via New Scientist TV
Think you’re living in the moment? You could actually be experiencing another time.
A brain trick called the flash-lag illusion shows how we don’t always perceive the present. This version, created by Eiji Watanabe from the National Institute for Basic Biology in Okazaki, Japan, presents a moving cube occasionally accompanied by a flashing twin. When the second box appears, it’s really lined up with the moving cube yet it seems to lag behind. A second example uses a gear animation to show how a flashing piston looks out of sync with another that’s shifting up and down.
The illusion was thought to be caused by our brain extrapolating into the future: it can accurately anticipate the position of the moving cube because it follows a predictable path, but it falls short when assessing where the flashing cube is due to the time it takes to process a stimulus.
Recently David Eagleman of the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, and colleagues found that our brain is reaching back into the past instead. It waits to see what happens right after the flash before determining the cube’s position: changing the trajectory of the moving object after the blinking can influence where it’s perceived.
The effect is interesting because it gives insight into our notion of self and whether we exist in the here and now. To find out more, check out our feature, “The self: You think you live in the present?“.
If you enjoyed this post, see how to move a dot with your mind or how to affect an object’s motion by changing your gaze.
Also See: New Scientist Videos (YouTube)
By Rachel Allen via Cambridge News
A Cambridge professor has tackled the issue of spontaneous combustion – using belly pork.
Prof Brian J Ford is a research biologist and author of more than 30 books, most about cell biology and microscopy but he has turned his attention to the mechanisms behind why people ‘explode’.
He said in an article in New Scientist: “One minute they may be relaxing in a chair, the next they erupt into a fireball.
“Jets of blue fire shoot from their bodies like flames from a blowtorch, and within half an hour they are reduced to a pile of ash.
“Typically, the legs remain unscathed sticking out grotesquely from the smoking cinders. Nearby objects – a pile of newspapers on the armrest, for example – are untouched.”
The first record of spontaneous combustion dates back to 1641 when Danish doctor and mathematician Thomas Bartholin described the death of Polonus Vorstius – who drank wine at home in Milan, Italy, one evening in 1470 before bursting into flames.
Since then more reports of spontaneous combustion have been filed and linked to alcoholism – though the link was later disproved.
The most recent case was 76-year-old Michael Faherty who died on December 22, 2010. West Galway coroner Ciaran McLoughlin recorded the cause of death as spontaneous human combustion.
Read More: Professor’s breakthrough on human combustion theory.
Post by Sandrine Ceurstemont, editor, New Scientist TV
Impossible objects, like those drawn by artist M. C. Escher, don’t seem like they could exist in the real world. But Kokichi Sugihara from Meiji University in Kawasaki, Japan, is well known for building 3D versions of these structures.
Now a new video shows his latest construction: a gravity-defying roof that seems to attract and balance balls on its edge. When the house is rotated, its true form is revealed.
More: New Scientist TV: Impossible roof defies gravity.
via New Scientist
A woman born missing a finger and a thumb has grown them back – albeit as part of a phantom limb. This extraordinary occurrence shows that our brain contains a fully functional map of our body image, regardless of what our limbs actually look like.
The woman, RN, was born with just three fingers on her right hand. Aged 18, RN had the hand amputated after a car accident. She later began to feel that her missing limb was still present, and developed a “phantom” hand.
“But here’s the interesting thing,” says Paul McGeoch at the University of California, San Diego. “Her phantom hand didn’t have three digits, it had five.”
RN was aware of a full complement of fingers, but her phantom thumb and index finger … (continue reading): Woman’s missing digits grow back in phantom form – health – 10 August 2012 – New Scientist.