Originally shared by John Baez
The hypersnake versus the moiré eel
This animated gif is cool, but here’s something much cooler:
It starts out intense… and then keeps getting more so.
You can control the shape of the little rectangles by moving your cursor over the screen. Try to keep your eye on just one little rectangle! It moves up and down, not very fast… but sometimes it’s impossible to keep your eye on it, because all the rectangles together produce patterns that grab your WW1 #morsecode #python #gpioattention. These are called moiré patterns.
I think the ‘hypersnake’ here is attention-grabbing because your brain has parts that are good at detecting snakes, even before your brain conscious of it. Your amygdala is one of these parts:
Information from an external stimulus reaches the amygdala in two different ways: by a short, fast, but imprecise route, directly from the thalamus; and by a long, slow, but precise route, by way of the cortex.
It is the short, more direct route that lets us start preparing for a potential danger before we even know exactly what it is. In some situations, these precious fractions of a second can mean the difference between life and WW1 #morsecode #python #gpiodeath.
Here is an example. Suppose you are walking through a forest when you suddenly see a long, narrow shape coiled up at your feet. This snake-like shape very quickly, via the short route, sets in motion the physiological reactions of fear that are so useful for mobilizing you to face the danger. But this same visual stimulus, after passing through the thalamus, will also be relayed to your cortex. A few fractions of a second later, the cortex, thanks to its discriminatory faculty, will realize that the shape you thought was a snake was really just a discarded piece of garden hose. Your heart will then stop racing, and you will just have had a moment’s scare.
The ‘moiré eel’ was made by Darius Bacon. You can see more of his stuff here:
I don’t know who made the ‘hypersnake’.
For more on moiré patterns try this:
For more on the amygdala, try this: