Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Brain Games

Well no wonder it's so good, it's by National Geographic.

Brain Games pic

Marlene and I have been watching this show on Netflix. It's great! I love how they show us our brain can be fooled--even when we know it's happening--and we can't stop it. Example? An evenly pale gray rectangle appears to have the bottom paler than the top when divided by a border that makes it appear the bottom is in shade. Similarly, on a Rubik's cube a square appears to be orange when placed on the "shaded" side, but brown when on the "lighted" side. Concentrate intently by counting the number of times a ball is bounced on the ground and you don't even notice the chicken/clown dancing through the scene. You can't tell the inverted side of the face mask as it twirls--your brain turns both sides of the mask into a lifelike face.

The opening words of each 20 minute show is, "Stop! Pay attention!" Even trying to pay attention we are often fooled (just like the card that host Jason Silva is holding above). Each show has interactive "games" for you to play along with, as well as groups of "contestants" that often think they are present for a different reason. It is now in its 7th season on the National Geographic Channel, and even has shows on its website.

Many of the "tricks" would make great party games. There is a board game, but reviews are that it isn't re-playable once you know what to look for (like the annoying person who has memorized all the Trivial Pursuit cards).

I like this show because it makes you question just how much of the world is "real" and how much of it is a brain construct. Take, for example, color vision. Objects don't really have "color." Our brains create the color. Don't believe me? One of the interactive activities has you stare at a pattern and after a few seconds the black-and-white scenic photo above it suddenly becomes brilliantly colored! Until you look directly at it, then it appears black-and-white again, as it truly is.

Our eyes, ears, and other sense organs take in too much information for our brains to process in real time, so the brain takes shortcuts, throwing away "reality" in order to give us a "fantasy" we can handle. I find it a fascinating look into my own thought processes. As a bird watcher I know that we sometimes see what we want to see and our memories can be easily manipulated--that's why eyewitness accounts of a crime are so unreliable and contradictory!

Just what is reality?

Highly recommended!