Sunday, January 04, 2009

On Perception

Here are a couple of extracts and an image from chapter 7 (on vision/perception) of my new book 'Embracing the Wide Sky: A Tour Across the Horizons of the Mind':

"Color is a good way to illustrate the remarkable variety and subjectivity of our perceptions. The range of colors that we see when we look around us, though impressive, is in fact far from exhaustive. Humans are normally able to perceive colors with wavelengths of 400 nanometers (violet) through to 700 nanometers (red), with purples, blues, greens, yellows and oranges in between. Birds, however, can see what we cannot – ultraviolet range colors with shorter wavelengths (between 340 and 400nm). For every color that we see, our feathered friends see many more. "

(From a later section of the chapter:)

"Ambiguous images have long been a staple of optical illusions – images that are designed to demonstrate the vagaries of our perceptions. The ‘open book’ illusion, for example, invented by the German psychologist Ernst Mach, can be seen as either open towards or away from the viewer. Once both perspectives are seen, the viewer’s eye will oscillate between the two representations as our brains try to make sense of what it is seeing..."


Anonymous said...

Hi Daniel, I just wanted to say that, although you have probably heard it before, you are truly amazing. I just read your book "Born on a Blue Day" and absolutely loved it. I have loaned it to my mum and my best mate is next to read after her. I am definitely going to purchase your next book, which is released today in the US.
I am not even a smidge close to the mind you have, but have always been interested in research on Autism and how the brain works. Especially since my 5 year old son is being thoroughly tested right now with doctors for his math skills. You are an insiration in a hard and trying time for me right now and your book has helped me to better understand what Kellen is going through. I am a single mother and although it is tough and trying at times i have learned that patience is the answer. Thank you and good luck with your next book. I am sure it will be as successful as the first one. :) Amy

Anonymous said...

Hi Daniel,
I'm looking forward to reading your book... enjoyed the New Scientist interview. Thank you for writing about this. Of course my experience is nothing like yours, but I do recall that as a child, I just assumed that everyone thought that certain numbers were certain colors, but gradually realized that I saw/felt the world a little differently than most of the people around me. I noticed that the list of languages you use does not include Sanskrit. I think that you would really enjoy this incredible, sacred language. It is experiential in nature, intuitive with highly sophisticated patterns. In this beautiful language, there is often a single word to describe a complex experience that in other languages require entire books.

for a better description, check out my site: (scroll down a bit for essay = "Why Sanskrit?")


all the best, Shalini B.

Anonymous said...

First off i only recently read about you in your interview in newscientist and it was an interesting read, i will be buying your book very soon.

I have a query if i may be so bold, are your current interests going to expand, i don't know all of your goals but i wonder how much you could accomplish if you put your mind to work in more areas where humanity has many problems.

Climate control, physics, medical research are a few, i am sure there are many more and maybe with your mind a lot can be accomplished in the world, well a lot more than most people accomplish.

Anonymous said...

I think color is basic unit to conform all my thoughts.
When I remember things, when I feel, when I have an orgasm, everything begins from colors to shape, sounds or feelings.
I´m working on drawings trying to describe the genesis of human sense.

I´ll be around soon, is nice to read you.

Merrie said...

I just read your article in Scientific American. I followed the links to your books on Amazon. Having read and researched Asperger's in the last 3 years, I'm fascinated by your story and I admire your ability. I wish I could experience it like you do. Please keep sharing your stories and ideas. I look forward to reading your books.

Anonymous said...

I have always had a mental picture of numbers where I can place them on an array depending on how large the numbers become.

I know that what I do is miniscule in comparison to your talents.

I was wondering if you had this same picture but on a three-dimensional-color scale!

Unknown said...

I missed your appearance on "The Hour", but I did watch you on "The Agenda". Thank you for opening the door to your mind for the rest of us - it was fascinating. I also learned that "seeing" numbers as shapes isn't something that everyone does; I do "see" them as, let's say, lego blocks fitting together when I do basic calculations (my math skills are very average tough), and I always associated music and sound of different instruments as shapes and colours - for example, trumpet is usually a bright, yellow, sinuous line, moving, collapsing and expanding...I want to learn more and I definitely will read your books; I'm very curious about your language courses; I have an ability to learn languages fairly quickly and after watching you I realized that different languages form different "landscapes" in my mind; I never paid much attention to it. I have to agree with other comments - you were very gracious and unassuming on "The Agenda"... thanks again!