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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 »


Communicating with the dead is a standard job requirement for a psychic such as the infamous medium John Edward of the television show Crossing Over who claims to be able to listen to what the deceased family members of his studio audience have to say.  Hearing the thoughts of the dead would appear to be one superpower we certainly do not possess. Surely this superpower must remain firmly in the realm of fiction (Edward included). However, a little thought reveals that we in fact do this all the time. …by simply reading.

There’s a good chance that you’re listening to music while reading this, and if you happen not to be, my bet is that you listen to music in the car, or at home, or while jogging. In all likelihood, you love music – simply love it.

Why?  What is it about those auditory patterns counting as “music” that makes us relish it so? 
Already well-known for its short character length limits, in a press conference scheduled for later today, Twitter will announce that it will severely shorten its allowable “tweets”.

“I’m frankly amazed at all the crap people fit into their tweets,” said Jack Dorsey, Twitters’ founder, by phone with me yesterday. “By shortening tweets to 20 characters, they’ll be able to put their link, and still have about seven characters left over for a snappy headline.”
Our everyday visual perceptions rely upon unfathomably complex computations carried out by tens of billions of neurons across over half our cortex. In spite of this, it does not “feel” like work to see. Our cognitive powers are, in stark contrast, “slow and painful,” and we have great trouble with embarrassingly simple logic tasks.
I have yet to be bored watching the 27-and-a-half-hour extended versions of the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy with the kids. It is truly an awe-inspiring cinematic masterpiece.

There is, however, one persistently annoying aspect of the trilogy that I am petitioning the studio to change on the next release and for the prequels that will appear soon. What’s that one annoying thing about the Lord of the Rings? You know what it is…

Textbooks are not mere non-fiction books. Whereas you can feel free to doubt what ispresented in a typical non-fiction book (mine excluded), textbooks are a record of the true facts and principles in a field. Textbooks, you see, should not be questioned.