Cognitive Daily

Archives for March, 2009

Take another look at this picture of the Rokeby Venus from last week’s post on mirrors in art: Now, imagine you’re actually in the room with Venus, as depicted in this painting. You suspend your astonishment long enough to conduct a quick test of the principle of how a flat mirror works. Consider what would…

Most of us believe that the things we do to stay safe make a lot of sense. But some other people clearly are being unreasonably careful. One might even call them “paranoid.” But is there a general consensus about how to stay safe in the modern world? Or does it depend — on your age,…

Here’s a bonus bit of analysis from last week’s Casual Fridays study. In addition to asking respondents how familiar they were with our selection of stories, we also asked them to describe some detail of the story that was independently verifiable, like how the story ended. The reason we did this was to double-check the…

The Rokeby Venus by Diego Velázquez is a good example of a very common illusion in many paintings: Most viewers would say this picture depicts a woman viewing her own reflection in a mirror. But based on the orientation of the mirror, it’s actually physically impossible for her to see her own reflection. Since we…

Last week I mentioned that Greta had been discussing a study with her class that was related to the fable of the Fox and the Grapes. When most of her students hadn’t heard the story, it provided the opportunity for a lengthy aside: our Casual Fridays study about which stories people had and hadn’t heard.…

Last week’s Casual Fridays study was inspired by an event in Greta’s classroom. She had assumed that most of her students would be familiar with the story of the Fox and the Grapes, which goes as follows: ONE hot summer’s day a Fox was strolling through an orchard till he came to a bunch of…

Suppose you’re running a small organization with five motor vehicles used by your staff and you want to replace them with more fuel-efficient versions, both to save money and reduce your organization’s carbon footprint. Each vehicle travels 10,000 miles a year. Based on your budget and the requirements for each vehicle, you can do the…

Take a look at these two pictures of the Mona Lisa: They’re derived from a series of images of the famous painting that had been obscured by random noise filters (like when your old analog TV wasn’t getting a signal), like this: Each picture appears to have a slightly different facial expression — some happier,…

Attentional blink is a fascinating phenomenon that occurs when we see images, words, or numbers presented in a rapid sequence. As images flash by at about one every tenth of a second, you’re asked to look for two in particular. If you were looking for numbers in a sequence of letters, the sequence might be…

Liveblogging the Pi Day Pizza

In honor of Pi Day, Greta is baking one of our favorite Chicago-style pizzas. This is our reconstruction of the pizza we ate as undergraduates at the University of Chicago. We spent a lot of time hanging out at a pizza place that would later become famous as one of Barack Obama’s favorite haunts: Medici…