Vision

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.

Here’s my vote for the best illusion ever. It was created by B. Pinna, G.J. Brelstaff / Vision Research 40 (2000) 2091–2096.

Loom your head toward, and away, from the center point. Print it out and bring to a bar, and it is even more impressive -- the paper appears to be twisting in your hands.

 
Some other time I'll tell you my speculation for why it works. (It is a
perceiving-the-present explanation
.)

-----
Science can make you a better dancer - or at least improve your chances of not looking stupid to the opposite sex, say a group of evolutionary psychologists who used 3D motion-capture technology to create uniform avatar figures and identified the key movement areas of the male dancer’s body that influence female perceptions of whether their dance skills are “good” or “bad”. 

Apparently it all comes down to neck, trunk, left shoulder and wrist, the variability of movement size of the neck, trunk and left wrist, and the speed of movement of the right knee.

Sounds simple, right?  Read on.


Does a hill feel steeper when you are already exhausted?  Does a hill appear steeper when you are afraid to roll down it?  Is it true that baseballs appear larger to players when they are hitting well? You may have some suspicions that your perception is greatly affected by your context and may not always be correct.  

If you're a print magazine, or in marketing consumer goods, you care about packaging.

The general science magazine "New Scientist" approached neuroscience marketing firm NeuroFocus to test three different cover designs for an August issue of the magazine.

Applying their EEG-based full brain measurements of test subjects' subconscious responses to the three covers, NeuroFocus identified one as clearly superior in terms of its overall neurological effectiveness, saying it scored exceptionally well in emotional engagement, one of their primary metrics, the others being attention and memory retention. 

This neuromarketing research was the first time that the publishing industry used EEG technology to determine the appeal of cover designs. 


There aren’t many cyclopses in nature, and those that exist don’t live up to expectation. They tend to be crustaceans like water fleas and another aptly named “cyclops” (see left photo below) or early invertebrate fish-like ancestors of ours like lancelets.

Getting these animals tipsy and stabbing them through the eye with a stake turns out to be much less impressive than when Odysseus did it.

Can neuroscience help a magazine sell more copies?   New Scientist wants to find out, so they teamed up with NeuroFocus, who bill themselves the world's largest neuromarketing company, to make a magazine cover. 

Using high density arrays of electroencephalographic (EEG) sensors to capture test subjects' brainwave activity, NeuroFocus measured and analyzed their responses to three different cover designs for the August 7 edition of New Scientist.


"All Americans look alike" is a common joke in Asia and a similar sentiment is expressed in virtually every other country populated by a race different than its tourists.   And to some degree it is true.  Most people find it much harder to recognize faces of people from different races than their own.

During a 15-month research project funded by the  Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Teesside University academic Dr. Kazuyo Nakabayashi will carry out experiments in Japan and the UK and collate behavioral and eye movement data.

The study will involve asking students from different races to look at Oriental and Caucasian faces in photographs and online and will examine the ‘recognition keys’ they use – their eye movement, for example.

I believe that music sounds like people, moving. Yes, the idea may sound a bit crazy, but it’s an old idea, much discussed in the 20th century, and going all the way back to the Greeks. There are lots of things going for the theory, including that it helps us explain (1) why our brains are so good at absorbing music (…because we evolved to possess human-movement-detecting auditory mechanisms), (2) why music emotionally moves us (…because human movement is often expressive of the mover’s mood or state), and (3) why music gets us moving (…because we’re a social species prone to social contagion).