Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Evolving Systems Course, week 12: the usefulness of biparteness?

Anne Dalke's picture

As always, you're free to write about whatever came into your mind in class this week. If you'd like a nudge....well, how does recognizing the bipartite character of the brain (and the concomitant ability to come up w/ alternative constructions) help you think about evolution?

Angela_MCA's picture

 I really like the idea that

 I really like the idea that the subconscious part of our brain is trying to help us to see things better, but I'm curious to know what things would REALLY look like if we saw it as is. I mean, blind people have to use their other senses to perceive things. They would, for example, have to touch the rock to see if it was a depression or a bulge, but they would get the right answer because they'd actually feel it. Does the brain "fix" our perceptions with the other senses similar to what it does to our vision?

I also like that I could control what my subconscious was seeing. I could try to see the bulge as a depression, and see the spinning woman going both clockwise and counter-clockwise.  But, sometimes I had a really difficult time doing this and it frustrated me. I felt like it would only let me see it in a different way when it felt like giving in.  Is the unconscious stronger than the conscious?

Imittleman's picture

 This discussion I've found

 This discussion I've found of the things I've found the most interesting is how this can apply to real life situations, not just optical illusions.  Instead of us literally seeing two different things, we can completely interpret a situation in two different ways.  One could look at the exchange that took place and find it friendly while another found it rude.  And neither is wrong.  And perhaps both are correct.  It's like that two image picture, I think.

I think last week we discussed whether we were fascinated or afraid by the fact we aren't actually in as much control as we believe we are.  I can see why initially that would be scary, but in a lot of ways I also find it comforting.  Sometimes what you think you're seeing isn't comforting at all.  It's upsetting or frustrating and sometimes the sole comfort one can have for themselves is that they're misinterpreting the situation and their brain is merely playing tricks on them.  

I feel having that self awareness and not falling for tricks or interpretations of the brain can get one far in life.  

Valentina's picture

It worries me when I'm trying

It worries me when I'm trying to remember this concept of "brain bipartiteness", decide to google it, and only get links on Serendip. Hmmm. Paul, did you make up this word??? Considering the third link on Google is to a paper you wrote, I'm going to answer my own question with yes.

Since I'm still confused, I'm going to go ahead and comment instead on the article posted by Anne. As someone who feels helpless to my own need to muddle on facebook, news on Yahoo!, e-mail, TFLN (texts form last night), and usually Perez before being able get any work done... I'd say I couldn't agree more with the article's point that our lives of "growing up digital" is rewiring our brains. I think of it kind of like working out at the gym. If you're constantly doing cardio works out, you're not building a muscle base. And if you're just doing lifting, you're going to have trouble breaking down fat. This is related- despite what you might think- because our lives are becoming more and more made up of lifting (digital world) and less of the cardio ("real world"). So if someone only does cardio, they will be fit but could be getting a lot more out of their workout. Meanwhile, if someone only does lifting, they will not really be fit but might look "beach-ready". Point being, the digital world is changing our brain because how could it not? The key of this process, moving forward in our lives, is going to be balancing the two and hoping that the digital world does not take over to the point that we are going to lose valuable connections in our brain that cannot be accessed by perusing through neither the latests hilarious texts ( here's a semi-appropriate one... (330): I had fun this weekend too. According to Web MD, my symptoms say I had a miscarriage.) nor, perhaps even, a blog on the brain.

Summer's picture

Brains, Brains

    Well, last week's discussion actually made me, errr, confused. 

    (Now I'm having a terrible sore throat I wish that my brain can do something to help distracting me from paying attention to my poor throat = =|||...)

    I like what the brains do with all those interesting pictures. I feel that we are seeing another world from a flat plane. I don't think that the brains are "cheating" or "lying" to us. The way our brains behave actually give us creativity! How can you make things if you can't even see it? I guess the brains let us picture all sorts of things in our minds so that we can create all the fantastic inventions that weren't existed before. However, I'm still confused about how brains gained this kind of ability. It is amazing though, to think about how brain can do so many incredible things while they are just made of cells. Also, I got really disappointed and somehow desperate in class on Thursday because I really wanted to know what the "truth" really is. Especially with the rock. How I wished the rock could be in the classroom at that time so that I can touch it and see if it's a hollow or a bulge. So, now I'm confused. I like what the brain do to us but I can't help with my curiosity! 

Sarah Ann's picture


First thought that comes to mind when I ask myself about last week's class: oatmeal. I tapped into my subconscious the way we did at the beginning of the semester by doing the word association/first word that pops into your mind business, and the first word I thought of was oatmeal. My brain felt like oatmeal after all those optical illusions. In fact, I'm pretty sure my brain wasn't sure whether it actually existed enough so that it could drip sadly out my ears like it felt like doing. Our subconscious brains are crazy, scary, wonderful things, and mine was pretty aware of itself after Thursday's class. I even remember feeling a physical sensation about my cranium as if my brain had just run a mile - like a tired muscle. I'm sure there's a lovely psychological explanation for that, because the brain doesn't contain nerve endings. That's another interesting facet of the brain and its consciousness. While the brain is the control and reception center for all of our physical sensations, it cannot feel anything itself. We watched a video in anatomy last year of an awake craniotomy - brain surgery while the patient was awake. The patient's brain was manipulated with electrodes as doctors removed a tumor to determine whether any functioning tissue was being affected. The patient was asked to do things like count on his fingers or other simple tasks, and, depending on where the electrode was placed, he may or may not have been able to complete the task. It was crazy to watch this occur and think about having someone else manipulate my brain, or the fact that surgeons were physically cutting through portions of the patient's brain, and he could not feel a thing.

paige's picture

Blame it on the brain

Last week’s discussions had me fixating on how much our brains (and our society) simplifies complex information and exaggerates differences in order to make functional understanding easier. We spoke about our bipartite brains (conscious versus unconscious) which are a simplified understanding of a very complex organ. Paul said the brain is trained to look for edges – stark contrasts. Our brain makes “informed guesses” based on experience and decides what is “important” information.

It’s all just so darn functional. It seems dangerous to me that our perception of reality is so simplified. I fear that binary is inherent in our makeup. This is bad to me because I feel that simplification, exaggeration and categorization cause the intense misunderstanding and ignorance that plagues the world today. And that misunderstanding and ignorance leads to conflict.

We categorize people into races, genders, ideologies. We categorize humanity as being separate from the earth and other flora and fauna because we see primarily our differences. We insist on political boundaries, simple man-made lines in the sand. I could go on and on. Once you start looking, simplification is everywhere.

The first things we see are differences. We are always talking about uniqueness rather than similarities (I myself am guilty of this charge). Sometimes this outlook has its benefits but right now I see the host of problems it can cause.

Probably, maybe, we need to simplify our reality to survive. At least in our perception as our brains create it – as in maybe I don’t need to be aware at all times of everything. Focus is good – it enables us to be productive. I just think that we should try to keep simplification to a minimum. We shouldn’t narrow our vision so much.  Hopeful note: I feel, like Julie, that we have the ability to mold our brains and I know that we can shape society.

Qualifying statement.

nina0404's picture


Those optical illusions were crazy! It was weird to see it and be able to change certain aspects of it. It was like actually talking to your unconscious! I never really thought about the connection between the unconscious and the conscious. The more I think about it though the easier it is to see how they work together to help you. While by brain may not be perfect I no longer feel like it betrays me by not letting me know whats going on all the time. Somethings are better left to the unconscious so we don't have to think about things to hard. While those optival illusions made me sick for the rest of the day I found them to be very helpful in allowing me to make connections between the two parts of the brain.

Aimee's picture


 "Hi, my name is Aimee..."


"Hi, Aimee!"


"...and I'm a recovering brain-hater."


Last week, I dreamt of waking up to my phone's alarm clock, just like I do every morning. However, as I silenced the alarm, I noticed that I had received a text message at 2:53 am from my friend. He had written, "I miss you." 

Before you ask - my friend and I are not attracted to one another. However, we are two very busy people, leading very busy college lives. I rarely talk to him, and so I miss him a great deal. Although I hope he misses me too, I'll never know for certain. He's certainly not the sentimental type. (In addition, he has the sleeping habits of an 80-year old man. He'd never be awake at 3 in the morning!)

So, then, why did I dream that he sent me such a heartfelt message? Answer: my unconscious is very, very sneaky. My workload is intensifying, so I'm sleep-deprived. I'm worried that I'm not intelligent enough to be a pre-med, I'm worried about my poor study skills, and I'm worried about the 10 pounds I gained this semester. In short: I'm stressing out.

I do not like to consciously acknowledge my stress. When I do, venture into the wonderful world of melodrama. And I cry. So, my unconscious mind takes over. 

I've had these dreams before. The nights before taking the SAT and ACT, the night prior to my driver's test, the night before working at a nursing home, the summer before leaving for college...each dream combined a realistic fear with the absurd. In my dreams, I'd be running late, or I'd show up at the wrong college, or I'd have no car to drive. My unconscious would remind me that I was afraid of the future - of the unknown. And it would remind me that I'm crazy by showing me the absurdity of my thoughts.

This most recent dream is no exception. I think I was telling myself to man up. "I know you're worrying, Aimee. You don't need to. People still care about you."


My conscious brain tells me one story: "Stop focusing on your fears. Ignore, ignore, IGNORE!!!" (It doesn't work very well.)

My unconscious brain tells me a different one: "You're afraid. Acknowledge it. Accept it." 


Paul's lecture revealed that the unconscious brain just want to help the conscious interpret and understand sensory input. In a way, my dreams have revealed my brain's efforts, too. Perhaps you want to know if I still feel betrayed by my brain? Well, yeah...

It would be really nice to know what I'm thinking. 


P.S: I apologize for the whininess of this post. Melodrama. Jeesh.


Erin's picture


The last class was really interesting with the conducted experiments drove everybody crazy. One experiment drew mu attention. The pictures can be really different when the size of the picture was shown in different scale. The interpretation can be really diverged. This also reminds me of another brain storm we did in the bio lab class. I was supposed to write down three word first popped out in your mind when think of the given word. I wrote down spontaneous, pattern and unconscious for the word chaos. I think everything happens for certain reason. Everything has its meaning to exist on this planet. Personally, I do believe that everything happens for reasons. For some cases we can solve it with the experience we have or the knowledge we learn during growth. For the others, which we considered random and seem to be a mess at first look, I still think there should be explanations for those phenomena. However, we are not able to reason them at this point. It also is possible that there are some things beyond our abilities. Also, the random could be some pieces of unconsciousness that as Sigmund Freud described as “the underwater part of the iceberg” coming up unexpectedly. The random talking of somebody could be spontaneous reactions in certain situations. In a bigger scale, some observations in nature we consider chaos could be the spontaneous outcomes from the accumulations of different factors in those situations. Chaos can be a kind of expression of the unconscious state.

One point Paul made during his demonstration on Thursday is the constant conversation between consciousness and unconsciousness. Our unconsciousness tries to make up the missing pieces or the make the incomplete parts right with our existent concepts. Our unconsciousness is always trying to fix the incompleteness.

There are still a lot skepticisms for me about the conversations between consciousness and unconsciousness. For example, as I mentioned above, the scale or the level of our observation will affect out interpretation about the observation we make. Make it’s the perspective we look at the things rather than the conversations going on in the brain.  

SoundsLikeBanana's picture

In my psychology classes we

In my psychology classes we always learnt about the unconcious as this scary, mysterious void where our deepest and darkest fears lay waiting to manifest themselves in our dreams or actions. To me, Freud's account of this part of the brain was troubling. I always wondered why Freud went to all that trouble psychoanalyzing his patients to get them to tap into that part of themselves. Was it is own morbid curiosity as to what layed in the inner psyhe of average people, or was there something else that would help his patients. I think it was a combination of both. Freud saw the potential in the unconcious. He saw how the this void could actually be the home to his patients' dreams and fears, and by accessing these he could help them fufill their lifes' purpose or face their nightmares.

This realization came to me as I was reasearching last week's paper. I was trying to play devil's advocate for the unconcious and found myself siding with it more and more. By the end of the hour I was fully convinced that the unconcious was an untaped source of power, just waiting to be drilled for creativity. Yet I had to moderate my views to incorporate the importance of the concious too. Without which there would be less direction in the brain.

bluebox's picture

What are we going to do tonight, Brain?

 The biggest thing I learned this week was the idea of the unconscious as separate from the conscious. I mean, now that it's been presented to me it makes sense, but i never thought of it that way before. Denial is a good example of this, where the unconscious knows one thing but the conscious can't seem to grasp the idea. (At least, that's the way I see it.) I really liked the explanation of the starburst behind the grid as the unconscious predicting the future because i always thought of the unconscious as not really doing anything actively, just harboring complexes and letting them fester for psychiatrists to figure out during your mid-life crisis.  It's just so cool to me, to think that the unconscious is functioning...well, without the knowledge of the conscious. (hurray tautology.) Like playing catch, your brain predicts where the ball is going to go and you know your limbs will get you to where the ball will be. If you keep your eye on the ball, which tends to be my problem.

Another thought i had--if we make conscious decisions based on the information our unconscious gathers, if the unconscious collects information wrong (like mistaking a windmill for a giant) and the conscious makes a logical decision based on it (like tilting at said giant) it would be the definition of crazy, yes?

elisagogogo's picture

brain and culture


  The amazing thing I found in last Thursday’s class was neither the picture with woman in the mirror/ skeleton nor the Rubik’s cube, but Paul’s picture about the rock. I used to think that optical illusion was made on purpose: skilled artists draw pictures to “cheat” people in an artistic way. But I’ve never thought it could happen in natural even if I have been together with the silly rocks in Geology for almost a whole semester. I was deeply impressed by the variety of nature, but more amazed by the unconscious part of our brain which brought us to a world that is more colorful than nature itself. More importantly, such a world is not based on naive daydreaming but built up with sophisticated and informed guess.

  Another thing that made me think a lot was the “flashing dots”. It lets me connect the physically existing brain with culture: people are born with incredible imaginations and various perceptions. While as we grow up in certain culture environment, some perceptions are accepted by other people while others are faded away because of disagreement. It’s not necessarily that those interpretations are wrong, but the conversation between consciousness and unconsciousness intelligently selected certain interpretations that people all agree on. Take money as an example, if a baby is given a hundred dollar bill, he/she will probably think it is a little drawing paper, a note pad or just a normal piece of paper. But as he/she growing up, he/she will eventually know it is actually a special piece of paper with purchasing value. If we think about the brain in this way, we can probably say that our brains form the culture in a large extent.

Bingqing's picture

Important Unconsciousness

In Thursday’s class, I guess most of us felt excited, curious but confused. We can not figure out how our brains work to construct such a wonderful optical world, but we enjoy it. Optical illusion pictures intrigued and confused me. I first got to know that those optical illusions are originated from people’s creative perception. The point of view (or to say fact) that we handle informed guesses and have “smart unconsciousness” really interests me. Also, I really appreciate the capability we obtained from hundreds of millions of years evolution.

I watched a video named The Secret Life of the Brain this weekend. I found this interesting too. It mainly talks about some emotional diseases of people and therefore conducts the importance of unconscious emotion in people’s daily lives and how it functions. Our brain can be divided into two parts, not by right hemisphere and left hemisphere, but by cortex and the part beneath cortex. The cortex controls our reasoning, understanding and judging. The large part beneath the furrows of cortex is our “unconscious underworld” which controls our appetites, emotion and moods. There is no properly working thinking without properly working emotion. For example, even though happiness is an emotional expression, it delivers useful information to help us make judgment on the things we are going to meet in the future. We tend to more involve in the things give us happiness, which means these are potentially good for us.

Instead of being thinking machines, human beings are actually emotional machines. The world is constructed by our unconscious informed guess and human beings’ daily lives are also dominated by unconscious emotion.



mwechsler's picture

 What I liked best about the

 What I liked best about the optical illusions was that not everyone would see the same image first or perceive the ambiguous images in all that similar a way. I like to think of our brains as all being very different. I think it's really awesome that they basically all carry out the same task but not to the same end. I wonder how different our realities are from one another. They could be radically dissimilar and we would never know. I guess that's a little upsetting, but mostly I just think it's intriguing. 

LAJW's picture



I think Thursday's discussion was really interesting. While playing the illusion games, I deeply believe how powerful and clever the unconscious part of our brain is. I think that these games let me have a better idea of how our brains function. Thursday's discussion really raised my interest in our unconscious mind. I think it is really difficult to study our unconsciousness. I still believe that there is a limitation to use our brain itself to study brain. Moreover, I am still not convinced that we are able to study the unconscious part of our brain, since this is the part of the brain that gives rise to a collection of mental phenomena( unconscious feelings, unconscious or automatic skills, unnoticed perceptions, unconscious thoughts)that manifest in our mind but which we are not aware of at the time of their occurrence. If we human beings are not even aware of the presence of unconsciousness when it works in our brain to give us intuitive thoughts, how can we study how it works? Hence, I still think it is unjustified to study unconsciousness by the conscious part of our brain. Even though scientists are able to give very logical reasons to explain how brain functions, all the seemingly logical explanations are just stories to me. I am still quite confused about how scientists study the unconscious part of our human brain. I guess that scientists use the conscious part of their brain to study other people's unconscious mind. Am I correct?


CParra's picture

Controlling Oneself


This brain concept has blown my mind.

Since I was a child I have been told that people who talk to themselves are crazy. I guess that was wrong.

Since my un-conscious is completely super-intelligent, when do I know when it could be wrong? I know in class we were talking about how one can control what the brain sees but to what extent. When will society look at us funny? What is the point of no return? How much of my brain can I control? Or is there no me and everything is my brain. I may think I have a “soul” but that is my brain telling me. This whole mess has put me in a whole.

I learn something about the brain but all this does is make me question my identity. I know that I should follow the society’s rules, but who put them there. Ahh!!!!

Ok so I am a strong believer in trying to follow certain rules especially laws created by people, but who put these laws there. I am starting to feel culture and the brain are one. Our brain creates culture and so the brain controls everything. It is like a SCI-FI movie where the brains take over the world and humans have no chance. This is creepy.

All I know is that the reality I live in is my reality and I will try to better myself in this reality be it real or not. The brain may confuse me sometimes but so does everyone else’s brain so we are all on equal ground to try to better ourselves, funny how competition is still in my head, guess that may be part of the brain.


Julie G.'s picture


 It seems to me that this operation of stimulus, unconscious processing, conscious acceptance or rejection and potential unconscious reprocessing describes the pattern of every evolution that we have studied thus far. (see diagram from Paul's class) Everything is reciprocally influential. Therefore, evolution is both reactionary, controllable, random, and inevitable. And it's not only useful, but important that we continue to explore different logics, or modes of storytelling, to continue to expand our explanations of evolution. Our explanations of evolution help us to situate ourselves within the world around us, and even inside our own heads...which are our worlds.

MC's picture

Hemispheric Discord

I enjoy anything I might construe as a justification for talking to myself. Because really, if you can talk to yourself in your head why shouldn't you talk to yourself out loud? Sometimes you can't see things clearly unless you get them out into a physical space. And really all the little bits of us are us, and they communicate with each other (with each us?) to get things done, so every part of you is talking to yourself. I like that idea.

Sometimes there are issues with talking with yourself. You talk to yourself but you don't really listen, or you can't listen, so that things that are chilling in one hemisphere of the brain can't make it to the other, or parts of the conscious don't make it to the unconscious, and a big wrench is thrown into the system. I suppose that it was beneficial for the brain to evolve into "pieces" so that if something happened to one part of the brain the entire thing didn't  malfunction, but I would like to know more about how brains moved into the direction of hemispheres and areas and such.

schu's picture

internet and games

In response to the re-wiring brain, well, there got to be advantanges and disadvantages.

I have read an analysis about twitter, that the world reflected in twitter has been seperated into millions of pieces of infomation which can be easily absorbed. Facebook, Youtube are the same drivers of floods of infomation. We can possibly learn many things from that with easy access, but as the information is too fragmentary, we tend to jump from one spot to another, and we tend to do multi-tasks at the same time. But doing homework, or reading books is a integrate task which requires long-time focus. That to say, children raised in multi-media world can focus, but the pattern of thinking is saltatory on a vigorous state which prefers fragments of infomation than intergrate task. Consequently we may be able to remember more things in a give time, but we can't think deeply in one direction, and then we just procrastinate and stroll on the internet.

Computer games are quite different though. In my highschool, the very best students, esp. in science, are all great players of Warcraft, CS,FIFA, NBA live or even the minesweeper of windows. They tend to analysis games and try to win the games by developed strategies. Logic training is done partly in the practice of games. Thier brain is spinning so fast that others just can't follow their thinking. And they do very well in school work too. The games give them an alternate way to wire the brain, by interest and passion. In this case, I would say that the time they spend on games is not wasted. As long as the school work, rest, and entertainment are balanced, it should be a very good way for one's brain development.

Anne Dalke's picture

re-wiring for distraction

Directly relevant to the conversation we're having about the possibility of "re-wiring" our brains: see y'day's NYTimes article about Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction. Would love to here some testimonies from you all about your own re-wired (?) brains...

FluteSound4's picture

Our Intelligent Unconscious

 Last Thursday I spent a lot of class saying, "oooh!" and "ahh!" and "wow!" Class was pretty entertaining with all of the optical illusions. But I didn't just enjoy the surprises, I also enjoyed the science and reasoning behind those surprises. Whoever knew how intelligent our unconscious was! Before this class and these discussions, I thought of my unconscious only as the thing that gave me dreams when I was asleep. Ok, I didn't think that dreams were the only thing our unconscious did, but it make up a big part of my understanding about the unconscious. Now do I know better. I find it so fascinating that when we see the graph with the starburst in the middle, the reason we see the lines distorted is because our mind is actually making the prediction that the picture is getting bigger and in order for it to get bigger, the lines need to get bigger, making them looked curved. Did I get that right? Anyways, I proud of my unconscious for it. It analyzes and looks our for my best interest without me even knowing. I just want to metaphorically pat it on the back now. 

Clearly through some of the examples Paul showed us, we're not a complete slave to our unconscious. That's a good thing. I don't think I would like it very much if my unconscious was always making decisions for me and I wasn't able to tell it that sometimes it's actually wrong. Life would probably be chaotic if we were completely at the mercy of our unconscious. 

Talking to Anne last Thursday I realized that I actually have mixed opinions about this topic. I like the mysteriousness of the unconscious, but I also like when we put reason behind the mystery. I think I just like a little mystery and a little reason in my life. It's complicated and contrasting but, that's how I see it.

ecollier's picture

The subject of art always gets me.

Tuesday: When considering the implications of value being placed upon arbitrary categorizing, it was most generally concluded that categorizing is normal, and safe until value is placed. We didn’t however consider positive value being placed as good thing, or what categorizing of ourselves could imply. I believe that categorizing in a positive way can definitely be a good thing. I also believe that categorizing of oneself can really influence a person’s perception of themselves. 

Thursday: I’d never before thought about how much the brain has to do with optical illusions. Now that I know what’s happening, I can’t quite understand how it wouldn’t be the brain. I’m intrigued with the incredibly complex functions of the brain that we take for granted. So why do we all take so much for granted? I believe that there may exist too many things happening at every moment, therefore making it impossible to comprehend all. So is our brain too complex for our brain to understand? What’s the point in that?

I also loved (yet was unsurprised by) Paul’s comments about art being an illusion. “There is no woman, no skull, only black and white on the screen.” How have we moved so far into our postmodern world that we no longer question the effects of images upon us? They are only colors on a T.V. screen. Why are they capable of so much?

Thinking about the art in this way is interesting and new. New and interesting.


Julie G.'s picture


 I think that value is a necessary part of life. We make decisions every day placed on values. Imagine trying to make a decision and having no value to determine which is the better variable. However, I think placing universals upon personal values is where things start to get murky. Saying some things are intrinsically better than others is not acknowledging one's particular mode of logic, or perspective, but rather saying that there is an other, total mode of logic, or type of storytelling, that governs all others. Whilst this may be desirable, given that in throughout human history, this has never been agreed upon, it seems unlikely that such a logic exists. However, in society, it becomes necessary to have something like this, which we call laws. But laws are malleable and change alongside culture, which changes alongside individuals, which are influenced by culture, and so on, and so forth.

Olivia's picture

stories tellers

I wrote this time's paper on rewriting our brains. And when I do the researches, I found that some scientists think meditation is a way to change our brains. In class, we talked about how conversations can happen between consciousness and unconsciousness, and how the conversations changed our minds and behavior. I wonder which part of brain the meditation can change? The conscious part? The unconscious part? The physical brain? Or all of them? None of them?

Some one in our class made a connection between brains and economics. She challenged the notion "humans are rational" in economics with the irrationality of our brains.I also tried to make connections between the "brains as story tellers" and other classes I take. But I found the opposite. In math, what we found true must to be proved true. We can't make a starry out of math. For example, the sum of three angles in a triangle is 180. The is not just a story told by my brain. I have to test it, prove it. And my brain, the story teller, has no control over it. Math and other science seem to get rid of the stories.

I also found our brains are amazing story tellers. The stories they make are very interesting, full of imaginations, but at the same time very different from the truth. For example, in the class, Paul showed us the flashing dots on the screen. And our brains made up stories like: two dots were running in a circle, or they were running in opposite directions. Both stories are very amusing but totally different from the truth, which is the flashing dots on the screen.

Julie G.'s picture

Proof as a story

 I struggled with the notion of math and science as just another story until Logicomix and also this most recent conversation about how our brains interpret information became part of my analysis. What are Math and Science but observations and logic? And don't our brains have to interpret that information, or utilize that logic as an interpreting tool? What seems to be phenomenal about Math and Science is their seeming universality in terms of human, cross-cultural agreement, but even this is disputable -- not everybody chooses to subscribe to their teachings, and some advocate for that which opposes Science and Math. 

bluebox's picture

Math and science as a story

Just adding to the idea that math+science aren't universal -- If math and science is a story, then numbers and symbols are the means of telling the story...and that has had different variations, it hasn't always been arabic numerals. At the moment I can't imagine a more efficient system, but it would be so difficult trying to do multiplication with roman numerals.

Kirsten's picture

Todays conversation

 The discussion on Thursday was very interesting to me. One portion of the conversation that stood out to me was when talking about optical illusions as well as ambiguous shapes  a girl from Paul's class (unfortunately I do not remember her name) brought up a connection between her art class and the optical illusion with the star-burst and the grid (/gifs/changiziillusion.jpg).  Paul then went on to say how artist are in the business of making optical illusions. I have never thought of an artist as having the job of creating an optical illusion, though obviously an artist can't paint a seemingly 3D picture on a 2D canvas without creating some sort of optical illusion. Then this came to my mind:





Julie G.'s picture

Extremely cool

 Kristin, I've seen a street artist create one of these images and they're pretty incredible. It's neat to be able to add this new dimension of how our brains are processing the image...thanks for sharing!