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August 11, 2010

The squares marked A and B are the same shade of gray


Wrote Kathryn Schulz in her very entertaining book, "Being Wrong: Adventures in The Margin of Error":


This is one of my favorite optical illusions, not because it is particularly dazzling but because it is particularly maddening.... If you think of this image as a checkerboard, then all the "white" squares that fall within the shadow of the cylinder (like B) are the same color as all the "black" squares that fall outside the shadow (like A).

You don't believe me, for the very good reason that you do believe your eyes, and your eyes are telling you that these squares look completely different. Actually, it's not your eyes that are telling you this; it's a handful of interpretive processes.... When it comes to determining the color of objects around us, our visual system can't afford to be too literal. If it were, it would do nothing but measure the wavelength of light reflecting off a given object. In that case, as the psychologist Steven Pinker has pointed out, we would think that a lump of coal sitting in bright sunlight was white, and that a lump of snow inside a dark house was black. Instead, we're able to correct for the presence of light and shadow so that the coal still appears fundamentally black and the snow still appears fundamentally white.

One way we do this is through local contrast. In nature, if something is lighter than its immediate surroundings, it's probably light in an absolute sense, rather than just because of the way the sun is or isn't striking it. That's one reason why, in this illusion, we read Square B (which is lighter than the dark checks around it) as light, period. The same phenomenon applies in reverse, so that we read Square A (which is darker than the squares around it) as dark, period. This interpretation is reinforced by several other interpretive processes, including the fact that we automatically adjust for cast shadows, mentally lightening whatever objects they fall on — in this case, Square B.

The net effect of these visual "corrections" is an illusion that is absolutely unshakeable. When I first saw it, I was so incredulous that I finally took a pair of scissors and cut the picture apart — whereupon, lo and behold, the A and B squares became indistinguishable from each other. In an effort to discourage you from mutilating this book, I offer a second image:


Not quite as convincing as slicing and dicing, perhaps, but a good start. (If you must cut it apart yourself to be persuaded, the original image... is available on the website of its creator, Edward Adelson, a professor of vision science at MIT).


Adelson's proof is here.

He offers "four ideas how to test the amount of light coming from each square" here.

Adelson answers the question "Why does the illusion work?" here.

August 11, 2010 at 06:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

TurfBeetle — It pays to advertise


Yes, that's a brand-new Beetle completely covered with artificial turf.


Can the folks over at Snohomish, Washington-based Dream Turf build one for you?

I dunno — call 'em at 1-866-YES-TURF and say I sent you to qualify for the bookofjoe reader special.

If they pretend they don't know what bookofjoe is, well, a pox on them.

[via Nuclear Toast]

August 11, 2010 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Absinthe Soap


From the website:


Since most people can't afford to fill their bathtub with absinthe for an invigorating soak, we offer this alternative way to aromatize your skin with the sweet scent of absinthe.

Each green bar has the words "Absinthe Soap" embossed on top and comes in a fancy 3-3/4" x 2-3/8" x 7/8" tin.

Preferred by green fairies since 1889.



[via Gessato]

August 11, 2010 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Google Maps — Without the maps


Fata Morgana by Damon Zucconi.

Reminds me of an excellent DVD featuring William Gibson on a road trip.

[via Nuclear Toast]

August 11, 2010 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: EarScope


Bag the Q-Tips, 'cause the Japanese have got your tympanic membranes covered.

From the website:


Ear Scope G3 — 3500-Pixel Endoscope

The Ear Scope G3 is the beginner EarScope model from Coden, designed to let you see inside your ears with bright LED lighting as you clean them. Using the reusable Ear Spoon, you can gently clean every nook and and cranny of your ears with ease, as opposed to cotton cleaners that actually push the dirt back in. The sticky light guides are shaped like cotton cleaners and can pull out dirt or wax without scraping.


Using the regular light guide, The EarScope G3 is also useful on other parts of the body, or even for industrial uses, such as peering inside dark areas like engines, machines, boreholes, etc. It's several tools in one!

Comes with:

• Protection cap

• Ear spoon cleaner

• 20 sticky light guides

• Instruction manual in English


• Pastel blue

• 3500 pixels

• Magnification: 5x

• Gross weight: 4.6 oz. (130g)

• Cable length: 22.5" (570mm)

• Focus area: 0.2-0.6" (5-15mm)

• Lens type: Rod lens - 0.06" (1.5mm)

• 9V block battery Type 6F22(UB) not included

• Diameter of the handle on first swelling: 0.47" (12mm)

• Diameter of the handle on second swelling: 0.67" (17mm)

• Materials: Anti-bacterial ABS resin, acrylic resin, stainless steel


Sticky ear picks, camera adapter and tripod, and arm band available separately.

August 11, 2010 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

ModKat Litter Box


Ooh, this would go beautifully with Gray Cat's silky fur.


Hard to know if Gray Cat (above and below) would go, though.

You know the old saying: "All cats are gray cats in the dark."

That's not quite how it goes?

Never mind.

"ModKat, a unique litter box that embraces form and function. Its modern design compliments* any room,


while the enclosed base and 'rooftop access' allows your cat the privacy needed to do his or her business.


A rounded ergonomic scoop with sweeping brush stores neatly on the side.


The commercial-strength tarpaulin liner is easy to clean and reusable,


with handles for effortless removal and emptying."

15"H x 16"W x 16"L.

Black, Red,


White, Yellow


or Blue.


Bonus: you also receive, at no extra charge, the world's most tricked-out litter scoop (below).


$180 (kitty litter — and kitty, for that matter — not included).


*Compliments — or complements?

Scroll down to Usage note

Now admit it: don't you feel smarter than you did a moment ago?


You don't?


Go away.

August 11, 2010 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Museum of Animal Perspectives — "In a pig's eye"


Wrote Rachel Saslow in the Washington Post, "See what the world looks like to an armadillo [above], an alligator, a scorpion and other animals at the Museum of Animal Perspectives (MAP), an online collection of videos curated by artist and naturalist Sam Easterson. To get his impressive 'crittercam' images, Easterson attaches tiny wireless cameras to the backs of animals; you can hear the scorpion's legs scratch against the earth as it scuttles about. Easterson's videos have been on display at brick-and-mortar museums as well, such as the International Center of Photography in New York. The artist's goal is to 'expand the public's capacity to empathize with animals and plants.' Check it out at http://www.sameasterson.com/animalborneimaging.html."


Tarantula Cam.


Alligator Cam.


Pig Cam.


Scorpion Cam.

August 11, 2010 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

What are they?


Answer here this time tomorrow.

Hint: They don't hatch.

August 11, 2010 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

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