Archive for June, 2006

Fooling Your Cones = Color Illusion

Monday, June 26th, 2006


If you stare at the dot for 30 seconds without moving your eyes you will be shocked at the colors you see. 

Here’s how it works.  The first image is a constant brightness image with the hues (colors) reversed- it is not just a negative.  The constant brightness makes the rods in the eye perceive the b&w image accurately.  But the cones are fatigued by the colors.  Therefore when they see white, which is a full spectrum, in the b&w image they don’t respond to the fatigued colors, and thus perceive the opposite ‘true’ colors.  

This is a very interesting demonstration that color is not merely physics, i.e., the color of an object is not merely the colors that are not absorbed.  Color depends on what the neurons tell the brain, and how the brain interprets it.

Birds and reptiles have 4 types of cones that detect 4 different frequencies.  Along the way mammals lost 2 of these cones.  So dogs have very poor color vision (seeing eye dogs distinguish traffic lights by position!).  Fortunately for primates, a duplicated cone gene came into use, so we humans have 3 types of cones (long, medium, short or RGB, though ‘R’ is closer to yellow at its peak sensitivity).  But 2 of the 3 cones (both attached to the X chromosome – which males have only one of, hence the prevalence of colorblindness in males) are very close in peak frequency, unlike the widely separated 4 cones in birds and reptiles.  So not only can birds and reptiles see in more colors than humans , such as “invisible” ultraviolet, they can outsee us in colors.  At least, except for owls, we have them beat in 3D with binocular vision.

color 5-2

Do you see a 2 or a 5?

Nuit, Nut, Nix = Mox Nix

Friday, June 23rd, 2006

Nut     Pluto Hubble Picture    Clyde Tombaugh

“Mox nix” derives from the German machts nichts meaning “it makes no difference.”  Yesterday the International Astronomical Union named the two newly discovered moons of Pluto Nix and Hydra.  Nyx is the Greek goddess of night, but that was nixed because there is an asteroid named Nyx.  So Nix, aka Nuit and Nut, the Egyptian goddess of the sky was used.  The ‘N” and ‘H’ are also the first letters of New Horizons, the spacecraft that will arrive at Pluto in 2015.

New Horizons was launched as the fastest spacecraft ever, at 10 miles per second (36,000 mph, ~0.005% the speed of light), and will further accelerate to 47,000 mph by using Jupiter’s gravity as a slingshot.  At that rate if one of the twins (Lia, of course) went to Pluto and back in 19 years, she would be about 1 second younger than Alan due to the Twin Paradox.  If the ship traveled 99% the speed of light, Lia would arrive back about 10 years younger than Alan!  Packaging this genuine fountain of youth is problematic.

Incidentally, I met Clyde Tombaugh, the discoverer of Pluto (in 1930), at the 1988 Stellafane Convention.

Bush in Budapest = 4 months early

Thursday, June 22nd, 2006

Oly távol, messze van hazám…
Csak még egyszer láthatnám.

Flag over Danube  Bush and President Solyom  October 23, 1956  Bush & troops  letters

President Bush visited Budapest today to commemorate the the 50th anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Uprising.  He is 4 months early (history lesson from the book Anarchy, A Graphic Guide). 

It was October 23rd when the revolt began with demonstrations.  It was November 1st when Kádár János betrayed Hungary by “inviting” Soviet troops to assist putting down the revolution.  I remember my parents waking me in the  middle of the night to look out the window of our main street apartment to see a long line of those tanks entering Hungary – each with exactly one soldier seated on top carrying a flaming torch.  It wasn’t until my birthday on December 5th that we stepped outside our apartment for the last time and became refugees.  By mid-December the borders were effectively closed.  Over 200,000 Hungarians had fled their country of birth.

 The “Daily Dish of Cosmopolitan Budapest,” Pesticide said this about Bush’s visit:

Snow’s statement that Bush’s trip “about visiting the Hungarian government and paying homage to what they went through 50 years ago” seems just a little odd, given that the current government is pretty much the same party that fought against the heroic ’56ers. Not that this should really matter, given that it’s all about a “tone poem,” whatever the f*** that might be.

They also said this about protesting (Bush, not Voldemort!):

Go to the main protest against you-know-who, which will be starting at 16:00 on Szabadság tér (Freedom Square), conveniently right in front of the American Embassy. While we can hardly fault anyone for showing up to let off some steam at Uncle Sam, do make sure to note the big, ugly-ass Soviet monument while you are there, and remember that if it wasn’t for the occasionally boorish Yanks, you’d all be speaking Russian. Or, even worse, Hungarian.

Now go see the dokumentumfilm OLY TÁVOL, MESSZE VAN HAZÁM (in Hungarian). Or better, visit Budapest and use Bob Dent’s book Budapest 1956: Locations of Drama as your guide.

Albinos, Templars, DaVinci’s Last Supper, Nazis = Threads of History

Monday, June 19th, 2006

Spools of Thread 

Dr. Lynette Davidson writes a great article, What do Templars, the Jesus Family and DaVinci have to do with Nazis?, about how bad history, even fictionalized, has real consequences.

But do Knight’s Templar, as seen in their heyday and in the 1930’s, suffer?

Templar 1100s     Templar 1930s

Does DaVinci’s Last Supper suffer from being repainted, or from modern interpretations?  The artwork at the top is

“A life sized rendering of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper constructed from 20,736 spools of thread strung onto aluminum ball chain. When seen with the aid of optical devices, the spools of thread coalesce into realistic images of Christ and his disciples.”

Below is the repaired version along with a detail showing before and after of JohnMary.  The third picture is an ad showing a sacred feminine version that was banned in Milan.

Last Supper  before and after


As for albinos, Karen Jordan, Lexi’s mom, says this about the stereotypical depiction of albinos in books and movies:

One more evil albino makes things just a little harder for my daughter and many others.

The face of albinism

Incidentally, athough albinos usually do have some vision impairment, their eyes are only red, like everyone else’s, in flash pictures.

Billy & Cameron = Youngest NASA Scientists

Friday, June 9th, 2006

Billy & Cameron    Student Orion Rocket  

Fifth graders Billy Shannon and Cameron Wade got to attend the NASA rocket launch which had their own experiments aboard, thanks in a very teensy part to my financial contribution on bablog.  Today most experiments involve Menthos and Diet Coke, but here is what the elementary school students did:

The students placed nuts and bolts screwed together in tiny bottles to see whether the vibrations from the rocket will break them apart.  They also sent up plant seeds, which they will plant this summer along with seeds that haven’t been airborne to see whether there is a difference in growth.

As a former seventh grade Bronx county Science Fair winner for my project “How does a Photoelectric Cell Convert Light Energy into Electrical Energy” – which provided me the opportunity to participate in the (alas discontinued) Florida Science Study Program – I know personally how important such an experience can be to a young student/scientist.

Update, thanks to Phil.

6/6/6 = Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia

Tuesday, June 6th, 2006

Great Fire of London 1666 Art     6x6 Latin Square sums to 666     Inside Monument to Great Fire of London

Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia is the fear that 666 is the number of the Devil.  Aside Revelations 13, there are some peculiar theories as to the origin of the number.  June 6, 1666 was a good day for that old time blogger, Samuel Pepys, because of English victories at sea over the Dutch.  In part he wrote:

Up betimes, and vexed with my people for having a key taken out of the chamber doors and nobody knew where it was, as also with my boy for not being ready as soon as I, though I called him, whereupon I boxed him soundly, and  then to my business at the office and on the Victualling Office, and thence by water to St. James’s, whither he [the Duke of York] is now gone, it being a monthly fast-day for the plague. … Mightily pleased with this happy day’s newes, and the more, because confirmed by Sir Daniel Harvy,  who was in the whole fight with the Generall, and tells me that there appear but thirty-six in all of the Dutch fleete left at the end of the voyage when they run home.  The joy of the City was this night exceeding great.

September 2 that year was a bad day, as the Great Fire of 1666 burned down medieval London.  Pepys wrote:

Spirals of great fire and flame lept forth from every chimney and London was left but a ruin.

The fire smoldered until March of 1667.  On the bright side, the Great Fire did end the previous year’s plague and made way for the great architectural works of Christopher Wren.

Speaking of fire and history, today is the aniversary of D-Day, “The End of the Beginning” of Hitler’s Nazis, in 1944, and the shooting of James Meredith, the first black man to attend the University of Mississippi, in 1966.

D-Day     fire     Meredith

Mona Lisa != Φ

Friday, June 2nd, 2006

6 Mona Lisas

Guess which book I’m reading!  There is a lot of mumbo jumbo about the golden ratio (Φ) in the book, so I think it is interesting that the Mona Lisa hanging in the Louvre is ~4% too wide in aspect – compare first Mona above to “Φ ratio-ed” second.  The third Mona is a contempory’s copy of the original, showing the original original may have been wider yet – note columns on sides - a full ~31% too wide for Φ.

The three Mona Lisa variations to the right of the pentagram are: Dali’s self-portrait, my favorite – check out the 30(?) pieces of silver he/she is holding in his/her hand;  MAD Magazine cover art;  and an eye test.  Can you see what’s wrong with the last Mona, aside from the obvious?