Wednesday, September 24, 2014

2014 Ig Nobel Prize

As usual at this time of the year, the Ig Nobel Prizes has been awarded to a group of really serious but fun/useless/trivial/etc work. The award for physics this year is on the study on how slippery banana peel really is.

Physics: A Japanese team has finally tested whether, indeed, banana skins are really as slippery as slapstick comedy would have us believe. In “Frictional Coefficient under Banana Skin,” they show a banana skin reduces the friction between a shoe sole and the floor by about a fifth. 

But what caught my eye was the award given for Neuroscience, which I don't think is that trivial or useless.

Neuroscience: In “Seeing Jesus in Toast,” a team from China and Canada have clinched the neuroscience prize with an exploration of a phenomenon called face pareidolia, in which people see nonexistent faces. First, they tricked participants into thinking that a nonsense image had a face or letter hidden in it. Then, they carefully monitored brain activity in the participants they managed to convince, to understand which parts of our minds are to blame.

This is, actually, quite important in arguing against people who rely on "seeing" with their eyes as a primary source of evidence, which are often part of an anecdotal evidence.

I argued before on why our eyes are really not a reliable detector. That post came about because I've often been questioned about the validity of the existence of an electron simply because we haven't "seen" it with our eyes. I put forth a few facts on why our eyes is really a rather bad standard to use in detecting anything simply due to the limitations it has on a number of properties.

This paper about seeing Jesus in toast is another solid point to add to those arguments about us "seeing" something. It adds to the fact that we do not just see something, but also PROCESS the optical signal from our eyes via our brain. Our brain, due to either conditioning, evolution, etc., has added these filters, pattern recognition, etc. to help us interpret what we are seeing. And it is because of that that we have the potential to see something that isn't really there. This work clearly proves that!

It is another reason "seeing" with our eyes may not always be a reliable evidence.


No comments: