language and shaping perception, smart conservative cranks are still cranks

jean seberg in Breathless

jean seberg in Breathless

Does Language Shape What We See?

by Virginia Hughes

At this very moment, your eyes and brain are performing an astounding series of coordinated operations.

Light rays from the screen are hitting your retina, the sheet of light-sensitive cells that lines the back wall of each of your eyes. Those cells, in turn, are converting light into electrical pulses that can be decoded by your brain.

The electrical messages travel down the optic nerve to your thalamus, a relay center for sensory information in the middle of the brain, and from the thalamus to the visual cortex at the back of your head. In the visual cortex, the message jumps from one layer of tissue to the next, allowing you to determine the shape and color and movement of the thing in your visual field.

Just that piece of information would seem to imply that processing what we see is kind of modular. All this things are taken in a stream and the brain puts the pieces together in workman-like fashion.  Yet evidence suggest that other input plays a role, either simultaneously or is called on as more visual information is processed. memory may help recognize a visual field faster or may invoke perceptions based on emotions associated with memory so you see a blue box, but your friend sees a blue box and is sad or happy. Perhaps smell – one of the strongest senses for invoking memory affects sight. Worth a read with lots of information for a short article.

Couplet on Water and Flowers

Couplet on Water and Flowers, 1972, by Feng Kanghou  (Chinese, 1901–1983). I liked this just as a work of visual art. The signs and the basic contrast between white and black. Though it does have a literal meaning. Kanghou’s interpretation of a couplet from Hong Yingming’s (fl. 1596)

However rapidly water flows, it is always tranquil in itself.
Though their petals fall from time to time, flowers remain restful at heart.
If we could deal with daily affairs and people with this attitude, there would be no inner disturbances.
How carefree our bodies and minds would be!

There is some evidence – though not conclusive, that people who read books tend to be more moral.  Generally the more education someone has the less likely they are to be street criminals – though Wall Street bankers would suggest that there are clear exceptions for some criminal behavior. And women across all demographics commit fewer crimes than men.  Intelligence is frequently linked to better behavior, though a Arthur Conan Doyle knew, geniuses can be criminals. Reagan appointee  Adm. John Poindexter is said to be a genius, yet was neck deep in the Iran-Contra scandal. Still, it is unsettling that someone with a Ph.D. is a crank, Oregon’s GOP Chair Wants to Sprinkle Nuclear Waste From Airplanes

After months of in-fighting, the beleaguered Oregon Republican Party elected a new chairman last weekend. His name is Art Robinson, and he wants to sprinkle radioactive waste from airplanes to build up our resistance to degenerative illnesses. Robinson, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress against progressive Rep. Peter DeFazio in 2010 and 2012, took over after the previous chair resigned in advance of a recall campaign over her alleged financial mismanagement.

Robinson, who has a Ph.D. in chemistry, has marketed himself for the last three decades as an expert on everything from nuclear fallout to AIDS to climate science in the pages of a monthly newsletter, Access to Energy, which he published from his compound in the small town of Cave Junction.

…On nuclear waste: “All we need do with nuclear waste is dilute it to a low radiation level and sprinkle it over the ocean—or even over America after hormesis is better understood and verified with respect to more diseases.” And: “If we could use it to enhance our own drinking water here in Oregon, where background radiation is low, it would hormetically enhance our resistance to degenerative diseases. Alas, this would be against the law.”

I minored in chemistry. A common, though admittedly not hilarious joke is that if chemists were really smart they would have majored in physics. Hormesis is a real phenomenon, many vaccinations are indirectly based on that theory. It means stimulation by the use of a low concentration of a toxin. There is no, and I mean no evidence that exposure to low levels of atomic radiation increases human resistance to radiation poisoning. He also believes that AIDS was a government invention cooked up to experiment with various kinds of “social engineering, especially in the public schools.” And he reminds of Nobel prize winner William Shockley in his views on race, On diversity: The white-male imbalance at his alma mater, Cal Tech, Robinson argued, was due to the fact that “its applicants are weighted toward those who seek severe, difficult, total-immersion training in science—an experience few women and blacks desire.”