Necker cube

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pages: 506 words: 152,049

The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene by Richard Dawkins

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Alfred Russel Wallace, Douglas Hofstadter, Drosophila, epigenetics, Gödel, Escher, Bach, impulse control, Menlo Park, Necker cube, p-value, phenotype, quantitative trading / quantitative finance, stem cell

But I am a great believer in saying familiar, well-known things backwards and inside out, hoping that from some new vantage point the old facts will take on a deeper significance. It is like holding an abstract painting upside down; I do not say that the meaning of the picture will suddenly be clear, but some of the structure of the composition that was hidden may show itself’ (p. 1). I came across this after writing my own Necker Cube passage, and was delighted to find the same views expressed by so respected an author. The trouble with my Necker Cubes, and with Bonner’s abstract painting, is that, as analogies, they may be too timid and unambitious. The analogy of the Necker Cube expresses my minimum hope for this book. I am pretty confident that to look at life in terms of genetic replicators preserving themselves by means of their extended phenotypes is at least as satisfactory as to look at it in terms of selfish organisms maximizing their inclusive fitness.

The irony was not lost on me, but there are wheels within wheels. We agree that there is something special about the individual organism as a level in the hierarchy of life, but it is not something obvious, to be accepted without question. My hope is that this book has revealed that there is a second side to the Necker Cube. But Necker Cubes have a habit of flipping back again to their original orientation, and then continuing to alternate. Whatever it is that is special about the individual organism as a unit of life, we should at least see it more clearly for having viewed the other side of the Necker Cube, for having trained our eyes to see through body walls into the world of replicators, and out and beyond to their extended phenotypes. So, what is it that is special about the individual organism? Given that life can be viewed as consisting of replicators with their extended phenotypic tools of survival, why in practice have replicators chosen to group themselves together by the hundreds of thousands in cells, and why have they influenced those cells to clone themselves by the millions of billions in organisms?

Yet it is this hard-won fastness that I may seem to be abandoning here, abandoning almost before it is properly secured; and for what? For a flickering Necker Cube, a metaphysical chimera called the extended phenotype? No, to renounce those gains is far from my intention. The paradigm of the selfish organism is vastly preferable to what Hamilton (1977) has called ‘the old, departing paradigm of adaptation for the benefit of the species’. ‘Extended phenotype’ is misunderstood if it is taken to have any connection with adaptation at the level of the group. The selfish organism, and the selfish gene with its extended phenotype, are two views of the same Necker Cube. The reader will not experience the conceptual flip-over that I seek to assist unless he begins by looking at the right cube. This book is addressed to those that already accept the currently fashionable selfish-organism view of life, rather than any form of ‘group benefit’ view.


pages: 297 words: 96,509

Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

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Albert Einstein, cognitive dissonance, Drosophila, endowment effect, impulse control, indoor plumbing, loss aversion, mental accounting, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Necker cube, Ronald Reagan, science of happiness, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

Definers were able to set the standards for talent, and not coincidentally, they were more likely to meet the standards they set. One of the reasons why most of us think of ourselves as talented, friendly, wise, and fair-minded is that these words are the lexical equivalents of a Necker cube, and the human mind naturally exploits each word’s ambiguity for its own gratification. Disambiguating Experience Of course, the richest sources of exploitable ambiguity are not words, sentences, or shapes but the intricate, variegated, multidimensional experiences of which every human life is a collage. If a Necker cube has two possible interpretations and talent has fourteen possible interpretations, then leaving home or falling ill or getting a job with the U.S. Postal Service has hundreds or thousands of possible interpretations. The things that happen to us—getting married, raising a child, finding a job, resigning from Congress, going to prison, becoming paralyzed—are much more complex than an inky squiggle or a colored cube, and that complexity creates loads of ambiguity that just begs to be exploited.

How can they be disappointed when we accomplish our coveted goals, and why are they so damned giddy when they end up in precisely the spot that we worked so hard to steer them clear of? Is there something wrong with them? Or is there something wrong with us? WHEN I WAS TEN YEARS OLD, the most magical object in my house was a book on optical illusions. Its pages introduced me to the Müller-Lyer lines whose arrow-tipped ends made them appear as though they were different lengths even though a ruler showed them to be identical, the Necker cube that appeared to have an open side one moment and then an open top the next, the drawing of a chalice that suddenly became a pair of silhouetted faces before flickering back into a chalice again (see figure 1). I would sit on the floor in my father’s study and stare at that book for hours, mesmerized by the fact that these simple drawings could force my brain to believe things that it knew with utter certainty to be wrong.

Unlike rats and pigeons, then, we respond to meanings—and context, frequency, and recency are three of the factors that determine which meaning we will infer when we encounter an ambiguous stimulus. But there is another factor of equal importance and greater interest. Like rats and pigeons, each of us has desires, wishes, and needs. We are not merely spectators of the world but investors in it, and we often prefer that an ambiguous stimulus mean one thing rather than another. Consider, for example, the drawing of a box in figure 18. This object (called the Necker cube after the Swiss crystallographer who discovered it in 1832) is inherently ambiguous, and you can prove this to yourself simply by staring at it for a few seconds. At first, the box appears to be sitting on its side and you have the sense that you’re looking out at a box that is across from you. The dot is inside the box, at the place where the back panel and the bottom panel meet. But if you stare long enough, the drawing suddenly shifts, the box appears to be standing on its end, and you have the sense that you’re looking down on a box that is below you.


pages: 297 words: 96,509

Time Paradox by Philip, John Boyd Zimbardo

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Albert Einstein, cognitive dissonance, Drosophila, endowment effect, impulse control, indoor plumbing, loss aversion, mental accounting, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Necker cube, Ronald Reagan, science of happiness, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

Definers were able to set the standards for talent, and not coincidentally, they were more likely to meet the standards they set. One of the reasons why most of us think of ourselves as talented, friendly, wise, and fair-minded is that these words are the lexical equivalents of a Necker cube, and the human mind naturally exploits each word’s ambiguity for its own gratification. Disambiguating Experience Of course, the richest sources of exploitable ambiguity are not words, sentences, or shapes but the intricate, variegated, multidimensional experiences of which every human life is a collage. If a Necker cube has two possible interpretations and talent has fourteen possible interpretations, then leaving home or falling ill or getting a job with the U.S. Postal Service has hundreds or thousands of possible interpretations. The things that happen to us—getting married, raising a child, finding a job, resigning from Congress, going to prison, becoming paralyzed—are much more complex than an inky squiggle or a colored cube, and that complexity creates loads of ambiguity that just begs to be exploited.

How can they be disappointed when we accomplish our coveted goals, and why are they so damned giddy when they end up in precisely the spot that we worked so hard to steer them clear of? Is there something wrong with them? Or is there something wrong with us? WHEN I WAS TEN YEARS OLD, the most magical object in my house was a book on optical illusions. Its pages introduced me to the Müller-Lyer lines whose arrow-tipped ends made them appear as though they were different lengths even though a ruler showed them to be identical, the Necker cube that appeared to have an open side one moment and then an open top the next, the drawing of a chalice that suddenly became a pair of silhouetted faces before flickering back into a chalice again (see figure 1). I would sit on the floor in my father’s study and stare at that book for hours, mesmerized by the fact that these simple drawings could force my brain to believe things that it knew with utter certainty to be wrong.

Unlike rats and pigeons, then, we respond to meanings—and context, frequency, and recency are three of the factors that determine which meaning we will infer when we encounter an ambiguous stimulus. But there is another factor of equal importance and greater interest. Like rats and pigeons, each of us has desires, wishes, and needs. We are not merely spectators of the world but investors in it, and we often prefer that an ambiguous stimulus mean one thing rather than another. Consider, for example, the drawing of a box in figure 18. This object (called the Necker cube after the Swiss crystallographer who discovered it in 1832) is inherently ambiguous, and you can prove this to yourself simply by staring at it for a few seconds. At first, the box appears to be sitting on its side and you have the sense that you’re looking out at a box that is across from you. The dot is inside the box, at the place where the back panel and the bottom panel meet. But if you stare long enough, the drawing suddenly shifts, the box appears to be standing on its end, and you have the sense that you’re looking down on a box that is below you.


pages: 322 words: 88,197

Wonderland: How Play Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson

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Ada Lovelace, Alfred Russel Wallace, Antoine Gombaud: Chevalier de Méré, Berlin Wall, bitcoin, Book of Ingenious Devices, Buckminster Fuller, Claude Shannon: information theory, Clayton Christensen, colonial exploitation, computer age, conceptual framework, crowdsourcing, cuban missile crisis, Drosophila, Fellow of the Royal Society, game design, global village, Hedy Lamarr / George Antheil, HyperCard, invention of air conditioning, invention of the printing press, invention of the telegraph, Islamic Golden Age, Jacquard loom, Jacquard loom, Jacques de Vaucanson, James Watt: steam engine, Jane Jacobs, John von Neumann, joint-stock company, Joseph-Marie Jacquard, Landlord's Game, lone genius, megacity, Minecraft, Murano, Venice glass, music of the spheres, Necker cube, New Urbanism, Oculus Rift, On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, pattern recognition, pets.com, placebo effect, probability theory / Blaise Pascal / Pierre de Fermat, profit motive, QWERTY keyboard, Ray Oldenburg, spice trade, spinning jenny, statistical model, Steve Jobs, Steven Pinker, Stewart Brand, supply-chain management, talking drums, the built environment, The Great Good Place, the scientific method, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere, trade route, Turing machine, Turing test, Upton Sinclair, urban planning, Victor Gruen, Watson beat the top human players on Jeopardy!, white flight, Whole Earth Catalog, working poor, Wunderkammern

“The eye,” he wrote, “is the most fertile source of mental illusions . . . the principal seat of the supernatural.” Since Brewster’s time, entire books—some targeted at seven-year-olds, others at neuroscientists—have cataloged a vast menagerie of optical illusions. Consider the two famous visual tricks, the Kanizsa triangle and the Necker cube. Left: Kanizsa triangle; Right: Necker cube In each case, the eye detects something that is quite literally not there: a white triangle and a three-dimensional box. In each case, it is almost impossible to un-see the illusion. The Necker cube can be visually flipped between two different three-dimensional orientations, but most of us can’t perceive it as it actually is: twelve intersecting lines lying on a two-dimensional surface. The mind’s eye conjures up a perception of depth that empirically does not exist.

A number of automaton designers in the eighteenth century attempted to create a “speaking machine”—a robotic human head that could utter words and sentences through artificial means, following on the principles of Vaucanson’s automated flute player. But the human ear is not easily fooled by speech simulations: even today, with all of our computational power, a child can tell the difference between Siri and a human voice. And the other senses—touch, smell, taste—are even less prone to being tricked the way our eyes are tricked by the Necker cube. A handful of tactile illusions exist; with taste, the closest equivalent might well be the way chili peppers trick our brains into perceiving heat. But if you want to deceive the senses of another human being, your best bet is to do it through their eyes. There is something paradoxical about this vulnerability. The human sense of sight is generally considered to be the most developed of our senses.

In a sense, the brain has evolved a series of cheats that enable it to detect things like edges or motion or three-dimensional relationships between objects, filling in missing information on the fly. You can think of these as the rules of thumb that govern our sense of sight. For instance, when our eyes perceive two lines coinciding in a flat image, our brain assumes those lines intersect in three-dimensional space. (The Necker cube relies on this rule to create the sense of depth in the image.) Millions of years of evolution created rules for interpreting visual information, helping the eye evaluate and predict the physical arrangement and motion of objects that it perceives. But through hundreds of years of cultural evolution, we began discovering unusual configurations that would confound those predictions, forcing the eye to see something that wasn’t, technically speaking, there.


pages: 262 words: 80,257

The Eureka Factor by John Kounios

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Albert Einstein, call centre, Captain Sullenberger Hudson, deliberate practice, en.wikipedia.org, Flynn Effect, Google Hangouts, impulse control, invention of the telephone, invention of the telescope, Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Necker cube, pattern recognition, Silicon Valley, Skype, Steve Jobs, theory of mind, Wall-E, William of Occam

Consider the cube on the left side of figure 1.1. This is a Necker cube. The interesting thing about it is that its appearance is ambiguous. As you can see in the right side of the figure, either the lower square or the higher square of this transparent cube could be viewed as closer to you. With a shift of attention, you can see it in either of these two ways. But you can’t see it in both ways simultaneously because the two interpretations are incompatible: a single face of the cube can’t be both closer to you and farther from you at the same time. And when you shift your attention from one of these squares to the other, the change in your interpretation is abrupt. This kind of perspective shift is a prototype for insight. FIGURE 1.1: The Necker cube. Wikicommons (commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Necker%27s_cube.svg) The Gestalt psychologists of the early twentieth century liked to point out that we can interpret almost any type of object, situation, or event in more than one way.

In fact, cognitive psychologists sometimes use the “brick test” as a way to measure creativity: The more frequently you can shift your perspective, the more uses you will be able to think of for a common object such as a brick, and thus the more creative you are considered to be. According to the Gestalt psychologists, when you get stuck while trying to solve a problem it’s often because you are thinking about the problem in the wrong way. Just as a simple visual scene such as a Necker cube can be radically reinterpreted in an instant, so can a complex problem be “restructured,” yielding an aha moment about the solution. An object that was previously used for one purpose can now be thought of as a tool to perform some other kind of task; a threat can now be regarded as an opportunity; a relationship with another person can be redefined from competitor to collaborator. Before Orville and Wilbur Wright’s invention of the airplane, the established conception of how powered flight would work was that propellers would produce horizontal thrust by cutting through the air like blades while wings with curved surfaces would provide the airplane with the necessary upward lift.


pages: 335 words: 82,528

A Theory of the Drone by Gregoire Chamayou

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failed state, Francis Fukuyama: the end of history, moral hazard, Necker cube, private military company, RAND corporation, telepresence, V2 rocket, Yom Kippur War

The reflections of the American philosopher Daniel Dennett may provide a starting point: “The workers in laboratories and plants who handle dangerous materials by operating feedback-controlled mechanical arms and hands undergo a shift in point of view that is crisper and more pronounced than anything Cinerama can provoke. They can feel the heft and slipperiness of the containers they manipulate with their metal fingers. They know perfectly well where they are and are not fooled into false beliefs by the experience, yet it is as if they were inside the isolation chamber they are peering into. With mental effort, they can manage to shift their point of view back and forth rather like making a transparent Necker cube or an Escher drawing change orientation before one’s eyes. It does seem extravagant to suppose that in performing this bit of mental gymnastics, they are transporting themselves back and forth.” Daniel Dennett, “Where Am I?” in Brainstorms: Philosophical Essays on Mind and Psychology (Hassocks, Sussex: Harvester, 1978), 315. By focusing his attention on the movements of the mechanical arm, the operator can to some extent adopt the point of view of the machine that makes the operation work, and think of himself as if he himself is over there, at work.

So his experience is not that of a deceit or of a false belief induced by the sensory illusion. And yet it is “as if” he was in the place where the operations are unfolding. It is this “as if” feeling that needs to be clarified. It is an “as if” that is not like a belief, but neither is it an illusion. Dennett’s final analogy is a subtle one: the examples that he provides are very specific cases of paradoxical objects. When one concentrates on a Necker cube one can see it now from the front, now from the back, as its back surfaces become its front ones and vice versa, depending on whether one shifts them mentally to the front or to the back. What matters in this analogy with a tele-operator’s experience is not the idea of an interpretative indecidability so much as that of a variation of the objective configuration of the phenomenon as regards the mental focalizing of the subject.

It is a problem that dogs ergonomists who work on the design of interfaces and the psychologists who study the work of tele-operators and how to maintain focal attention for long hours at a time or, as they themselves put it, how to facilitate and maintain the tele-operators’ ” situational consciousness,” which is always fragile: it involves concentrating on one environment even as one is perceiving two; this is a matter of attention and of focusing mentally on one particular point of view. In the case of the Necker cube, you do not see both images at the same time. As soon as you see one, the other disappears. There is a strict alternative here: the one effaces the other. The shift in the point of view is total. But in the case of a tele-operator, although there is a shift between a focal consciousness and a subsidiary consciousness, the problem is that the one continues surreptitiously to feed off the other, for that provides the immediate framework within which the latter is held.


pages: 286 words: 90,530

Richard Dawkins: How a Scientist Changed the Way We Think by Alan Grafen; Mark Ridley

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Alfred Russel Wallace, Arthur Eddington, bioinformatics, cognitive bias, computer age, conceptual framework, Dava Sobel, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, epigenetics, Fellow of the Royal Society, Haight Ashbury, interchangeable parts, Isaac Newton, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, John von Neumann, loose coupling, Murray Gell-Mann, Necker cube, phenotype, profit maximization, Ronald Reagan, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, theory of mind, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions, Yogi Berra

Richard suggested that his move backwards and forwards between the language of gene intentions and the more orthodox language of genetic differences was acceptable because they are simply alternative ways of describing the same thing. To make his point, he described perception of the Necker Cube. The front edges of the line drawing of the cube suddenly flip to the back as we look at them. The lines representing the edges of a cube can be seen as though either the top corner of the cube is facing forwards or it is facing away. Each perceived image of the cube is as real as the other and Richard suggests that, in similar ways, the different pictures of the gene translate backwards and forwards into the other. Both perceptions are equally valid. At first the Necker Cube analogy seems appealing, but it is not exact because the bodies of thought and evidence on which perceptions are based are different for the two ways in which Richard uses ‘gene’.

I was not claiming that all the necessary conditions for development could be treated as ‘replicators’ in biological evolution. Nor was I making the vacuous statement that development is complicated. The central point of that passage in my review of The Selfish Gene was to do with the kind of slippage that can occur when language is used loosely. I suspect that Richard believes that he has never been guilty of such slippage for he used the simile of the Necker Cube to refer to the ways it might be possible to move from one type of discourse to another. However, even as clear a thinker as Richard sometimes marches into a linguistic quagmire that causes so much confusion in the minds of others. Richard is aware that he uses ‘gene’ in distinctly different ways. For population geneticists, a genetic difference is identified by means of a biochemical, physiological, structural, or behavioural difference between organisms (after other potential sources of difference have been excluded by appropriate procedures).


pages: 365 words: 117,713

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

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double helix, information retrieval, Necker cube, pattern recognition, phenotype, prisoner's dilemma

Rather than propose a new theory or unearth a new fact, often the most important contribution a scientist can make is to discover a new way of seeing old theories or facts. The Necker cube model is misleading because it suggests that the two ways of seeing are equally good. To be sure, the metaphor gets it partly right: 'angles', unlike theories, cannot be judged by experiment; we cannot resort to our familiar criteria of verification and falsification. But a change of vision can, at its best, achieve something loftier than a theory. It can usher in a whole climate of thinking, in which many exciting and testable theories are born, and unimagined facts laid bare. The Necker cube metaphor misses this completely. It captures the idea of a flip in vision, but fails to do justice to its value. What we are talking about is not a flip to an equivalent view but, in extreme cases, a transfiguration.

The selfish gene theory is Darwin's theory, expressed in a way that Darwin did not choose but whose aptness, I should like to think, he would instantly have recognized and delighted in. It is in fact a logical outgrowth of orthodox neo-Darwinism, but expressed as a novel image. Rather than focus on the individual organism, it takes a gene's-eye view of nature. It is a different way of seeing, not a different theory. In the opening pages of The Extended Phenotype, I explained this using the metaphor of the Necker cube. This is a two-dimensional pattern of ink on paper, but it is perceived as a transparent, three-dimensional cube. Stare at it for a few seconds and it will change to face in a different direction. Carry on staring and it will flip back to the original cube. Both cubes are equally compatible with the two-dimensional data on the retina, so the brain happily alternates between them. Neither is more correct than the other.


pages: 460 words: 107,712

A Devil's Chaplain: Selected Writings by Richard Dawkins

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Albert Einstein, Alfred Russel Wallace, Buckminster Fuller, butterfly effect, Claude Shannon: information theory, complexity theory, Desert Island Discs, double helix, Douglas Hofstadter, epigenetics, experimental subject, Fellow of the Royal Society, gravity well, Necker cube, out of africa, phenotype, placebo effect, random walk, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Silicon Valley, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, the scientific method

If this is the only piece of scientific history you know, you might indeed conclude that all apparent truths are mere approximations, fated to be superseded. There is even a quite interesting sense in which all our sensory perceptions – the ‘real’ things that we ‘see with our own eyes’ – may be regarded as unfalsified ‘hypotheses’ about the world, vulnerable to change. This provides a good way to think about illusions such as the Necker Cube. The flat pattern of ink on paper is compatible with two alternative ‘hypotheses’ of solidity. So we see a solid cube which, after a few seconds, ‘flips’ to a different cube, then flips back to the first cube, and so on. Perhaps sense data only ever confirm or reject mental ‘hypotheses’ about what is out there.16 Well, that is an interesting theory; so is the philosopher’s notion that science proceeds by conjecture and refutation; and so is the analogy between the two.

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pages: 339 words: 112,979

Unweaving the Rainbow by Richard Dawkins

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Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Arthur Eddington, complexity theory, correlation coefficient, David Attenborough, discovery of DNA, double helix, Douglas Engelbart, I think there is a world market for maybe five computers, Isaac Newton, Jaron Lanier, Mahatma Gandhi, music of the spheres, Necker cube, p-value, phenotype, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Ronald Reagan, Solar eclipse in 1919, Steven Pinker, Zipf's Law

The British psychologist Richard Gregory has paid special attention to visual illusions as a means of studying how the brain works. In his book Eye and Brain (fifth edition 1998), he regards seeing as an active process in which the brain sets up hypotheses about what is going on out there, then tests those hypotheses against the data coming in from the sense organs. One of the most familiar of all visual illusions is the Necker cube. This is a simple line drawing of a hollow cube, like a cube made of steel rods. The drawing is a two-dimensional pattern of ink on paper. Yet a normal human sees it as a cube. The brain has made a three-dimensional model based upon the two-dimensional pattern on the paper. This is, indeed, the kind of thing the brain does almost every time you look at a picture. The flat pattern of ink on paper is equally compatible with two alternative three-dimensional brain models.

Our brain constructs a three-dimensional model. It is virtual reality in the head. When we are looking at an actual wooden box, our simulation software is provided with additional information, which enables it to arrive at a clear preference for one of the two internal models. We therefore see the box in one way only, and there is no alternation. But this does not diminish the truth of the general lesson we learn from the Necker cube. Whenever we look at anything, there is a sense in which what our brain actually makes use of is a model of that thing in the brain. The model in the brain, like the virtual Parthenon of my earlier example, is constructed. But, unlike the Parthenon (and perhaps the visions we see in dreams), it is, like the surgeon's computer model of the inside of her patient, not entirely invented: it is constrained by information fed in from the outside world.


pages: 350 words: 107,834

Halting State by Charles Stross

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augmented reality, call centre, forensic accounting, game design, Google Earth, hiring and firing, illegal immigration, impulse control, indoor plumbing, invention of the steam engine, Necker cube, Potemkin village, RFID, Schrödinger's Cat, Vernor Vinge, zero day

There’s a crash and a cloud of dust and icy gravel showers down from the roof, almost blocking the doorway, and your stamina read-out begins to flash: At 20 per cent you’re in big trouble, medevac territory in a guild scenario, but there are no healers around right now. Never mind… You put the anti-tank rifle down and turn around. The ghastly altar is still there. It’s made of pale granite, and it seems to throb slightly as you look at it, as if it’s on the verge of turning inside out like a Necker cube: The hieroglyphs are as alien and incomprehensible as ever, but somehow horrible, bringing to mind echoes of alien anatomy, organs ripped from the abdominal cavities of human sacrifices, and other, hidden things. “Great,” you mutter. “Attention, object able charlie sixteen. This is your creator speaking. Give me a cookie and initiate debug mode.” The altar flashes emerald and turns inside out, injecting the stolen hoard straight into your character’s inventory.


pages: 362 words: 97,862

Physics in Mind: A Quantum View of the Brain by Werner Loewenstein

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Alan Turing: On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem, Albert Einstein, complexity theory, dematerialisation, discovery of DNA, Gödel, Escher, Bach, Henri Poincaré, informal economy, information trail, Isaac Newton, Murray Gell-Mann, Necker cube, Norbert Wiener, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, stem cell, trade route, Turing machine

Milky Way, 15, 19 Miller, George, 219 Molecular demons, 26–28, 32 emergence of, 33 for fast information transmission, 36–41 See also specific type of molecular demon Molecular information, from quantum information into, 81–86 Molecular quantum information processing, and quantum computing, 249–263, 265–266, 267–269, 270, 274 Molecular sensing and the line from nose to cortex, 87–89 and mapping, coding, and synonymity, 90–92 numerous odor-information channels in, 89–90 and quantum synonymity, 97–98 and sensory synonymity, 92–95, 95–96, 98 Molecules and molecular systems, formation of, 18 (fig.), 236 See also Atomic nuclei; Atoms Monod, Jaques, 236 Monroe, Christopher, 253 Mountcastle, Vernon, 28 Multicelled organisms, formation of, 18 (fig.), 121, 127 Muons, 79, 100, 255 Mutations, 109–113, 115, 119 (fig.), 120 Neanderthals, 150n Necker cube, 231 Necker, Louis, 231n Negative entropy, 84–85, 134 Neumann, John von, 241 Neuron clusters (glomeruli), 88 (fig.), 89, 90 (fig.), 184 Neuron development, 133–134 Neuron network coding, 228–229 Neuron trellis, 133–134, 135, 142, 149, 150, 159, 224 Neuron web, 36, 142, 158, 167–168, 172, 190, 202, 207, 222, 224, 270, 272 Neuronal computing, 145–148, 185 See also Information processing Neuronal quantum computing, 270, 271–273 Neuronal virtual-reality generator, 142–143 Neurons evolutionary debut of, 131 and gestalt recognition, 196–197, 200 increasingly loaded with meaning, 195–196, 204, 205 logic-switch rate of, 185, 186, 229 Neutrinos, 16, 79–80, 99, 100, 157, 245, 255 Neutrons, 17, 80n, 262 Newton, Isaac, 2, 4, 9–10, 12–13, 67, 156, 160, 161, 207, 208 Nicholls, John, 281 Nitrogen, 94 (fig.), 95, 129, 153n Noise, 66, 81, 82, 83, 274 NOT gate, 257, 258, 260, 261 NOT operation, 61, 257 Nuclear-magnetic-resonance spectroscopy, 254, 255, 259, 260, 262, 263, 265, 266, 274 Nuclear resonance frequency, 255 Nucleus, atomic.


pages: 453 words: 132,400

Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

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Albert Einstein, Bonfire of the Vanities, centralized clearinghouse, conceptual framework, correlation does not imply causation, double helix, fear of failure, Ignaz Semmelweis: hand washing, invisible hand, Isaac Newton, job satisfaction, Mahatma Gandhi, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Necker cube, pattern recognition, place-making, Ralph Waldo Emerson, the scientific method, Thomas Kuhn: the structure of scientific revolutions

Neurophysiology and Flow Just as some people are born with better muscular coordination, it is possible that there are individuals with a genetic advantage in controlling consciousness. Such people might be less prone to suffer from attentional disorders, and they may experience flow more easily. Dr. Jean Hamilton’s research with visual perception and cortical activation patterns lends support to such a claim. One set of her evidence is based on a test in which subjects had to look at an ambiguous figure (a Necker cube, or an Escher-type illustration that at one point seems to be coming out of the plane of the paper toward the viewer and the next moment seems to recede behind the plane), and then perceptually “reverse” it—that is, see the figure that juts out of the surface as if it were sinking back, and vice versa. Dr. Hamilton found that students who reported less intrinsic motivation in daily life needed on the average to fix their eyes on more points before they could reverse the ambiguous figure, whereas students who on the whole found their lives more intrinsically rewarding needed to look at fewer points, or even only a single point, to reverse the same figure.


pages: 478 words: 142,608

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

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Albert Einstein, anthropic principle, Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, Ayatollah Khomeini, Brownian motion, cosmological principle, David Attenborough, Desert Island Discs, double helix, en.wikipedia.org, experimental subject, Fellow of the Royal Society, gravity well, invisible hand, John von Neumann, luminiferous ether, Menlo Park, meta analysis, meta-analysis, Murray Gell-Mann, Necker cube, Peter Singer: altruism, phenotype, placebo effect, planetary scale, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Richard Feynman, Richard Feynman, Schrödinger's Cat, Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, stem cell, Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, the scientific method, theory of mind, Thorstein Veblen, trickle-down economics, unbiased observer

The human brain runs first-class simulation software. Our eyes don’t present to our brains a faithful photograph of what is out there, or an accurate movie of what is going on through time. Our brains construct a continuously updated model: updated by coded pulses chattering along the optic nerve, but constructed nevertheless. Optical illusions are vivid reminders of this.47 A major class of illusions, of which the Necker Cube is an example, arise because the sense data that the brain receives are compatible with two alternative models of reality. The brain, having no basis for choosing between them, alternates, and we experience a series of flips from one internal model to the other. The picture we are looking at appears, almost literally, to flip over and become something else. The simulation software in the brain is especially adept at constructing faces and voices.