfielder problem" represents the definitive question of visual-motor control. How does the brain use visual information to guide action?

To test three theories that might explain an outfielder's ability to catch a fly ball, researchers programmed Brown University's virtual reality lab, the VENLab, to produce realistic balls and simulate catches. The team then lobbed virtual fly balls to a dozen experienced ball players.
Surgeons from UC Davis Medical Center say they have demonstrated that artificial muscles can restore the ability of patients with facial paralysis to blink, a development that could potentially  prevent corneal ulcers and the blindness that usually follows. Detailed in the January-February issue of the Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery, the development could benefit the thousands of people each year who no longer are able to close their eyelids due to combat-related injuries, stroke, nerve injury or facial surgery.

In addition, the technique, which uses a combination of electrode leads and silicon polymers, could be used to develop synthetic muscles to control other parts of the body. The new
Later this evening I’ll be giving a talk to a group of astronomers on what its like to see like an alien. The beauty of this is that I can speculate until the cows come home without fear of any counterexamples being brought to my attention. And even if an alien were to be among the audience members and were to loudly object that he sees differently than I claim, I can always just say that the jury is out until we get more data, and then advise him not to let the door slam into his proboscis on the way out. 

Although it may seem wild-eyed to discuss the eyes of aliens, if we understand why our vision is as it is, then we may be able to intelligently guess whether aliens will have vision like ours. 
Dear Hugh Hefner:

Ever wondered  why you’re rich?   Yes, yes, you’re a savvy businessman who succeeded where thousands have failed.   But there are deeper reasons underlying why your business model works at all. When one digs deeply enough one finds that color – yup, the stuff of rainbows and Crayola – is at the core of your success. Without hue, there’d be no Hugh.
Individuals use a variety of cues to identify their own kin and humans can also detect resemblances in families other than their own, in defiance of 'you all look alike to us' jokes.   A new study says that our success in doing so is the same even if those families are not the same race as ourselves. 
In a survey conducted about patients’ expectations of electronic retina prostheses (retina implants) a decade ago, visually impaired or blind patients with degenerative retina conditions stated they would be happy if they were able to regain some mobility and recognize faces and read again.

According to the presentations given at the international symposium “Artificial Vision” September 19th, 2009 at the Wissenschaftszentrum Bonn, that's gotten a lot closer.
Reading pervades every aspect of our daily lives, so much so that one would be hardpressed to find a room in a modern house without words written somewhere inside. Many of us now read more sentences in a day than we listen to. Not only are we highly competent readers, but our brains even appear to have regions devoted to recognizing words. A Martian just beginning to study us humans might be excused for concluding that we had evolved to read. 
 
But, of course, we haven’t. Reading and writing is a recent human invention, going back only several thousand years, and much more recently for many parts of the world. We are reading using the eyes and brains of our illiterate ancestors. Why are we so good at such an unnatural act? 
 
Male anglerfish are born with an innate desire to not exist. As soon as a male reaches maturity, he acquires an urge to find a female, sink his teeth into her, and grow into her. This evolved because anglerfish live in the dark ocean abyss with few mating opportunities.

By giving up his life to be part of the female, the male can reproduce more often.   It’s not clear he can appreciate all the sex he’s getting, however, because much of his body and brain atrophies and fuses with her body. Nevertheless, that’s where male anglerfish want to be – that’s a full male anglerfish life.

And you thought you had problems. At least you’re not partially absorbed in someone else’s abdomen. Let’s toast our fortune: We are not male anglerfish!

Or are we?