Wednesday, March 05, 2008


Following, you’ll find a hiaku, seventeen syllables, but broken into the two contrasting thoughts or images. Then comes a quote from a current book I’m reading. It’s my fourth Steven Pinker book and he’s always as interesting as hell:

computational neuroscience:
Tinkertoy chickens cross the road

“The idea that shapes can be cognitively melted down into schematic blobs—skewered on axes originally came from a theory of shape recognition by the computational neuroscientist David Marr. Marr noted how easily people recognize stick figures and animals made from pipe cleaners or twisted balloons, despite their dissimilarity from real objects in their arrangement of pixels. He proposed that we actually represent shapes in the mind in blob-and-axis models rather than in raw images, because such a model is stable as the object moves relative to the viewer, while the pixels in the image are all over the place…. Not only do nouns for shapes (like ribbon, layer, crust, hunk, and groove) get their definitions from this world of pipe cleaners, cutouts, and balloons, but we seem to conceive of the objects around us in these terms. Few people think of a wire as a very very skinny cylinder and of a CD as a very short one, though technically that’s what they are. We conceive of them as having only one or two primary dimensions, respectively. Nor do we ordinarily imagine a lake as a translucent chunk with a flat top, sharp edges, and numerous bulges molded to the shape of the lake bottom. We think of it as a 2-D[imensional] surface.” Steven Pinker, The Stuff Of Thought, (pp. 181-82)

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