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Notes Towards Day 13: Ambiguous Figures

Notes Towards Day 13 of Food for Thought

I. Welcome back from break...any relevant tales?
(about food, about choice, about data-collection or interpretation?)

II. Coursekeeping
Tomorrow: confs. w/
Michelle and Holly, 12 & 12:30;
with Steph and Ilana, 4 &4:30.

For Thursday: prepare to present the data from your health survey in class
(help with posting for Malli, Ilana, Anna? others?)

also read next two essays in course packet: Benedict Carey's Aug. NYTimes article,
"While a Magician Works, the Mind Does the Tricks."
and July 2008 Nature Reviews Neuroscience article on which it was based

For Friday: conduct another survey (approx. same terms: ask 15 subjects 5 questions)
focused on interpreting ambiguous imput. Use some ambiguous figures, or magic tricks:
assigned material from today and Thursday is full of possibilities...
as was last week's session w/ Wil Franklin about caterpillars (and us?) making choices.....
puns might also be fun!
Also: Pop-Art Quiz re: "change blindness"

Put the results of your data on-line (as you did last week)

as aide....
III. Re-introducing Paul Grobstein
("human nature," "what is health," "allow for serendipity"...)
ghost in the machine re: CSem, reading assignments
(The Odds of That; The Emotional Dog and its Rational Tail; Ahab's Wife; cannabalism...);
& (really open-ended, data-gathering) writing assignments....
IV. Notes from the Session
what's this course about?
we've strayed entirely from The Omnivore's Dilemma
it's basic sociology: why we make choices
who makes choices? what part of you makes choices? brain/gut/soul/heart?
we like to think we are in total control, logically in charge of our decisions,
but often we can't give a reason

Emily Dickinson:
The Brain - is wider than the Sky -
For - put them side by side -
The one the other will contain
With ease - and You - beside-
it's all perception, your understanding of what you are seeing
there is no base reality: the brain selects out from all the buzzing
capacity? concept?
maybe the sky doesn't exist, without our concept of it
maybe the brain constructs/creates the sky
what about a collective construction of all our brains?
can the brain be held responsible for the creation of material?
what about mind-altering drugs?
we could all live in the matrix
how does a material thing construct a material reality?
what makes the brain the primordial base of all things?
the brain is an impulse
character is a repetitive collection of impulses
the brain is 10 to the 13th nerve cells--there's plenty of room for individuality
how can we continue to construct the same reality, if our brains are different?
what do optical illusions tell us about how the brain works?
your brain is not attempting to give you a faithful picture,
but just making sense of the information it is getting
it's making a guess about what's out there
for example: it notices areas of sharp changes in intensity, and ignores the rest,
then goes back and paints those in
why would it throw away information, and then recreate it?
because that information is critically dependent on the source of illumination, which alters
the brain uses the presumption that things don't change a lot over time
what you want to know is not what is now, but what will be,
a little distance in the future (to be prepared for it)
the brain makes an informed guess: a prediction
what you are seeing: the brain's informed guessing about what's there
this is not an artist's trick: it's fundamental reality
incoming information is always ambiguous, subject to multiple interpretations
you never know what's out there
we all live in the matrix, receiving ambiguous information--
only there's "no one out there" trying to trick us
the classroom table actually consists of rapidly randomly moving particles
it is a small statistical regularity in the randomness that is the evolving universe
the brain produces order in that chaos; it locates and gives meaning to randomness
how do we account for the regularities in the irregular world?
we assign meaning to coincidences ("the odds of that")
we never touch anything: it's just energy levels interacting
everything is in a constant flux
we are filling in the blanks (think of false memories)
do you like this story? does it give you a new/interesting way of making sense of things?
what does it have to do with the class?
we are all making choices all the time....