What color is that dress after all? Answer: no color

A few days ago, the world was taken by storm by the is-it-a-gold-and-white-or-a-blue-and-black-dress controversy. There have been several explanations of this phenomenon from several different experts (see for example Wired and NYTimes). As far as I can tell these explanations center on two points: The close cropping of the image prevents a person from globally contextualizing the dress. Is the dress drenched in light […]

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From Brian Williams to Vincent Van Gogh to Hellen Keller to you and me

Here are my two cents on Brian Williams and the malleability of memory. Let’s start by fully acknowledging the limitations of perception. Perception of the world outside is very different from the record produced by a camera or audio record. Perception of our innards is even farther from accurate: is that a knife in my stomach or gas? So the information coming in to the brain, information […]

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Make war on complacency not on people – Paris, January 2015

I have been a visitor in the incomparable city of Paris in the great country of France for almost three weeks now. Less than two weeks ago, Paris and France suffered a great injury, an egregious insult. Nearly twenty people were killed. Their lives ended brutally, undeservedly, and un-naturally. I am a foreigner here and likely not attune to the subtleties of Parisian emotional […]

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Empathic rats… and TV

Last week, out of the blue, I received the above video from Oxford Scientific Films. Well, maybe not entirely out of the blue but certainly long after I’d given the footage any thought. Let me explain. In spring of 2013, a producer from Oxford Scientific Films contacted me about filming our empathic rats for use in a documentary to be aired on BBC. I have a great deal of respect for BBC and despite the fact that rats are reluctant “movie stars,” I agreed. I knew that the production would be well done and I wanted our rats to gain the exposure that a BBC show could afford them. So on Sunday, July 7th, 2013, I met a crew at my laboratory. Filming went well. Victoria Huang and Amisha Gandhi, two University of Chicago undergraduates in my laboratory, had patiently worked with the rats. The rats were so mellow that they were completely non-plussed by the cameras and strangers. They were stars as you can see for yourself. The day was long but quite enjoyable. And we were even able to crowd together and listen to Andy Murray win Wimbledon. Our British visitors were happy and proud. The show was designed to highlight relationships between individuals from different species. Our work was included because the empathic feeling that links two rats is likely to be related to the feeling that connects two from different species. Originally, we heard that the show […]

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