Awe and the Supernatural

Majestic mountains, vibrant vistas, stunning scenery – and, perhaps, the transformation of a blob of molten glass into a rearing horse – these are sights that can truly be awe-inspiring, generating those feelings of reverence and wonder. They make time seem to slow down. But do they also make it seem more likely that there must be…

The brain within the brain

Fractals are fascinating because no matter how close you zoom in, you find a crystal clear picture just as complex as the original – often sharing the same structure as the original. Look closely at the brain fractal below, and you will see many smaller brains inside it; if not for the limits of JPEG…

A Cognitive Scientist at an Organ Concert

Knowing the mind makes it less of a mystery, but no less of a masterpiece. This sentiment is akin to one recently expressed by Frazz cartoonist Jef Mallett in a gorgeous Sunday comic all scientists must love: And this sentiment captures the experience of attending my very first organ concert, Salem College’s celebration of the renovation of…

The Mind Behind the Art

This evening I attended an exhibition of senior art majors’ thesis pieces, covering a fantastic array from pottery to acrylic glazes to digital portraits to more modern art pieces, including larger-than-life interactive puppets. I was thoroughly impressed by the effort and achievements of our students, but I suspect that the messages of the piece went over…

Written in Red

The end of the semester is grading season, and not coincidentally, colored-pens-running-out-of-ink season. I found myself apologizing to a student today because I had commented on her paper in red – one of the few colored pens I had left, because I try to avoid using them. My student joked about how her paper looked…

A Picture Is Worth…

…a thousand lies, according to a 2002 article reporting how Photoshopped pictures of childhood hot air balloon rides, used in interviews with college students, successfully created false memories for about a third of the participants. …less than 45 words, according to the 2005 follow-up (by the same lead researcher) that compared the Photoshopped photos to a…

Struggling for survival through art

Even amid war and Holocaust, humans have a drive to create that is so strong that prisoners in concentration camps would risk death to create their art – art that now provides a glimpse of what life was like in the ghettos and camps. Some scholars argue that art was a “strategy for survival” during…

Remembrance of things past

As I have visited a dozen monuments of World War II in the past few weeks – to the RAF in the Battle of Britain, to the Londoners who helped fight bombs and fire in the Blitz, to the Jews murdered in the Holocaust, to a man who tried to assassinate Hitler in 1939 –…

A Timeless Moment of Awe

I can still feel my breath catch when I think to my one morning in Venice, over two years ago,  when I watched a master artist at work. Surrounded by a dozen fellow tourists in a small, dark studio on the ground floor of a glass store, I watched as a small blob of molten…