Saturday, August 04, 2007

God's Inbox

And you thought YOUR email inbox was full of the same old garbage all the time…

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Harry McGurk

You've come across a zillion optical illusions on the web, but how many audible illusions have you found? OK, you could argue that the Harry McGurk Effect is also an optical one, since it requires you to watch at least half the time, but the real tricking is through the ears, and whichever way you look at it, it's a fascinating illusion.

Whenever you watch the movie linked here, you'll quite clearly hear him saying "Dada dada dada", but if you close your eyes, you'll quite clearly hear him saying "Baba baba baba" instead. Play the clip several times, alternating between looking while listening, and listening with your eyes shut. Try looking off to the side of the screen and then quickly looking straight at him in mid-sentence, and what you hear will change!

Most adults (98%) think they are hearing "Dada". In reality you are hearing the sound "Baba", while you are seeing the lip movements for "Gaga". The McGurk Effect was first described by Harry McGurk and John MacDonald in "Hearing lips and seeing voices", Nature 264, 746-748 (1976).

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Surviving a Disaster

Today I came across "100 top item to disappear first during a national emergency". What's interesting about this list isn't what items go first, but what it says about humans and the way they think, feel and act when the chips are down. It wasn't the list which interested me, so much as the psychology behind it. Here it is, in the same order as the original list, but broken down into "reaction stages". You can see the original, full list here.

Generators, Water Filters/Purifiers, Portable Toilets, Firewood, Lamp Oil, Wicks, Lamps, Coleman Fuel
I want to make sure I'm warm, am drinking safe water and can go to the toilet.

Guns, Ammunition, Pepper Spray, Knives, Clubs, Bats & Slingshots
Having secured a few treasures, I will now fight or kill anyone who tries to take them.

Hand Can Openers, Egg Beaters, Whisks, Honey/Syrups/Sugar, Rice, Beans, Wheat, Cooking Oil, Charcoal, Lighter Fluid
I'm getting hungry. I need food, and I need to cook with my fire, not just use it for warmth.

Water Containers, Propane Cylinder, Survival Guide Book, Mantle Lighting
I've suddenly realised water won't be coming out of the pipes much longer, I'll need to go looking for it. The lamps I got first day don't last long, and I know nothing about how to fend for myself when the water stops. I'd better learn.

Baby Supplies, Diapers, Ointments, Aspirin, Washboards, Mop Bucket, Cookstoves, Vitamins, Feminine Hygiene, Haircare
First indication that I need to care about someone other than myself. Living rough isn't as healthy as I thought it was going to be, I feel sick and need to keep everything cleaner to stop disease.

Saws, Axes, Hatchets, Wedges, Aluminum Foil, Gasoline Container, Garbage Bags, Toilet Paper, Kleenex, Paper Towels, Powdered Milk, Garden Seeds, Clothes Pins, Pump Repair Kit, Tuna Fish, Fire Extinguishers, First Aid Kits, Batteries, Garlic, Spices & Vinegar, Baking Supplies
Notice how we've gone from "essentials to keep me alive today" to "start getting things for the long-term"? Also, some things have already broken down, and we almost had a fire in the shelter last night when one of the lamps tipped over.

Big Dogs
We got attacked and I found its a lot harder to kill someone than I thought, so I need an animal to do it.

That's about a third of the list, but you get the general idea. Have a look at the complete list, and think about the timing, and why that item is important at this stage in the disaster. It's an interesting view.