Marble Medusa Head Unearthed in Ancient Roman Ruins

Posted in ARCHAEOLOGY, EDUCATION, BOOK, MOVIE,MUSIC & SPORT CORNER with tags on October 26, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

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Marble Medusa Head Unearthed in Ancient Roman Ruins


Red-Green & Blue-Yellow: The Stunning Colors You Can’t See

Posted in EDUCATION, BOOK, MOVIE,MUSIC & SPORT CORNER, SCIENCE with tags on October 12, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

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Red-Green & Blue-Yellow: The Stunning Colors You Can’t See

Try to imagine reddish green — not the dull brown you get when you mix the two pigments together, but rather a color that is somewhat like red and somewhat like green. Or, instead, try to picture yellowish blue — not green, but a hue similar to both yellow and blue.

Is your mind drawing a blank? That’s because, even though those colors exist, you’ve probably never seen them. Red-green and yellow-blue are the so-called “forbidden colors.” Composed of pairs of hues whose light frequencies automatically cancel each other out in the human eye, they’re supposed to be impossible to see simultaneously.

The limitation results from the way we perceive color in the first place. Cells in the retina called “opponent neurons” fire when stimulated by incoming red light, and this flurry of activity tells the brain we’re looking at something red. Those same opponent neurons are inhibited by green light, and the absence of activity tells the brain we’re seeing green. Similarly, yellow light excites another set of opponent neurons, but blue light damps them. While most colors induce a mixture of effects in both sets of neurons, which our brains can decode to identify the component parts, red light exactly cancels the effect of green light (and yellow exactly cancels blue), so we can never perceive those colors coming from the same place.

Almost never, that is. Scientists are finding out that these colors can be seen — you just need to know how to look for them.

Colors without a name

The color revolution started in 1983, when a startling paper by Hewitt Crane, a leading visual scientist, and his colleague Thomas Piantanida appeared in the journal Science. Titled “On Seeing Reddish Green and Yellowish Blue,” it argued that forbidden colors can be perceived. The researchers had created images in which red and green stripes (and, in separate images, blue and yellow stripes) ran adjacent to each other. They showed the images to dozens of volunteers, using an eye tracker to hold the images fixed relative to the viewers’ eyes. This ensured that light from each color stripe always entered the same retinal cells; for example, some cells always received yellow light, while other cells simultaneously received only blue light.

Images similar to those used in a famous 1983 experiment in which so-called “forbidden colors” were perceived for the first time.
Credit: Life’s Little Mysteries

The observers of this unusual visual stimulus reported seeing the borders between the stripes gradually disappear, and the colors seem to flood into each other. Amazingly, the image seemed to override their eyes’ opponency mechanism, and they said they perceived colors they’d never seen before.[The Most Amazing Optical Illusions (and How They Work)]

Wherever in the image of red and green stripes the observers looked, the color they saw was “simultaneously red and green,” Crane and Piantanida wrote in their paper. Furthermore, “some observers indicated that although they were aware that what they were viewing was a color (that is, the field was not achromatic), they were unable to name or describe the color. One of these observers was an artist with a large color vocabulary.”

Similarly, when the experiment was repeated with the image of blue and yellow stripes, “observers reported seeing the field as simultaneously blue and yellow, regardless of where in the field they turned their attention.”

It seemed that forbidden colors were realizable — and glorious to behold!

Its name is mud

Crane’s and Piantanida’s paper raised eyebrows in the visual science world, but few people addressed its findings. “It was treated like the crazy old aunt in the attic of vision, the one no one talks about,” said Vince Billock, a vision scientist. Gradually though, variations of the experiment conducted by Billock and others confirmed the initial findings, suggesting that, if you look for them in just the right way, forbidden colors can be seen.

Then, in 2006, Po-Jang Hsieh, then at Dartmouth College, and his colleagues conducted a variation of the 1983 experiment. This time, though, they provided study participants with a color map on a computer screen, and told them to use it to find a match for the color they saw when shown the image of alternating stripes — the color that, in Crane’s and Piantanida’s study, was indescribable.

“Instead of asking participants to report verbally (and hence subjectively), we asked our participants to report their percepts in a more objective way by adjusting the color of a patch to match their perceived color during color mixing. In this way, we discovered that the perceived color during color mixing (e.g., red versus green) is actually a mixture of the two colors, but not a forbidden color,” Hsieh told Life’s Little Mysteries, a sister site to LiveScience.

When shown the alternating stripes of red and green, the border between the stripes faded and the colors flowed into each other — an as-yet-unexplained visual process known as “perceptual filling in,” or “image fading.” But when asked to pick out the filled-in color on a color map, study participants had no trouble zeroing in on muddy brown. “The results show that their perceived color during color mixing is just an intermediate color,” Hsieh wrote in an email.

So if the color’s name is mud, why couldn’t viewers describe it back in 1983? “There are infinite intermediate colors … It is therefore not surprising that we do not have enough color vocabulary to describe [them all],” he wrote. “However, just because a color cannot be named, doesn’t mean it is a forbidden color that’s not in the color space.” [Fun Video: Pink Light Doesn’t Exist]

Color fixation

Fortunately for all those rooting for forbidden colors, these scientists’ careers didn’t end in 2006. Billock, now a National Research Council senior associate at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, has led several experiments over the past decade that he and his colleagues believe prove the existence of forbidden colors. Billock argues that Hsieh’s study failed to generate the colors because it left out a key component of the setup: eye trackers. Hsieh merely had volunteers fix their gaze on striped images; he didn’t use retinal stabilization.

“I don’t think that Hsieh’s colors are the same ones we saw. I’ve tried image fading under steady fixation … and I don’t see the same colors that I saw using artificial retinal stabilization,” Billock said. In general, he explained, steady eye fixation never gives as powerful an effect as retinal stabilization, failing to generate other visual effects that have been observed when images are stabilized. “Hseih et al.’s experiment is valid for their stimuli, but says nothing about colors achieved via more powerful methods.”

Recent research by Billock and others has continued to confirm the existence of forbidden colors in situations where striped images are retinally stabilized, and when the stripes of opponent colors are equally bright. When one is brighter than the other, Billock said, “we got pattern formation and other effects, including muddy and olive-like mixture colors that are probably closer to what Hseih saw.”

When the experiment is done correctly, he said, the perceived color was not muddy at all, but surprisingly vivid: “It was like seeing purple for the first time and calling it bluish red.”

The scientists are still trying to identify the exact mechanism that allows people to perceive forbidden colors, but Billock thinks the basic idea is that the colors’ canceling effect is being overriden.

When an image of red and green (or blue and yellow) stripes is stabilized relative to the retina, each opponent neuron only receives one color of light. Imagine two such neurons: one flooded with blue light and another, yellow. “I think what stabilization does (and what [equal brightness] enhances) is to abolish the competitive interaction between the two neurons so that both are free to respond at the same time and the result would be experienced as bluish yellow,” he said.

You may never experience such a color in nature, or on the color wheel — a schematic diagram designed to accomodate the colors we normally perceive — but perhaps, someday, someone will invent a handheld forbidden color viewer with a  built-in eye tracker. And when you peek in, it will be like seeing purple for the first time.

Follow Natalie Wolchover on Twitter @nattyover. Follow Life’s Little Mysteries on Twitter @llmysteries, then join us on Facebook.

Editor’s Recommendations

Star Wars Woodblock Prints Made by Japanese Craftsmen

Posted in EDUCATION, BOOK, MOVIE,MUSIC & SPORT CORNER with tags on July 3, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

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Brian Ashcraft

Star Wars Woodblock Prints Made by Japanese Craftsmen

Star Wars Woodblock Prints Made by Japanese Craftsmen

And yes, the prints are officially licensed by Lucasfilm.

Part of a crowdfunding project on, these limited-edition woodblock prints were designed by artist Masami Ishikawa, engraved by master engravers, and handprinted by a master printer.

Years of study and craftsmanship go into producing works like these.

Fascinating and beautiful.

Star Wars Woodblock Prints Made by Japanese Craftsmen1

Star Wars Woodblock Prints Made by Japanese Craftsmen

Star Wars Woodblock Prints Made by Japanese Craftsmen

To contact the author of this post, write to or find him on Twitter@Brian_Ashcraft.

Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.


The Terrifying True Story Of America’s Youngest Serial Killer

Posted in EDUCATION, BOOK, MOVIE,MUSIC & SPORT CORNER with tags on April 18, 2015 by 2eyeswatching

Post 4487

Cheryl Eddy

The Terrifying True Story Of America’s Youngest Serial Killer

The Terrifying True Story Of America's Youngest Serial Killer

In 1872, 12-year-old Jesse Pomeroy was briefly sent to reform school after brutally attacking several children. After his release, “the Boy Fiend” progressed to murder. A new book takes a look at this unusual case, one of the first to bring the insanity defense — and all its complications — into the public eye.

We spoke with Emerson College literature professor Roseanne Montillo about her just-releasedThe Wilderness of Ruin: A Tale of Madness, Fire, and the Hunt for America’s Youngest Serial Killer; it’s an intriguing blend of true crime and Boston history, and offers a look at the early days of psychology and the legal system.

The Terrifying True Story Of America's Youngest Serial Killer

io9: Why did you want to tell the story of Jesse Pomeroy?

Roseanne Montillo: Actually, I was working on my first book, [The Lady and Her Monsters: A Tale of Dissections, Real-Life Dr. Frankensteins, and the Creation of Mary Shelley’s Masterpiece], browsing through the Harvard University archives, and I came across a collection of materials that belonged to one of the detectives. His name was James R. Wood, and he was a very famous detective here in Boston. He joined the Boston Police Department in the 1860s, and he rose through the ranks very quickly. Eventually he opened up his own detective agency, the first one in New England. So he was very well-known, and it was odd because of all the cases among the hundreds that he’d worked, Jesse Pomeroy stood out as the one that really frightened him. It really made him think more about evil in general. So I thought it was unusual that Wood, who was such a hardcore detective, should be a little bit frightened by a 14-year-old boy. I thought, “What could be so horrible about a teenage boy that he would scare a grown man?” I figured maybe there was something there that I should look into.

Other than the obvious factor of his young age, what were some of the things about Jesse Pomeroy that made him so unusual and frightening?

Montillo: He was born in Charlestown in 1859 — not too far from Boston. Strangely enough, he was born with a little bit of a mark on his right eye. It was called “an albino eye,” and it looked like a milky substance [covering the iris]. From the very beginning, he was seen as being very different from the rest of the boys in his neighborhood. Automatically he became the butt of many jokes. He was picked on by the children, and even by his own father, who believed that the white mark was the sign of the devil. He beat him up to see if he could almost perform an exorcism on him.

Jesse suffered a lot. But he realized as time went by that pain had sort of turned into pleasure. And not only did he start to enjoy the beatings that he got, he realized he could actually make other people suffer. So from a very young age he started beating up children who were much younger and smaller than himself. He got off on the pain that he was inflicting on other children.

And then of course it became much more gruesome than that.

Montillo: He started off by killing animals in his neighborhood. People saw him running around the neighborhood with knives and dead kittens in his hands. He killed his mother’s pet birds. But eventually, people started hearing about an older boy who was befriending the little children in the neighborhood, and he was taking them into secluded areas, giving them candy, maybe telling them that the circus was in town and they should go see it. But as soon as he had them by themselves, he would tie them up, beat them, strip them, cut them with a little knife, and sexually molest them. He really got more gruesome as time went by, and it got worse and worse.

People started to realize that they had something incredibly horrible on their hands, but they didn’t know how to get a handle on him. They began to think that maybe the devil had come to town, because only an evil person could do something like this.

As the book points out, though, he didn’t exactly prove elusive to police. The first time he was caught, it was because he walked into a police station, right?

Montillo: He actually gave himself up. There was an article that came out in theBoston Globein 1872 about the crimes that were being committed, and Jesse’s mother, who was a real character herself, kind of recognized that the description of this person that the children were giving looked like her son. She suspected him, but instead of going to the police or to a doctor or anywhere to find help, she decided to move the family from Charlestown to South Boston. But in South Boston, he did the same very same thing, assaulting little kids.

Eventually one boy was able to tell the police that the one thing that stood out for him was that the assailant had an unusual-looking eye. So they started looking for someone matching that description, but they really didn’t have to do much; one day, out of the blue, Jesse thought it would be fun to just walk into the police station, and the boy he assaulted was right there and recognized him.

Wilderness of Ruin discusses how Jesse’s second trial offered an early, high-profile showcase for the insanity defense, though Jesse’s lawyers ended up not pursuing it. Did this case have an impact on others in the future?

Montillo: Well, Jesse was one of the earliest examples of a child who kills other children. The state didn’t really know what to do with him. Up until the point that he gave himself up, he’d abused children but he hadn’t killed anybody. He was sent to reform school — it was believed that if he stayed in reform school for six or seven years, until he was 18, he would get better, and that this was just a momentary lapse. Growing pains, if you will. But he didn’t stay there that long, and he got out about a year later. As soon as he did that, he went back to his old habits, and they got worse: he killed two children.

So the question was, you had him in your custody. Why did you let him go? And now that he’s killed, and been caught again, what do you do with him now? Do you hang a boy of 14? Put him in jail or in a mental institution? Lots of people wanted him to be studied. They thought that maybe it would be a good way to learn about children who kill other children. But many people in Boston thought he should just die. There shouldn’t even be a trial, they should just do away with him.

For the most part, though, his lawyers tried to mount some kind of an insanity defense, that he’d just had a mental lapse. But it didn’t really work, because they could trace every single step that he’d taken. Most of the crimes that he committed were completely premeditated. He’d brought knives, ropes, and he’d looked into the children. He knew very well what he was doing. So, what do you do now? The insanity defense wasn’t going to work with him anymore.

The book contextualizes the life and times of Jesse by really delving into what Boston was like at the time of his crimes. Why did you decide to frame the story that way, and how did Herman Melville and Oliver Wendell Holmes become a part of it?

Montillo: Back then, Boston was really divided by class. There were the very wealthy, and the very poor. Few people were in between. Jesse was on the poor end of things, living with his mother after his mother and father had separated. Mr. Pomeroy went his own way, and Mrs. Pomeroy got a job doing anything that she could do. She cleaned houses, she took in laundry, and she had a little shop where she sold odds and ends. But really nothing was enough. And this was a time when the wealthy didn’t care too much about what happened in the neighborhoods where the poor people lived. Crimes that were committed in areas like Charlestown and South Boston, people didn’t know too much about, and they didn’t want to know too much about. These were issues that the poor had to deal with … until Jesse brought out the idea that, maybe you should be paying a little bit more attention to what happens outside your neighborhood. He looked everywhere, he walked everywhere. He could have taken a shine to any child that belonged to any parent. He really brought home the idea that the social divide shouldn’t exist anymore, and it was very painful for people to see that.

Herman Melville was in the area during the trial, which took place in December of 1874. He was fascinated by the case, as he was with anything that had to do with crime and mental illness. His own family had lots of people who had unfortunately gone through all kinds of mental disease: his father, his brother, his son, his niece. He was fascinated, but he was also afraid that one day he’d succumb to it as well. The Jesse Pomeroy case emphasized those issues that he was always worried about, and that he used in his fiction as well.

Oliver Wendell Holmes was in town, obviously, he was a doctor, and he studied mental illness as well. He followed the case, and when he found out that Jesse had been found guilty and was going to be executed — because initially, he was sentenced to death — Holmes believed that the best thing to do would be to place him in a mental institution and to really get to know him, to figure out why he had done the things he’d done.

Holmes thought you could learn a lot from Jesse, and he didn’t believe that Jesse was the only child who could do these things. He thought that people had a tendency to underestimate children, and that there’d be another Jesse Pomeroy out there. Most likely, there was one already. And maybe if you learned about Jesse, it would be easier to help the next boy who needed help. He saw Jesse as being very useful, so he tried hard, writing letters to the governor to make sure that Jesse would go to a good place. But nobody really listened to him; [the common mentality was] you had two choices: you killed Jesse, or you placed him in jail.

How has the system changed since Jesse’s case?

Montillo: I spoke to someone last night at a reading who said, “I work with children all the time, and today we’d see the signs early on. We’d know that a child who taunts other children, who goes around with a knife, who kills animals … well, maybe you should pay attention to that.” Back then, no one knew what Jesse was going though. Even his mother just believed that it was part of growing up, and eventually he’d grow out of it and become a normal boy. That’s not to condone anything that she did or didn’t do, but the support system is a lot better today.

I was interested to read that some people blamed Jesse’s habit of reading lurid dime-store novels as contributing to his behavior. It’s almost like when you hear about a school shooter, and someone blames the kid’s love of video games.

Montillo: Very much so. It was an easy excuse to blame the reading material. If you go back and read the things those children had their hands on, the dime novels were not the greatest literature that you could find, but kids would save whatever money they had to buy them. The stories were full of butchery — cowboys and Indians, and detectives — I was reading some of them, and the amount of blood that was gushing out of everywhere, I was like, “Really? Children would read these things?” But they did! And there were people who thought maybe you shouldn’t give a publication like this to a 12- or 13-year-old boy, because you don’t know what kind of affect it will have on his mentality.

Jesse really loved them. He read dozens of them. His lawyers, and doctors, thought maybe the books instigated something in him, and he wanted to try them out to imitate the things he was reading, and to see if he could get away with it. Which kind of makes sense when you think of it, but it was really an easy way to blame society in general for what he did.

Which is what we still do today!

Montillo: Things haven’t really changed all that much.

What was the overall experience of writing Wilderness of Ruin like?

Montillo: It was interesting. I learned a lot — it was scary to learn about Jesse, but also to learn about what was done to him, as well. It was interesting to process his background, and how he grew into the person that he became. It’s not as simple as just saying, “He was a killer.”



Vast Bed of Metal Balls Found in Deep Sea


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Vast Bed of Metal Balls Found in Deep Sea

by Becky Oskin, Senior Writer   |   February 17, 2015 08:25am ET

Manganese nodule

Manganese nodules found in the tropical Atlantic Ocean. 
Credit: Nils Brenke, CeNak

Scattered along the seafloor, dense clusters of large metal lumps have been discovered by scientists trolling for deep-sea creatures between South America and AfricaThe R/V Sonne, a German research ship, was several hundred miles east of Barbados when a mesh net meant to capture marine life instead brought up balls of manganese ore that were bigger than softballs. A remote camera later revealed that the seafloor was littered with these round manganese nodules, some the size of bowling balls. [Photos: The World’s Weirdest Geological Formations]“I was surprised, because this is generally not the place you think of for manganese nodules,” said Colin Devey, chief scientist for the expedition and a volcanologist at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel, Germany.

Manganese nodule

This is the largest patch of manganese nodules ever found in the Atlantic, Devey said.

Manganese nodules discovered on the deep seafloor in January 2015.
Credit: Thomas Walter

Manganese nodules have been found in every ocean, but are most common in the Pacific Ocean. The metal lumps, which most often look like pancakes, are formed of layer upon layer of metal ore that slowly crystallizes around a core. The core may be a fossil, a rock or fragment of another nodule.

“These were very, very circular, which is strange,” Devey said. “They usually look like cow flops.”

Scientists think the nodules grow very slowly, padding themselves by less than an inch (1 centimeter) in a million years. The largest nodules found by the R/V Sonne scientists could be as old as 10 million years, Devey said. Because the spheres are so old, they could provide a record of past climate change, he added.

In the 1970s, manganese nodules captured the interest of researchers as a possible source of rare metals such as nickel, copper and cobalt, which are also mixed in with the manganese in the strange seafloor deposits. But interest petered out because of the difficulty in mining the ocean depths and the technological advances in extracting ore on land.

The newly found nodules resided in waters between 16,400 feet and 18,000 feet (5,000 and 5,500 meters) deep.

The origin of manganese nodules also remains a mystery. Popular ideas include chemical reactions in seawater that are boosted by microbes, similar activity at underwater hot springs and the precipitation of excess metal from seawater.

The research ship collected the nodules while partway through a 42-dayexploration of the Atlantic seafloor. The cruise set out with a simple goal: discovery. Scientists on board intended to find out what lived in the tropical ocean depths between South America and Africa, and whether the volcanic mountain range snaking between the continents was a barrier to deep-sea life. During the trip, biologists captured creatures living at extreme depths, some of the deepest ever sampled. Geologists investigated the seafloor topography and plate tectonics along the route.

Follow Becky Oskin @beckyoskin. Follow LiveScience @livescience,Facebook& Google+. Originally published on Live Science.


Experts Suggest Your Ideal Sleep Duration (Infographic)


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Season to Season: Earth’s Equinoxes & Solstices (Infographic)


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Season to Season: Earth’s Equinoxes & Solstices (Infographic)