Posts Tagged ‘perception’

QM, Perception, and Reality

October 16, 2016 Leave a comment

What is a property such as colour in the absence of context / environment and in the absence of observation? Can properties exist independently of context and / or observation? Could what we call illusion be more real than we think it is (or could reality be less real than we think it is)? “

This is the key to the whole thing. I would agree that color always appears within a wider context if that context is ‘lighter/darker’ or ‘contrast’ or other colors, however I would disagree that it must always appear in a context which is larger because of conceptual relations.

When we push on our eyeball (um, with the lids closed), we can see color without any context other than the default color of our closed-eye visual scope. We are not looking at a thing which is blue/green (in my case), we are looking at the visual field presenting itself with a specific phosphene hue which stands out from the background hue.

This is a first step toward understanding how reality is derived from realism, which is a potential derived from the accumulation of perceptual qualities. Perception is not derived from reality, only from larger scales and scopes of (non-human) perception.

Envisioning the General and Local Aesthetic

January 24, 2015 4 comments

Aesthetics: late 18th century (in the sense ‘relating to perception by the senses’): from Greek aisthētikos, from aisthēta ‘perceptible things,’ from aisthesthai ‘perceive.’ The sense ‘concerned with beauty’ was coined in German in the mid 18th century and adopted into English in the early 19th century, but its use was controversial until late in the century. (Source: Google)

The term ‘aesthetic’ may put some people off. It’s a pretentious word, has a funny spelling, and contains vague meanings that range from what you might hear in a philosophy class to what someone on TV might say about a fashion designer’s garbage bag frock. My interest in the term comes from a different sensibility – the medical sensibility that defines agents which suspend consciousness as “general anesthetics” and substances which numb sensitivity as “local anesthetics”. This is closer to the original Greek sense of the word. By dropping the an- prefix, we can turn the meaning of the word around so that there is a concept of consciousness as “general aesthetic”, or perhaps even aesthesis, and individual sensations as “local aesthetics”.

The goal here is to make sense of all phenomena as part of a single continuum or spectrum, so that for example, the seer, the seeing, the seen, light, and sight can be understood in relation to each other and as aspects of one common thing. This is also reminiscent of the relation between General Relativity and Special Relativity, especially since the function of relation is arguably one which is synonymous with perception. In order for one thing to relate to another, there has to be a context in which that relation is presented or accessed. Rather than speculating on what such a metaphysical context would be, Einstein used terms such as ‘frame of reference’ and ‘observer’ to map the when and where relations of physical effects, without discussing the what and how of relation or measurement itself. As he labored to find a unified field theory, it probably never occurred to him that qualities such as significance and questions of who and why could enter into it. Even though relativity is conceptually inseparable from the subjective act of perception, the notion of perception itself as a physical phenomenon is neglected entirely, and relegated to a one dimensional concept of detection.

A quick survey of our own senses reveals that the fundamental mechanism seems not to report on actual or absolute properties of the outside world, but rather their relevance to each other, to us, and to our interest in them. We know of many examples in perception where colors or shades look different when they are seen adjacent to each other, or shapes flip depending on how we are relating them to foreground or background. We know that ordinary light looks too bright if we have been sitting in the dark, and that cool water feels warm when our hands are cold. Every sensory palette works this way as far as I know. We say that they are perceptual ‘illusions’ because they reveal that what we perceive is not what our mind expects, however we should understand that our minds too can only make a particular, mental kind of sense. Thought is unlike seeing, tasting, or hearing in that thinking is stripped of tangible aesthetics and reborn as abstract thoughts.

Thoughts have their own aesthetic, to be sure, and language plays both midwife and policeman to those semiotic qualities, but the killer app of thinking is of course, its transparency and reflectivity – the capacity to represent without getting in its own way. Thinking provides us with a way to re-experience our tangible sensations of X as intangible sensations of ‘thinking about X’. Thought is to representation as perceiving is to presence, and the brain is to the body. They are all the ‘same thing’, only nested onto different levels. Part of human cognition is the ability to compare representations and evaluate them. We can decide which thoughts are to be trusted or doubted, but even that thought process is subject to its own evaluations, doubts, and censoring.

We now know a lot about cognitive bias and how preconceptions shape what we believe. From logical fallacies to subliminal advertising, our minds are riddled with blind spots considered to be weaknesses or illusions of human psychology. The project of scientific literacy is to single out only those thoughts which have been tempered through experiment into reliability and offering us the least amount of illusion. By refining relationships of our shared subjective fictions we can infer or deduce another kind of story that we like to think of as ‘fact’ or ‘knowledge’. From this vantage point of distilled purity, the story that our naive sense tells us about the world can be replaced by one which is thought to be universal and reliable. Logical Positivism made a lot of sense. Maybe too much. By assuming a pristine epistemology or noumenal science, the utility of the phenomenal world became hard to justify at all. Existentialists and postmodern philosophers questioned how we could really know to what extent we are fooling ourselves about anything. The challenge of escaping the bias of unscientific beliefs could be seen as even extending to science, and to knowing, and to consciousness itself. The Cartesian Cogito of ‘I think therefore I am’ was seen to be reversible as ‘I may have no choice but to think that I am, but it may not be true’.

At the same time that 20th century philosophy, art, and politics were attacking our sense of reality – physics and mathematics were disproving the reality of the world. Einstein’s 1905 discovery of the special nature of light’s constant speed in defining mass and energy was followed in 1916 by the general theory of relativity that displaced classical, Newtonian models of the entire universe. We had moved from a common sense view of the world as a vast place filled with mechanical objects to an evolving, elastic world-ish-ness which changes with one’s perspective.

Heisenberg and Gödel followed in 1927 and 1931 respectively, introducing uncertainty into quantum physics and incompleteness into formal logic. 1931 was also the year that Salvador Dali painted The Persistence of Memory, and the world slid into the Great Depression. In a few short years, the Western world that had worshiped an aesthetic of certain realities became transfixed by uncertain surreality. Physics had become metaphysical.

Taking the next step in philosophy and science has become something of a problem. As the 20th century marked an explosive shift into a new world, the 21st century seems to be both frozen in a polarized deadlock, and splintering off into esoteric factions. We have become unable to generalize our specialties or specialize in generality, so that there is no longer a coherent aesthetic of progress. This may be an entirely appropriate state of affairs in the wake of so much radical transformation in the last century, but when and if we find our way out of the current confusion, I suggest that we seek to unite physical science with metaphysical philosophy in the same way that space-time and mass-energy were united. The 21st century’s Hard Problem of Consciousness is an invitation to develop a cartography of aesthetics to match our current model of physical reality.

To begin to develop such a mapping technique, we should become familiar with what has been called the Spectrum of Consciousness, which is reflected in many mystical traditions and psychological frameworks. It is not necessary to believe in this spectrum, only to understand that such a spectrum model can be constructed and that it is potentially useful. The theme of a hierarchy of conscious qualities and states is hard to avoid, and its similarity to the electromagnetic spectrum is hard to overlook as well. Both the EM spectrum and the spectrum of consciousness offer a smooth continuum which is vaguely divided into sections related to frequency, intensity and scale. In addition to what has already been covered here and elsewhere, I offer this way of conceptualizing how it is that something like seeing, light, and images can actually be different descriptions of the same thing.


In the diagram above, four figures are shown:

  1. Sight (Phenomenal Vision)
  2. Seen (Phenomenal Image)
  3. Visible (Phenomenal Light)
  4. Unseen (Optical Physics)

The use of these prism-like figures are to represent the facets of the total phenomenon, so that in the first, top right figure, sight or seeing is represented as one facet of a block. The other facets in this block would be the other sense modalities that we have (touch, smell, sound, etc), as well as the interior facing modalities of awareness (emotion, cognition, intuition, etc). The #1 block is the subjective view of subjectivity, known as phenomenal consciousness or what I would call general aesthetics (GA). In its largest sense, GA would be the container of all qualia and is reflexive, in the sense that as far as I can tell, consciousness it is a quale itself. ‘What it is like’ to be conscious (“I am, I feel”) is itself part of the total spectrum of ‘what experiences are like’. Consciousness is an experience.

It doesn’t seem to work as well the other way, since if we have a container of consciousness which has no quality at all, then we fall into an explanatory gap. If consciousness can exist in the absence of all qualities, then what would qualities add to consciousness? For example, while it is clear that seeing is a container of sight that cannot be seen itself, it is not as clear that just because we personally define ourselves as ‘ourselves’ doesn’t mean that consciousness in general would have any good reason to define itself that way. We feel like we are a seer who is seeing images, but this may be due to the fact that we are a different type of sensation than what we are seeing or seeing itself. It may be all one continuum of ‘phoria’ which waxes and wanes in its subjectivity. Applying this principle to this example above, we have a natural metaphor in light for how the receiver of awareness, the object of awareness, and awareness itself can all ultimately be the same thing, and be accessible within itself as a reflection of that thing.

In the top left figure, the #2 block is flipped horizontally to imply that the #1 view of subjectivity is not available here in this second context. When we look out at the world, even at the reflection of the pupil of our own eye, we do not see our own seeing. The entire world of phenomenal consciousness is hidden and inverted by a kind of theater of appearances. What is seen is still phenomenal because we are seeing images (real or imagined) within a subjective medium of two dimensional shapes. Image is what allows the local aesthetic (LA) of sight to relate to the GA (consciousness) through the mask of physics.

The bottom left figure which is labeled “3. Visible” corresponds not to the experience of being a seer, or the experience of seeing an image, but of the experience of seeing light’s specific qualities. Like a director making a cameo in their own movie, light presents itself not only as the fact of seeing what is visible, but as the presence of the source of visibility as a visible experience. Phenomenal light exists both within the image that we and transcends it, addressing the seer directly. We can take a picture of a sunset and see that it looks like light radiating from the Sun onto the Earth, but we understand that the picture cannot produce light itself.

This is an astonishing feature, really. Light has a look of its own, and its look explains, in visual terms exactly what visual terms are made of. Strange loop. Blown mind. Move on. Suffice it to say that what light looks like is spectacular. It is practically synonymous with grabbing our attention. Glowing, flashing, lighting up a room, putting a spotlight on something. Within our visual field, light shows us what there is to see, and then shows us what to look at in particular. The dynamics of color harmonizing and clashing, the rotational symmetry of the color wheel, etc, are all part of light’s story about itself. The visible qualia of visibility meeting the physical mechanisms of optics.

With these three contexts, we have still not even touched the physics of light. Seeing light can be used like a trail of breadcrumbs to find Classical optics, but to understand the physics of light we must depart from the world of seeing altogether. There’s a couple of equations there in the fourth block representing how to calculate the energy of a photon and spectral radiance. With a nod to Gödel, the fourth block depicts the final category, where the unseen circumscribes the incompleteness of the seen, and wraps around from the LA of the seen to the GA of sight.

How does our brain recognize the difference between real world and hyper realistic animation world? – Quora

June 12, 2014 Leave a comment

(my answer on Quora)

We may not know as much about perception as we think that we do. While  we have become comfortable with the scientific explanations of the  processing of sensory signals and how to simulate them, there may be  much more to it than that. Of course we understand that there is much  more to reality than we can perceive, and that our perception can be  more easily manipulated than we would have thought possible, but that  does not mean that there are not also other ways of knowing and seeing  which we are not consciously aware of.

The phenomenon of the Uncanny valley is the statistical ‘valley’ or region of

“negative emotional response towards robots that seem “almost human”.

There is a sense of creepiness which relates to the animation of inanimate bodies. The depiction of zombies or ventriloquist puppets that come to life are part of the horror genre because we have a deep revulsion to something which is not alive but is imbued with agency and the power to move by itself. The concept of the ‘undead’ is a supernatural theme, which is similar to, but not identical to the unnatural quality that we find in computer animation. Compare the following:

Impressive for its time, but to me, these characters look unnatural, eerie, fake, etc. It is an aesthetic shock, along the lines of unexpectedly realizing that someone has a prosthetic limb.

Looking at a claymation analog like Gumby, there is a similar doll-like emptiness, but it seems to be partially compensated by the honesty of the materials. There is concretely real stuff there, it’s not an abstract imitation of material bodies. The contrast of the odd, synthetic quality with the lo-fi childish content comes out quirky and somewhat charming.

Here it can be seen how adding dimension and realism can detract from the character rather than improve it. As a 2-D cartoon, Homer Simpson has no uncanny qualities – it is a direct expression of a genuine cartoon artist. In the 3-D version, there is some of that surprise of confronting an imposter or alien.

There may be no way, in fact, to simulate reality in such a way that all people will be fooled all of the time. I propose that this may not only be true because no simulation can be sophisticated enough, but also because reality may have within it a kind of breadcrumb trail which connects back to the total set of true and real conditions of the universe. We may only be aware of some of that breadcrumb trail at some times, and some people may be more or less tuned into that intuitive capacity than others, but if that is true, then there is no reason to presume that it is emergent from the function of the brain alone.

Just as we use eyeballs to condition our sensitivity to light, to focus and see outside of our brain and into the world, our entire body, may contribute to our consciousness in ways which we do not yet understand. It may go further than that, if we believe the accounts of people who claim to see auras…perhaps there is an electromagnetic or chemo-hormonal sensitivity which extends beyond the skin. The universality of idioms such as ‘gut feeling’, ‘feel it in my bones’, and ‘touched my heart’ may not be entirely fictional, particularly since the gut has a nervous system of its own, and the heart produces its own magnetic field.

Because a cartoon or photograph is only a visual experience, we already are very limited in how many sense modalities we can use to perceive it. While we might argue over whether an AI can pass a Turing Test on the basis of text interaction, few would argue that simulating the physical presence of a live human being in real time and real space, whom you could touch and look in the eyes is something that will be possible any time soon.

Authenticity may be more than the sum of its measurable parts. Authenticity may not be an emergent phenomenon which can be constructed through mass imitation on a sub-threshold level from the bottom up. Instead, authenticity may be a vital and intrinsic property of the whole, which can only be pointed to by a model. The entire assumption that reality can be substituted with total sensory satisfaction, even with perfect technology, may be false. The brain does not have to recognize the difference between the fake and the real, it just has to feel what all of the different senses it uses are feeling and compare them to its expectations, both local expectations, and perhaps non-local or absolute truths.

Where Is This Video?

April 16, 2014 40 comments

The reducibility of our body to elementary functions and forms does not necessarily have to reduce us to forgeries. There is another possibility, which is that there is something to be forged that is precisely the opposite of a copy. As hinted at in the video, each experienced moment is a kind of unrepeatable performance. Instead of focusing on the absence of a concrete physical object, we can look at the aesthetic content of the experience itself as the concrete phenomenon – not a simulacrum (pronounced sim-you-lah-crum) but a localized fragment of authenticity itself. Is color basically a bad copy of white light? Is the universe basically a bad copy of nothingness?

Humans are not bad copies of anything, but the degree to which we are unique snowflakes is relative to the proximity of our scope of consideration. Within our own frame of reference, we are absolutely unique. Within a social frame of reference, we are stereotyped culturally. Moving out from the human context, an individual human becomes more and more generic – a mammal, an animal, a biological organism, a chemical reaction, etc. This variance is, in my view, what the universe is ‘made of’, so that no one context of description is the final ‘real’ description.

In other words, this commentary is literally “here”, and that video is actually “there”, and that is what relativity ultimately means…perception itself – awareness, is the ultimate frame of reference, and without perception, there is nothing to frame.

Seeing Visibility

February 7, 2014 Leave a comment

Given that light has many strange properties, both on our natural scale as rays and on the elementary scale as photons, there is every reason to doubt that light qualifies as something which is unambiguously physical. On the other hand, since we cannot imagine a completely new color wheel, it would seem to say that the experience of seeing light is “real”, and not, a label for certain kinds of information that is fabricated in the brain. People who become blind at an early age, for example, experience stimulation to their visual cortex as tactile stimulation rather than seeing lights or spots.The condition of blindsight shows that parts of our brain can receive optical information without our having experienced that information personally as visual sensation.

In a way, white light can be considered to be what it looks like when transparency is concentrated. White light is when the quality of visibility is so saturated that it exceeds the range of discernment . A bright light illuminates a room not with whiteness but with clarity. To shed light on something is to flood the visual field with an immediacy of aesthetic acquaintance that suggests veridical qualities of the environment being illuminated. This is why we have metaphors such as ‘seeing the light’. Because it is about being connected with the presence of what is true and sensible, rather than being passively bombarded with particles. It can be said that our experience of seeing is not a direct detection of what is true, since there are so many ways to reveal optical illusion.

By calling it an illusion, we are framing the phenomena in a way as to implicate human fallibility rather than physics. Somehow we are wrong about what our eyes report, yet it is not clear that our assumption about what our eyes are reporting is scientifically valid. In fact, if it were not for these optical illusions, science would have very little to go on in determining the nature of vision as separate from physical truth, so it is actually the gaps between our expectations and the truth which reveal more truth, both about the nature of visual awareness, optics, electromagnetism, and quantum mechanics. Optical illusions are an encyclopedia of the nature of perceptual illusion, physical reality, and the relation between the two.

The folk science explanation for light perception generally begins with the idea that we can see light hitting our retina. That may be true, but not scientifically. The part that light plays in our visual system ends with the isomerization of rhodopsin in the retina. If what we see as “light” is in the visual cortex, then obviously what the visual cortex receives is not photons from the outside world, and it is not a direct analog that shows up as a small screen of images in an MRI. To even guess at some of the content of our visual field requires a blind statistical reconstruction. There is no plain-text transmission of images in our brain to simply hack into and view.

The effect that light has on the retina is merely to trigger the geometric extension of Vitamin A molecules and stop the flow of glutamate to the bipolar cells. That is well behind the first ganglion that would lead to the optic nerve and visual cortex. I propose instead that photons are not entities that are independent of their transmitters and receivers, and that light is therefore not physical but rather inter-physical, aka, phenomenal, aka sensory. Photons are measures of the sensitivity of our mode of detection. It is neither ray, beam, particle, or wave, but rather a rhythmic phenomenalization of matter – a feeling that matter has about what is going on around it. By making inferences beyond our sensible grasp, I think that Quantum Theory has given noun and verb-like properties to what are ultimately adjectives. Bosons and fermions may not be like that at all, but rather they are opportunities for matter to re-acquaint itself. The elementary measurable features of the cosmos may not be particles or strings, but qualities which characterize the capacity of matter to measure and interact with itself. Physics is a mirror. For every action and equal and opposite reaction, because equal and opposite reaction is a perfect reflection of our mode of scientific inquiry. We are investing our coins of empiricism in nature, extracting the empirical value, and recording the profit in our scientific ledger, like good, serious 18th century gentlemen.

It seems to me that only a medium which is intrinsically filled with the sense of color, form, and intensity across the many physical scales could reliably and veridically bridge the gap between public material realism private experience.The notion of a seeing light as a Rube Goldberg patchwork of conveyance into separate effects on every level*, all transported through a one dimensional collision detection schema is not consistent with reality. There are too many examples of people who have seen things in dreams and visions, too many qualities of visual experience which cannot be decomposed sensibly to pixels or lines for the photon explanation to be satisfactory. The qualia of color alone, whose idiopathic shifts and wheel-like symmetry have no place in the smooth continuum of the electromagnetic spectrum.

I suggest that light is only one specific form of a more universal medium, and that this medium is already known to us informally by the word ‘sense’. Sense as in sensation, sensitivity, sensor, but also as in making sense, sixth sense, and ‘in the sense of’. The unity of all sense can be more precisely expressed as ‘primordial identity pansensitivity’, ‘nested sensory-motive participation’, or even something like ‘self-tesselating aesthetic re-aquaintence’, depending on how technical and pretentious we want to get. From this Absolute firmament, and I think only from this firmament, can we get the full range of private experience, public physics, symbolic information, and the capacity to compare and contrast them. Only when physics is seen as identical with sense can physics be completed.

On the elementary level, with a nested sense primitive, we get relativistic locality (so eigenmetrics rather than eigenstates). Sense is modulating its own self-transparency and reflectivity to generate eigenmetric milieus – levels of scale that foster certain kinds of aesthetic themes and activities. The micro-world with its mathematical-molecular-insectoid clarity is different from the soft, lush features of zoological-arboreal-botanical existence. On some level perhaps, sense is nearly undiluted, and so the entire history of the cosmos is as a single now – a white whole singularity in which the now cannot even be completed and the here cannot hold even the hint of a ‘there’. On that level, there is non-locality.

*optical, molecular, cellular, ocular, neurological, psychological, sociological, zoological..

There is no Objective Color thread

December 6, 2013 Leave a comment
That’s really interesting, too much for me to all read but I appreciate the effort put into this.
I do disagree on your first point though. There is such a thing as objective color. Photons have wavelengths, and specific wavelengths are specific colors, regardless of how our eyes and brains interpret them.I read a part of the article you linked, and if you do take into account how the eye and brain interpret colors, there is still objective color. Apparently we do all have different ratio’s of red vs green vs blue cone cells, but as the article says, our brains are still in agreement over what exactly is yellow. So our eyes might be different, but our brains correct that difference.

Think about the nature of the visible spectrum. We perceive it as being composed of soft but distinct bands of hues, usually seven or eight: red, orange, yellow, green, cyan, indigo, violet, and sometimes fuchsia, which is not a spectral color. Colors such as grey, white, brown, beige, and pink do not correspond to any one frequency, so they cannot be said to map to the wavelength of any particular photon, yet we perceive them as discernible colors.


The color palette is of course, also a wheel in which colors are seen as ‘opposite’ to each other, and which generate various effects when placed adjacent to each other, as seen in various optical ‘illusions’:


I put scare quotes around the word illusions because this information has helped me understand that what we see is never an illusion, only our cognitive expectations about what we see can be illusory. By manipulating the various layers of sensation and perception to expose their conflicts, we can tease out the truth about color, and by extension consciousness. There is no ‘actually’, there is only ‘seems like from some perspective’. The experiment showed that our color perception can be altered for weeks after subjects return to an unaltered optical state*. Our brains correct the difference because they are not translating the wavelength of photons but mimicking relations within the optical experience as a whole.

Now think about the visible range of the electromagnetic spectrum. Does it have seven soft bands or is it an absolutely smooth quantitative continuum? Does the continuum form a wheel with primary and secondary oppositions, or is it an unbounded linear progression? Does it repeat in octaves, where one frequency suddenly recapitulates and merges the beginning and ending of a sequence, or does it monotonously extend into the invisible spectrum?


Our eyes tend to differ, and photons might be the same, but color is not photons. In fact, photons from the outside world only do one thing in our retina, and that’s isomerize rhodopsin molecules – meaning that the proteins in our rod and cone cells are studded with vitamin A molecules which stretch out in the presence of visible light. From there, the folded proteins in the cells sort of swell open and actually cut off what is know as ‘Dark Current’ – the continuous flow of glutamate which is interpreted as seeing light *in its absence*. Physical light, in a sense turns our experience of darkness off.


Once we let all of this information sink in, it should be clear that the experience of color is just that – an experience. It correlates to optical conditions, but it also correlates to conditions in which there are no optical inputs at all. Even where it is isomorphic to exterior measurements, there are no colored photons inside of the brain that we are seeing. We are seeing the same neural conditions that we feel, smell, taste, and hear, and synesthesia confirms that as well. This does not mean that neural conditions are a solipsistic simulation, however, but that’s a whole other conversation (which I have my own ‘crackpot’ theory for 🙂


Light, Vision, and Optics

September 22, 2013 1 comment


In the above diagram, the nature of light is examined from a semiotic perspective. As with Piercian sign trichotomies, and semiotics in general the theme of interpretation is deconstructed as it pertains to meanings, interpreters, and objects. In this case the object or sign is “Optics”. This would be the classical, macroscopic appearance of light as beams or rays which can be focused and projected, Color wheels and primary colors are among the tools we use to orient our own human experience of vision with the universal nature of material illumination.

On the other side of bottom of the triangle is “Vision”. This is the component which gives vision a visual quality. The arrows leading to and from vision denote the incoming receptivity from optics and the outgoing engagement toward “Light”. When we see, our awareness is informed from the bottom up and the top down. Seeing rides on top of the low level interactions of our cells, while looking is our way of projecting our will as attention to the visual field.

While optics dictate measurable relationships among physical properties of light on the macroscopic scale, ‘light’ is the hypothetical third partner in the sensory triad. Light is both the microphysical functions of quantum electrodynamics and the absolute frame of perceptual relativity from which various perceptual inertial frames emerge. The span between light and optics  is marked by the polar graph and label “Image” to describe the role of resemblance and relativity. Image is a fusion of the cosmological truth of all that can be seen and illuminated (light), with the localization to a particular inertial frame (optics-in-space), and recapitulation by a particular interpreter – who is a time-feeler of private experience.

This triangle schema is not limited to light. Any sense can be used with varying degrees of success:


The overall picture can be generalized as well:


Note that the afferent and efferent sided of the triangle have a push-pull orientation, while the quanta side is an expanding graph. This is due to the difference between participation within spacetime, which is proprietary feeling, and the measured positions between participants on multiple scales or frames of participation. Sense is the totality of experience from which subjective extractions are derived. The physical mode describes the relation between each subjective experience and between other frames of subjective experience as representational tokens: bodies or forms. It’s all a kind of trail of breadcrumbs which lead back to the source, which is originality itself.

But Which Eye Is The Binocular One?

April 1, 2013 Leave a comment

“He must learn that his extreme powers of discrimination do not make him weak and inferior – but rather strong and superior.” – Matthew Oliver Goodwin

“Regione caecorum rex est luscus.” (In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.)
Desiderius Erasmus

Here is a tale about the ontology of perception, or as I like to call it, the laws of private physics. It takes place not in regione caecorum, but in regione luscus – that is, it takes place in the country or land of the one-eyed rather than the blind. In this land, there was once born someone who claimed to have a second eye, and through it, they could see a kind of “depth” and experience an aesthetic of personal engulfment which could not be accessed or appreciated with only a single eye.

The wise men of the land heard these claims and set out to prove, with their one eyed instruments and one eyed reasoning, whether or not this magical experience of stereoscopic vision could exist. As they suspected, their results confirmed that there was no depth nor sense of “embeddedness” which could be felt visually. Vision, they said, was incapable of representing volume.

Two Eyed Sally protested, but to no avail. It was plain to everyone that volume cannot be communicated without touching an object with your body directly. The eye does not touch objects directly, so sensing depth by vision is a hallucination and Sally is crazy.

One day another person was born who also claimed to have a second eye and could see that Sally had two eyes also but that everyone else had one eye.  To this, the wise men responded in their most scientific and rational way, doing the only thing that can be done in such a circumstance…

“Burn the witches!”, they bellowed.

Many years passed, and after many witches were burned, very few people spoke about their second eye experiences anymore. When they did it was, obliquely, through stories and metaphors, or as comedy. Increasingly, the one-eyed view of the world had become more and more successful, explaining nearly everything and producing amazing devices like the split-view monocle which allowed one to have two slightly different views of the same thing, allowing people who learned to use the monocle to become much better coordinated. Two views were better than one.

At this point, one of the wisest wise men accidentally ingested a few micrograms of a semi-synthetic fungal extract, and began to hallucinate that he had a second eye. His perceptual solitude became perforated with the legendary aesthetic depths and subjective embeddedness. He reported his amazing experience, and before he knew it, people all over the world were duplicating his unintentional experiment intentionally.

Around the same time, other wise men were playing with light. For years, they had observed an unexpected interference pattern whenever light was projected through a mask with more than one slit. This reminded some of the more unconventional thinkers of the myth of binocular vision, and for a time it seemed that stereoscopy could be a legitimate phenomenon. Strangely, social events seemed to mirror this loosening of constraint and a kind of renaissance or ‘mind opening’ seemed to be blooming on every front.

The more clear-headed of the wise men however, those whose single eyed vision was particularly sharp and acute, warned of trouble. The very thought of people with double the normal amount of eyes, idling in some kind of sickening optical illusion was revolting and they set out to figure out exactly what was the fucking problem with these patterns and slits, and with the strange reports from the fungus eaters as well.

They devised ingenious experiments in which the stereoscopic patterns could be explained. By using instruments which only could see one thing at a time, the validity of the monoscopic model could be deduced. Terms like ‘wave function collapse’ and ‘decoherence’ were a soothing balm for the anxieties of the wise men.

Gradually the rash of thinkers who took stereoscopic delusions seriously were drummed out of the wise man academy, and depth of field was discredited. Instead of being studied as a strange physical phenomenon, depth perception  became something else – an ‘epiphenomenon’. Epiphenomena of this kind are an ’emergent property’ which sort of ‘un-exists’ in a never-never land hidden away in neurons…or maybe calcium ions…or radiological zappity zaps.

Even if some of the sensations of stereoscopic vision felt real to some people, it would be because of the ability of these zappings to compare and extract information about each other. Such information might be useful after all, because it allows more data to be simulated at once and more data about the environment means a better chance at survival and reproduction. It could be that the people with the two eyed delusion were not witches or criminally insane after all, they are just unfortunate mutants who have a disability.

There was still some question, however, about how the light knew which slit was the right one to go through, and about whether it was the second eye which was the defective one or whether it just corrupted the first eye. Interpretations abounded about multiple universes and entangled eyeballs. All of these interpretations had in common the same thing: they concluded by re-asserting the validity of flat vision. They could all agree on one thing – that three dimensional sight was supernatural hogwash. The details of how and why were complicated and esoteric, but they are consistent and verifiable, (as long as you use instruments and experiments which are designed to filter out anything unscientific and ignore your own corrupted judgments).

“And so, little by little, a little later
These critics set to work
To make nonsense out of the sense of what we were doing.
And they succeeded.
They destroyed our hero’s faith in himself.
He didn’t have it any more.
After a few, disappointing times
In the big auditorium.
The light gone out of him.
We all stopped going.
And the man who had once seemed so tall
And who now seemed so much smaller
Left our town
Saying no, no, no
They put us back on the narrow path.
This is the way things have been in our town
For as long as anyone cares to remember.
By the way
How are things in your town?”

Ken Nordine

Why do pitches separated by an octave sound “the same”?

February 14, 2013 2 comments

Answer by Paul King:

This phenomenon is called “circularity of pitch.”

Once a tone has gone up one octave, it seems to be “back to where it started” but “higher”:

As others have mentioned, this effect is derived from the overtone structure of natural sounds. The “richness” of a natural sound comes from several overlaid frequencies, each of which are an integer multiple of the base frequency or “fundamental”, and the reason for this has to do with the physics of how sounds are produced by vibrating objects like strings and vocal cords.

The reason that shifting up one octave “sounds the same” is that the overtone structure of a tone and the same tone one octave higher (all frequencies doubled) is almost the same.

Here is the frequency spectrum of a violin string (the horizontal axis is frequency, and the vertical axis is”power”). The first “bump” is the fundamental and the ones to the right are the overtones:

Shifting this tone up one octave amounts to stretching this spectrum to the right by 2x. When this happens, the spectrum will be almost identical except that every other overtone will be missing. The tone thus sounds almost the same (activates the same frequency-sensitive neurons in the brain), but with a higher “average frequency” and “thinner” due to the missing overtones. This is illustrated here by stretching the above image horizontally by 2x and showing the overtones that line up:

If these two tones are played together, they reinforce each other and will merge to sound like a single note but with a different timbre (different frequency spectrum).

This circular relationship between frequency and pitch leads to the “circularity in pitch judgement” illusion called the Shepard scale in which a chromatic scale of notes seems to rise forever. Audio demo here:

The animation accompanying the audio shows how it works: The frequency spectrum is shifted to the right, increasing the perceived “pitch” (chroma), however the power envelope, and thus the average frequency (height), is held artificially fixed the tone does not actually climb higher. The net effect is this:

Perhaps the creepiest version of this illusion is the never-ending falling tone auditory illusion, here:…

To show just how intertwined overtones are with the perception of scale, pitch, and octaves, it turns out that when a piece of music is played on a “stretched scale” (one octave stretched from 2x frequency to 2.2x), the music sounds horribly out of tune and wrong. But if the overtone structure of the notes being played is synthetically stretched by the same amount, the music sounds oddly in tune again.

View Answer on Quora

I think that this reveals a lot about the nature of sense in general. Rather than calling these perceptual surprises ‘illusions’, I would say that they are examples of how conflicts are resolved among multiple levels of sense and sense-making.

In particular, I think that the fact of overtone dominance in tone perception tells us about the Top-Down nature of sensation, where larger wholes or gestalts are interpreted at a higher priority than granular, low level sensation. I think the illusion more likely is in the confidence that we have for our expectations about what perception actually is. When we assume that physics is an observer-independent reality with pockets of privacy containing approximations of that reality, then we overlook the possibility that physics is indivisibly both private and public, universal and proximal. This is the more accurate model in my opinion.

Overtones show us the nested nature of perception where our sensitivity plays an active role on many levels. It’s not just a matter of data accumulating in structures, but of encountering our own local experience of eternity as a rolling ‘here and now’. Like the perpetual floating peak of circular pitch, our here and now is only the most obvious range of a larger phenomenon united by likeness.

Our personal range of awareness yokes together a fugue of sympathetic echoes, both from repeating pasts and the promise of novelty from possible futures. These sub-personal and super-personal ranges are bound by instantaneous space and eternal time, respectively. The more sub-personal you get, the more you are talking about the experiences of organs, tissues, cells, and molecules in spatial relation to each other as bodies, objects, or random machines. The more super-personal you get, the more we refer to timeless themes of inspiration and teleology.

Physics can teach us how to understand the mathematics of ratios and the mechanics of wave, but in its current legacy form, physics can’t explain the physics of ratios themselves, or the mechanisms which drive us to perform the production of acoustic pressure waves. We are dazzled by the perfection of the ratios, but we no longer care what they are actually ratios of.


Why Light Isn’t Made of Photons

June 8, 2012 Leave a comment
There’s really nothing in that links visual experience with optical mechanics. There’s a lot of complementary processes going on in the visual system:

1. Your rod and cone cells are constantly pumping glutamate into the synapse, and when light hits the Vitamin A molecules stuck inside the opsin proteins that make up the rod.

2. The Vitamin A molecule changes from it’s alcohol-shaped isomer to longer aldehyde shape, which pushes the protein around in whatever way it can.



“The molecule undergoes a series of shape changes to try and better fit the binding site. Therefore, a series of changes in the protein occurs to expel the trans-retinal from the protein.”(source)

3. The mechanical changes in the opsin protein cause the rod cell to change its electric charge.

4. Hyperpolarization of the rod cell stops it from releasing glutamate, which has the effect of simultaneously

5. Turning off (hyperpolarizing) the main on-center group of cells that stimulate each ganglion and turns on the surrounding off-center group of bipolar cells that lead to the ganglion. (YouTube)

6. It appears that the elongating of the retinal (Vitamin A isomer) molecule allows the rod cell as a whole to absorb more visible light – so that detecting light makes your eye become more sensitive to light. Sort of like your eyes are opening their eyes.

7. “The nerves reach the optic chasm, where the nerve fibers from the inside half of each retina cross to the other side of the brain, but the nerve fibers from the outside half of the retina stay on the same side of the brain.” (each side of your brain gets a compete stereoscopic image, one L+R and the other R+L. It’s really a stereo stereo image.

This is just a casual overview. Feel free to correct me if I have it wrong.

The impression I get only makes me more convinced of my interpretation that photons cannot be considered light in any way. Photons are quorum synchronized reciprocal changes among atoms.

What our visual cortex would ‘see’ is nothing more than interruptions in the flow of glutamate in bipolar cells, which in turn are nothing more than responses of a stack of protein sheets to the adjustments in the shape of Vitamin A molecules. What is tickling our nervous system is not photons, but orchestrations of symmetric changes in cellular biochemistry.

The claims of vision being a transduction of optical information is misleading. It implies that we are getting a directly anamorphic imprint of photon impacts, when in fact, our visual experience, even if it could be described in biochemical terms, is quite indirect. What the brain detects is like news coverage of an electoral college voting on an issue in another country.

Of course, none of this begins to address the hard problem. Photons, molecule, cells and brains would have no way of producing seemingly non-molecular qualia like color, orientation, and beauty if they were the simple mechanical objects that we presume. The brain does not need to make an image out of glutamate fluctuation to be functionally informed by it. The data is already there, what more would be required?

Light is not a representation of photons, or glutamate, or cell polarizations, it is an anthropological scale sense of visual relation. Not a substance or an ‘energy’ but a sensitivity to objects being energized. As the so called ‘dark current’ of our retinal cells suggest, it is the job of our eyes to silence the noise of our brain and to open the bidirectional pathways of sense and motive; of receptive understanding, and projection of attention.

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