Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Summer School - Psych 304 - Interesting Facts

On my last post about my summer course icey posted:
"post some things you've learned if that's legally ok please. behaviour is a very interesting topic."
I have decided to detail some of the interesting things I have learned thus far and don't worry icey, it is legal.

1. Eye Movement
How your brain interprets movement is quite extraordinary. Consider these four cases and try it out for yourself!
  1. Both object being viewed and eye are stationary. (Hold out a pencil, is it moving?)
    Result: Object appears to not be moving.
  2. Object is stationary but eye is moving. (Scan from the top to the bottom of the pencil, is it moving?)
    Result: Object appears to not be moving.
  3. Object is moving down but eye is stationary. (Move pencil downwards while keeping eye focused straight ahead, is it moving?)
    Result: Object appears to be moving.
Now here is where it gets a little bit complicated. Consider case two and three. In both of these the pencil changes its place on the back of the retina. When you move your eyes up the pencil but the pencil is stationary, the retinal image ends up hitting higher on the back of your eye. Yet the same thing occurs when the pencil moves down but your eye stays staring straight ahead (the focus ends up on the eraser in both cases). Why then does your brain interpret one of these as movement and the other as not movement. Well let us make a hypothesis and then test it. Perhaps when your brain moves your eye it subtracts this movement from the change in retinal image and so even though you move your eyes, your brain can tell the world is stationary. How then could we test this? Well try this:
  1. Stare off into the distance as far away as possible.
  2. Close your right eye.
  3. With your left finger gently push on your bottom eyelid to push your eye upwards.
  4. Continue to apply pressure, then release it in an alternating pattern.
  5. With enough pressure applied you should see the world tilt downwards!
It can be tricky to get this effect to work as people aren't usually comfortable with prodding their own eyeballs. I find that alternating pressure/no pressure helps you to better visualize the downward movement (it can be quite blurry). So what does this mean? Well you tilted your eyeball up, just like you did when you looked at the tip of the pencil. This time though, your brain did not initiate the movement of the eyeball so it was unable to subtract this movement, thus your brain said "The world is tilting down!".

I just realized this does not have much to do with behaviour so I will have to do another post tomorrow about behaviour. Dangit. Hope this is interesting icey!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Summer School - Psych 304

So I am attending a summer course at UBC, Psych 304, entitled "Brain and Behaviour". The instructor is Steven Barnes and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to pick up a difficult but straightforward credit. Steven is exceptional at explaining concepts and really takes the time to help students out (for example he held two extra lectures outside class time that were student driven to prepare for the midterm). He is also a phenomenal artist, his website is located here.

The course so far has been very interesting, with the text accompanying the lectures well. The textbook is very well written, it can be found here. Steven mentioned at the beginning of the course that it has a very low sellback rate, meaning a lot of students either choose to keep it or burn it. Either way I would never burn this book, not only because I hate the loss of information, but also because I am beginning to develop a personal affinity for the way the author, Pinel, structures the material. Hopefully I do well in this course, I will keep the updates flowing.

HST - Why should you care?

A little while ago I came across an awesome video explaining some of the misconceptions about the HST and what it means. It is definitely worth taking a look at.

 I will admit that even though I thought I understood the concept fully, some of the finer points completely eluded me until I watched this explanation. This hearkens back to my previous post about misinformation and how important it is to concentrate on educating through facts.

Vancouver Art Gallery Expansion

So per a comment by this guy here asking about the comparison between the VAG and the TAR, I decided it would be worthwhile to do a post about the VAG and the direction it is headed. One of the cool projects that has been proposed is the construction of a dual concert hall beneath the VAG. Initiated by the Vancouver Concert Hall and Theatre Society, the aim would be to create a space for performances by the VSO, as well as offer live performance spaces and room to book festivals/celebrations. An article on the proposal has been put out by World Architecture News and can be found here. The part I appreciate above and beyond the concept is the dedication to factual based evidence as seen in the section of the editorial that reads:

"One early commenter is Anthony F. Ingram, who posted his thoughts on the Facebook wall: 'While I think this idea is laudable, the 450 seat theatre space, in my opinion, will be of little use to the numerous small theatre companies that are crying out for spaces in which to present their work. What we really need are 150 to 200 seat spaces. We can't afford a 450 space.'"
"The group’s administrators responded swiftly to this post, thanking Anthony for his comment and directing him to a full report by Vancouver’s City Council which suggests that there is a gaping hole in the market for a venue of this size. This 160-page document (compiled in 2008) recognises that: 'the majority (87%) of Vancouver’s small-scale, live presentation spaces are delivered through multi-functional facilities that accommodate performance-based activity as a secondary/ancillary function.'”
This sort of accountability to the hopes and fears of the citizen is a step in the right direction in my opinion. It is beneficial to take the time to inform the citizen of why their concerns may be misguided and why something that may seem strange, costly or impossible might actually be beneficial on second glance. This whole post reminds me greatly of the issues we are currently having in B.C. with the HST. I think I will do my next post on that.

Art Installation Concept

Today while at the VAG I had a discussion about forms of art. One idea I came up with was to have a room held at 0 degrees Celsius and place some blocks of ice in it. In the middle would be a sledgehammer with which a viewer could destroy the ice. Now the catch would be that a portion of those viewing the exhibit would partake in destruction and a portion would choose not to, the catch being that regardless of whether or not you were to actively destroy the ice, your presence would heat the room causing the ice to melt. Perhaps it could be taken even further in that for each visitor that swings the sledgehammer the temperature would be lowered a degree and for each one that does not it would be raised a degree. Hmmm....

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Vancouver Art Gallery

Attended the VAG today, ended up enjoying it a lot more than I thought I would. On the first floor was an exhibit encompassing the works of a handful of Surrealists. The most notable artist for me was Kurt Seligmann whose paintings detailed great landscapes obscured by whirling objects which appeared to be made of either air or stone depending on their orientation on the canvas. Continuing on through the surrealist portion there were a number of Dali paintings and I had a moment to write down an amusing anecdote from his book "The Secret Life of Salvador Dali" where it details him "demanding to know why when he asked for a grilled lobster in a restaurant, he was never presented with a boiled telephone". Oh Dali, you strange, strange man. Another piece of intrigue was Giorgio de Chirico's "The Child's Brain", which Chirico described as a combination between his father and Napoleon III. Many of the pieces were linked back to Freud, with this one being described as having a semblance to Freud's Oedipus Complex.

The second floor ended up drawing a close parallel with the ideas presented on the floor below, even though it was supposed to be a completely separate exhibit. A variety of artwork was presented however one artist soared above the rest with both his art style and installations. Ken Lum, a native to East Vancouver had a number of photographs as well as a larger room devoted to his art installation of a neon sign detailed by the Vancouver Sun here. There was a computer set up in the room that allowed you to look at various articles about the piece and I noticed that the majority of the negative response was due to a lack of information on what the installation is meant to represent. This video that was in the room did a great job of showing that the art was not designed by him to be religious, in the video he actually mentions it is both religious and sacrilegious at the same time.

The negative comments stating this was promoting Christianity seemed to be a little bit misinformed and misplaced after watching the video.

The most outstanding of Lum's installations in the VAG were his room of mirrors and his wall of mirrors. When I entered the room of mirrors I was filled with a little bit of a joking feeling, figuring it would be similar to the one at the PNE (in which it is possible to run through, though they advise you not to). Instead, Lum's room of mirrors was utterly disorienting, to the point where on the first pass both my mother and girlfriend had to exit the way we came in after getting turned around in the corridors. I decided to go back in and they came through the exit side so we could meet in the middle and they could lead me back. On the way back out my girlfriend managed to mistake a mirror for the exit and walk full force into it. Quite bizarre and intriguing at the same time.

Lum's wall of mirrors consisted of a length of mirrors with reverse text printed on the wall across forcing you to read the text on the mirror in front of you. To read, it was necessary to move along the mirror as your own body obscured a portion of the words. Once you reached the end, the hallway turned in on itself and eventually after a series of mirrors it became a dark tunnel. Upon entering the tunnel you came into the room behind the mirrors you were just in and then had the chance to observe other people reading with the mirror. It was very strange, but fascinating.

All in all the VAG has a great series on right now and I would recommend that anyone in the Vancouver area drop in to check it out!